The remains of two Anaiwan ancestors originally taken for research – one of whom was taken to Scotland in the 19th century – have been repatriated and re-buried in Booroolong Nature Reserve northwest of Armidale in northern Nova Scotia. -South Wales.
- In Australia’s past, the remains of First Nations people were often taken for scientific research
- The skull of a First Nations man, for example, was taken to Scotland in 1880 and has now returned to his homeland in Anaiwan.
- Solemn ceremony in Booroolong nature reserve follows repatriation of remains and that of an Anaiwan woman
The ancestors were brought back to the country in a funeral ceremony, where they were buried in the Booroolong Nature Reserve.
One set of remains belonged to a woman, according to Cheryl Kitchener, from Anaiwan.
“She was one of the very first women from Anaiwan to return to the country,” she said.
For Ms. Kitchener and the other Anaiwan women in attendance, it was an incredibly personal experience.
“We called her Bawa, which means sister. We weren’t going to see her as just a skeleton or a skull,” she said.
Special graves were prepared for Bawa’s remains and that of another Anaiwan ancestor, a man whose remains were unearthed in 1880 and taken to the University of Edinburgh by a dentist.
University of New England Indigenous Cultural Advisor Steven Ahoy was present for the separate solemn ceremony.
“We had an orthodontist from Scotland who asked the community for a set of aboriginal remains so he could research,” Mr Ahoy said.
“One of the local community members told him where he could find an Aboriginal grave, so he and a local archaeologist went to dig it up and took our remains to Scotland,” he said.
A century later, the remains were returned to Australia and, with the help of Heritage NSW, were returned to the country.
However, much to the disappointment of the locals, the remains are not complete.
“We know the entire skeleton was taken, [but] we were only able to acquire his skull. The rest of his body is still missing. ”
It has been a 10-year journey for Steven Ahoy to locate and bring back the bones to Anaiwan lands, a mission he plans to continue.
“It’s like a missing link that must be restored so that our community can be whole again,” he said.