‘So where’s Yagan?’

THE name Yagan Square was chosen by former premier Colin Barnett, who said in 2014 the Noongar warrior “played an important role in attempting to bring together Aboriginal leaders and European settlers”.

Mr Eggington says given that introduction it was strange not to see more of the story of Yagan portrayed in the square.

In early May 1833, Yagan and his father Midgegooroo had a £20 bounty put on their heads after their group killed two white colonials, an act of retaliation for the unprovoked shooting death of one of his people.

Two months later Yagan was shot by the young William Keats at the head of the Derbarl Yerrigan, or Swan River.

His death was a “betrayal,” Mr Eggington says.

Keats’ employer Henry Bull had forbidden his men from killing Yagan, but the boy wanted the bounty.

He spotted Yagan and asked for help hunting, then when the Noongar was turned away, Keats shot him in the head.

Yagan was decapitated and his head was smoked and put on display for three months.

Mr Eggington says it was a grisly sign: “This is what can be expected for Noongar peoples if you resist our occupation of your land.”

In September 1833, grim profiteer Robert Dale took Yagan’s head to England in the hope of selling it. A river and a mountain are named after Dale.

The head was a morbid curiosity to Englanders and was shown at private parties before ending up in a museum, storage, and finally a mass grave.

It was repatriated in 2010 and buried in the Swan Valley, but Mr Eggington says even now Yagan can’t escape being a curiosity for wadjellas.

“Even his burial site is a tourist attraction,” Mr Eggington says.

History

“The history of this country is so atrocious.”

Mr Eggington believes the only way for Yagan’s story to be told properly in the square named after him is by other Noongars.

“It could be an incredible opportunity to meet with Aboriginal people, to talk around a campfire… it could be the beginning of some better understanding,” Mr Eggington said.

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