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Yagan
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Military Personnel
    (circa 1795-July 11, 1833)
    Born in Australia
    Australian aboriginal warrior
    Member of the Noongar tribe
    Early leader of resistance to white settlement in Western Australia
    Shot dead by a settler
    Head was removed and displayed in London as an anthropological curiosity
    Head was buried in an unmarked grave (1964)
    Exhumed and returned to Australia (1997)
    Head reburied in a traditional ceremony (July 10, 2010)
    He killed four settlers.
    The Perth Gazette claimed, 'For the most trivial offence he would take the life of any man who provoked him.'
    After being exiled to Carnac Island for a month, he escaped by stealing a boat (1832).
    His head had badly deteriorated by the time of its first burial.
    One of the Noongars negotiating for the return of the head ticked off the British by linking Yagan's death to Princess Di's: 'Because the Poms did the wrong thing they have to suffer.'
    Shortly after, a statue of Yagan near Perth was decapitated, apparently in retaliation for the remarks.
    There were thirteen years of disputes among Noongar elders about the burial location before the head was finally laid to rest.
    The conflict between the Noongar and the settlers first turned bloody when a farmer shot at natives raiding a potato patch, killing a member of Yagan's family.
    After being captured and sentenced to death (1832), settler Robert Lyon interceded, arguing that he was defending his land from invasion and should be treated as a prisoner of war instead of a criminal, leading to his brief captivity on Carnac Island.
    He gained the respect of many colonists, with Lyons calling him 'the [William] Wallace of the age.'
    Settler George Fletcher Moore wrote, 'The truth is, every one wishes him taken, but no one likes to be the captor ... there is something in his daring which one is forced to admire.'
    Brothers William and James Keates suggested that Yagan hide with them to avoid recapture, then killed him for a 30 pound bounty.
    The Perth Gazette called his killing 'a wild and treacherous act ... it is revolting to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed.'
    The same month as the head reburial, a Yagan Memorial Park opened in Perth.

Credit: C. Fishel


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