Thursday, November 10, 2016

Indigenous Australians demand return of shield taken by Captain Cook

The Guardian, November 8, 2016
Hannah Ellis-Peterson

The descendant of an Indigenous Australian warrior who was the first to confront Captain Cook as he landed on the shores of Australia in 1770 has demanded that the British Museum give back a shield “stolen” by the English invaders.

Rodney Kelly, the sixth-time great grandson of warrior Cooman who stood his ground as Cook’s HMS Endeavour landed at Botany Bay more than 200 years ago, has made a formal claim for the repatriation of the Gweagal Shield that once belonged to his ancestor.

Cook’s diaries, and sketches made by the crew, recount the events of April 1770 when they approached the coast of Australia and encountered two warriors raising spears to defend their land. In response, the English voyagers fired off their muskets, hitting warrior Cooman fatally in the leg. The tribesmen ran off, leaving behind their spears and shields, which were picked up by Cook’s crew, brought back to the UK and have been in the British Museum’s collection ever since.

However, Kelly believes that the time has come for the return of the shield, which is of “utmost significance” to Indigenous Australians when “my people are suffering and our culture is dying."

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