Three Aboriginal spears stolen by Captain James Cook when he first landed on the Australian continent in 1770 are finally being repatriated from the UK after 251 long years.
The Gweagal spears were among a number of different objects stolen by the British from the Gweagal people in what’s now known as Kurnell, in Sydney’s south. Several of them ended up at the University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which has now agreed to return the spears to their rightful owners.
“This is a great win for the campaign and time for celebration,” said Dharawal and Yuin man Rodney Kelly, who traces his lineage to Gweagal warrior Cooman, and had been spearheading the movement to bring the objects home.
He told the ABC that these items are significant to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike, because “they tell that history of both sides and we can learn from that.”
The decision follows years and years of campaigning. Kelly himself had visited the museum in person over several years to call for his people’s cultural artefacts to be returned.
It’s just one of heaps of movements around the world calling on European museums to return the priceless and culturally significant objects they’ve pillaged over centuries of colonisation.
At a commemoration held in the area, La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson Noeleen Timbery said the repatriation marks the first time the spears are returning so close to Country since 1770, NITV reports.
“It’s important we do everything in our power to get them back here to show the community’s ongoing connection back to that time,” she said.
“The Gweagal were amongst the first of First Nations people to be impacted by European arrival. We are still here, and we haven’t forgotten.”
The spears held in the University of Cambridge’s collection are now on their way home, but there are other spears in other institutions which have yet to be repatriated.
On top of that, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike are still calling upon the British Museum in London to return the famed Gweagal Shield, which has a bullet lodged in it from the very first conflict between the British and the Gweagal people.
The repatriation of these three Gweagal spears is a huge win, but there are still heaps more foreign institutions which still need to step up and do what’s right by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.