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Aborigines Argue Over Remains

October 5, 1997

PERTH, Australia (AP) _ A month after Aborigines brought back the head of a 19th century warrior once displayed in England, the skull remains in a bank vault as elders argue about what to do with it.

After returning with the head on Sept. 2, the delegation of elders that traveled to England had planned to bury it with the rest of the warrior’s body in the Swan Valley, east of Perth.

But not all Aborigines approved the exhumation and at least one leader has argued it should have been left in the Liverpool cemetery, where it had been kept for 33 years.

A community meeting called in August to reach consensus on burial plans instead set up a steering committee to decide the arrangements, angering some Aborigine peoples.

The head belonged to Yagan, a resistance fighter against the British colonization of Australia who was killed by a bounty hunter in 1833. He was decapitated, his head smoked and taken to Britain, and exhibited as a curio before it was buried in a pauper’s grave in Liverpool 33 years ago.

The head is now held in a bank vault, Robert Bropho, a member of the delegation, said Sunday.

Concerns for the head’s safety have been heightened by the decapitation of a statue of Yagan and at least two break-in attempts at the building where Yagan’s head was hidden.

Bropho said the burial’s delay has caused illnesses in Aborigines in Western Australia and a heart attack he believes he had last week.

Bropho said doctors could find nothing wrong with him, but that did not surprise him.

``It’s winardjin (negative energy) and no white doctor can diagnose that,″ he said.

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