- British Museum
- Nigel ScullionIndigenous Affairs Minister
- Jonathan WilliamsDeputy Director of the British Museum
- Trustees of the British Museum
- Gaye SculthorpeCurator at the British Museum
- The Hon. Leslie Gladys WILLIAMSNSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister
British Museum Return the Gweagal Shield & Artefacts of Our Ancestors to Australia
Video Link ;
Statement of Claim at the National Museum of Australia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU7m6imRzpQ
Gweagal Shield First Contact Interview with Rodney Kelly
Published Media Articles ;
Gweagle Artefacts - Claim of Right
28th March 2015
Statement of Claim for the repatriation and return of all Gweagle artefacts to the living descendants of the Gweagle Clan of the Dharawal Tribe.
We the living bloodline descendants of the Gweagle Clan of the Dharawal Tribe are at law the rightful owners of all artefacts produced or originating on Gweagle territory or in possession of our ancestors. We do mandate that it is our Will that all artefacts and human remains belonging to, and found on the territories of the Gweagle Clan are returned into the possession of the Gweagle People forthwith.
The lands of the Dharawal Tribe encompass the areas now known as 'Botany Bay (Kurnell Peninsula) and the southern geographic areas of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Our Dharawal tribal territory spans the areas between the Cooks and Georges River, south to the Port Hacking estuary and westwards towards Liverpool.
According to our law it is culturally and spiritually imperative that artefacts that come from our country, stay on our country, this is according to the ancient Dharawal law which has existed in our land from time immemorial and in fulfilment of our Gweagal ancestors customs and law.
It is a matter of fact the Shield held in the collection of the British Museum and currently on display at the National Museum of Australia as part of the 'Encounters' Exhibition was in fact stolen from our ancestor, the warrior Cooman of the Tribe Gweagal upon first encounter with James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour in 1770 on at Kamay Bay which is the Original name for land now known as 'Botany Bay.
We, the living descendants of the Gweagle warrior Cooman are in possession of the birth and baptism records which verify that we are infact the fifth and sixth times great grandchildren of our ancestor Cooman to whom this shield did belong. Therefore we are the rightful owners and wish for the shield to come back into our possession. This item of immense significance and importance to our cultural heritage .
In our culture there was no theft, therefore objects were commonly left on the ground to be picked up later, therefore the shield and spears taken by the crew of the Endeavour were not abandoned by the owners and were taken without permission to England.
It is our Will and the Will of the Clan that all Gweagle artefacts are kept on Gweagal Country and do not leave the shores of Australia under any circumstances whatsoever without express permission from the Elders of the Gweagle tribe.
All Artefacts currently held by the British Museum and National Museum of Australia are to be returned within 90 days of this letter.
These artefacts prove that Australia was invaded without permission of the Original People of this land.
Sixth Times Great Grandson of the Warrior Cooman of the Tribe Gweagle
Leah Kelly & Faith Aldridge
Fifth Times Great Granddaughters of the Warrior Cooman of the Tribe Gweagle
contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
Gweagle Shield Story - An account of Cook's landing in 1770 Passed on through Oral Traditions of the Gweagle Clan of the Dharawal Tribe from the Sydney Region
On the 29th of april 1770 aboriginal people were camped in huts all around kamay botany bay they watched as captain cook and crew sailed into the harbour and drop anchor. on the southern shore of the bay were members of the gweagal
who stood there as capt cook with armed marines get closer and closer to the shore
until most of them run away leaving 2 brave gweagal warriors
shouting wirra wirra wai and waving there spears against the 30 to 40 men in the 2 boats a reply of we only want water we mean you no harm comes from the boats
the 2 gweagal warriors shouted waving there spears wirra wirra wai
neither groups could understand eachother and
thats the moment when cook shoots at the 2 warriors 1 of them dropping some spears but quickly picking them up again but that didnt scare the warriors they began shouting and waving the spears
again, cook fires another shot this time hitting 1 of the warriors thats when the warrior who was shot retreats back to his hut to get his shield.
when he gets back cook has landed on the shore and the 2 gweagal warriors fire spears at cook and his party cook responds by firing more shots at the warriors and another spear was thrown.
outnumbered by many they were forced to retreat and the shield was dropped leaving cook and his crew to walk the beach freely taking the shield
after throwing some cloth a few strings beads and ribbons into a hut where scared children are hiding
they took forty to fifty spears then returned to the ship to unload the artifacts
capt cook and the Endevour stayed in Kamay botany bay for 8 days collecting plants shooting birds and other animals to take back to England
after that first battle between cook and the Gweagal warriors
cook and his crew were never able to make contact with any aboriginal people
they watched but mostly ignored cook and his crew never getting too close
the story of that day in 1770 and the name of one of the warriors has been passed down generation to generation Amongst the people of Kamay (Botany Bay)
it is the first known battle between europeans and aboriginal people of Australia.
this was in direct contradiction to Cook's secret instructions which state ;
If you discover the Continent abovementioned either in your Run to the Southward or to the Westward as above directed, You are to employ yourself diligently in exploring as great an Extent of the Coast as you can carefully observing the true situation thereof both in Latitude and Longitude, the Variation of the Needle; bearings of Head Lands Height direction and Course of the Tides and Currents, Depths and Soundings of the Sea, Shoals, Rocks &ca and also surveying and making Charts, and taking Views of Such Bays, Harbours and Parts of the Coasts as may be useful to Navigation. You are also carefully to observe the Nature of the Soil, and the Products thereof; the Beasts and Fowls that inhabit or frequent it, the Fishes that are to be found in the Rivers or upon the Coast and in what Plenty and in Case you find any Mines, Minerals, or valuable Stones you are to bring home Specimens of each, as also such Specimens of the Seeds of the Trees, Fruits and [FIRST PAGE ENDS] and Grains as you may be able to collect, and Transmit them to our
Secretary that We may cause proper Examination and Experiments to be made of them.
You are likewise to observe the Genius, Temper, Disposition and Number of the Natives, if there be any and endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a Friendship and Alliance with them, making them presents of such Trifles as they may Value inviting them to Traffick, and Shewing them every kind of Civility and Regard; taking Care however not to suffer yourself
to be surprized by them, but to be always upon your guard against any Accidents.
You are also with the Consent of the Natives to take Possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain: Or: if you find the Country uninhabited take Possession for his Majesty by setting up Proper Marks and Inscriptions, as first discoverers and possessors.
Press Release ; Gweagle Tribe Descendants Claim Shield Stolen from Cook's first Encounter
28th March 2016
Today in Canberra , living descendants of the Gweagle Clan of Sydney's Dhurawal Tribe have claimed the artefacts of their ancestors taken by Captain Cook upon his first landing in Botany Bay.
'The Gweagle Shield' on display at the National Museum of Australia is an artefact of immense cultural signifigance from the first encounter between Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavour with the People of the Botany Bay Region in 1770.
The Bark Shield was taken from the warriors of the Gweagle Clan whom were the first Tribe to make contact with Cook's during his first landing at the area which is now called 'Captain Cooks Landing Place Reserve’, Kurnell, on the shores of Botany Bay.
The Gweagle shield was held by the Tribal warrior Cooma whom stood on the rocks at Botany Bay during the first landing of the Endeavour and warned off Cook and the Crew of the ship with his
Spear & Shield.
Subsequently, the crew of the Endeavour fired musket shots at the warriors of the Gweagle Clan, landing ashore and claiming artefacts that were in posession of the Tribe. These artefacts were taken back to England and are now in the possession of the British Museum against wishes of the Gweagle Clan who wish all of their artefacts to be repatriated and returned to their possession.
Today, living Descendants of the warrior Cooma whom are his fifth and sixth times great grandchildren, journeyed to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra to Claim the shield as their rightful and lawful possession.
'We the living bloodline descendants of the Gweagle Clan of the Dharawal Tribe are at law the rightful owners of all artefacts produced or in possession of our ancestors or found on Gweagle territory and we do claim all artefacts belonging to us and mandate that they be returned to our possession.' Said Rodney, whom is the sixth times great grandson of the Warrior Cooma.
The shield is of immense cultural and spiritual significance to living descendants of the Gweagle Clan who have demanded that the shield and all artefacts taken from Gweagle country be returned to the Clan within 90 days.
'It is a matter of fact the Shield held in the collection of the British Museum and currently on display at the National Musuem of Australia as part of the 'Encounters' Exhibition was stolen from our ancestor, the warrior Cooman of the Tribe Gweagal upon first encounter with Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavour in 1770 on Gweagal and Bidjigal country, at the land now known as 'Botany Bay, New South Wales'.
We, the living descendants of the Gweagle warrior Cooman are in possession of the birth and baptism records which verify that we are infact the fifth and sixth times great grandchildren of our ancestor Cooman to whom this shield did belong. This item of immense significance and importance to our cultural heritage .
It is our Will and the Will of the Clan that all Gweagle artefacts are kept on Gweagal Country and do not leave the shores of Australia under any circumstances whatsoever without express permission from the Elders of the Gweagle tribe.' Stated the Elders of the Clan whom are the fifth times great grandchildren of the warrior Cooma.
In all of their responses, the locals sought to deal with them in a way that would allow them “to affirm their rights to their land and their resources and defuse any potential conflict or hostility."
Press Release ; British Museum offers to loan Shield to Gweagle Tribe Descendants , Stolen from Cook's first Encounter
April 22 2016
On the 28th of March this year in Canberra, living descendants of the Gweagle clan from the Sydney Region laid claim to the shield and all artefacts produced on their territory to which they assert they are the rightful owners.
The artefacts were on display in the National Museum of Australia , on loan form the British Museum with iron clad legal guarantees of a return to Britain after display in Australia.
After laying claim to the shield and other artefacts belonging to the Gweagle, Rodney Kelly, sixth time great grandson of the Warrior Cooman whom held the shield expressed the wish of the tribe that the artefacts stay in Australia and do not return overseas.
The British and Australian museums acted expressly against the wishes of the tribe, returning the shield and artefacts to England. The Gweagle assert that they are the rightful owners of all artefacts belonging to their ancestors or produced on their territories and have actively engaged the British Museum since to demand that all of their artefacts be returned as soon as possible.
On the 20th April, the British Museum issued a response saying they would be happy to loan the shield.
Rodney Kelly said
The fact that Cook and his crew immediately fired shots at my Ancestors is evidence of the first act of violence being perpetrated against the Original People of this land now known as Australia.
We believe that this act of violence upon very first contact in 1770 between the British and Original Australians marks the beginning of the frontier wars in which British Colonial forces, and later Australian Forces slaughtered vast amounts of Aboriginal People.
The fact that the British and Australian Museums refuse our wishes to have our shield and artefacts returned is evidence of ongoing genocide and proliferation of the colonial mentality that perpetrated the frontier Massacres which wiped out nearly 90% of this countries Original Inhabitants.
It is an insult for the British Museum to say that we can borrow what is rightfully ours, and not to acknowledge that they are holding a stolen artefact and therefore are complicit in the crime of theft. It is the wish of my Elders that the shield and all other artefacts be returned to the Gweagle People immediately.
- British Museum
- Indigenous Affairs Minister
- Deputy Director of the British Museum
- Trustees of the British Museum
- Curator at the British Museum
- NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister
The Hon. Leslie Gladys WILLIAMS
British Museum Return the Gweagal Shield and; Artefacts of Our Ancestors to Australia
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