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Yagan (c. 1795 – 1833-07-11) was a Noongar warrior who played a key part in early indigenous Australian resistance to European settlement and rule in the area of Perth, Western Australia. After he led a series of attacks in which white settlers were killed, a bounty was offered for his capture dead or alive, and he was shot dead by a young settler. Yagan's death has passed into Western Australian folklore as a symbol of the unjust and sometimes brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples of Australia by colonial settlers. Famous throughout Australia, he is considered a hero by the Noongar people.

Yagan's head was removed and brought to London, where it was exhibited as an "anthropological curiosity". It spent over a century in storage at a museum before being buried in an unmarked grave in 1964. In 1993 its location was identified, and four years later it was exhumed and repatriated to Australia. Since then, the issue of its proper reburial has become a source of great controversy and conflict amongst the indigenous people of the Perth area. To date, the head remains unburied.

About Yagan

  • Mr. Norcott we are informed had a narrow escape from that determined villian Yagan a few days ago, he happened to give him more than his share of biscuit, and endeavouring to take it away, when Yagan's ire was aroused, and his spear instantly pointed; this was done in the presence of several persons who restrained him. The reckless daring of this desperado who sets his life at a pin's fee, has been the subject of general observation, and we firmly believe for the most trivial offence even with a loaded musket at his breast, he would take the life of any man who provoked him. He is at the head and front of any mischief; it has been suggested that he should be again confined, but this we believe would only leave an opening for an equally daring successor. The chuckling style in which Yagan gives us to understand the manner in which they effected their escape from Carnac, is highly amusing; but a short time ago, he walked up to the door of the Jail at Fremantle, and after exchanging civilities with his late Keeper, marched off pointing significantly at the Jail, and then Carnac.
  • I would take the liberty of suggesting to Capt. Ellis, if report speaks truly, the impropriety of allowing Yagan to distribute the bread. The propriety of allowing any of the natives to do this at present, is, perhaps questionable. But the conferring this honor upon Yagan is a gross insult to Yellowgonga, who is the leading Chief on this side of the water.
  • Yagan, allowed by every one to be, of savages the most savage, wept with gratitude after I saved his life, and expressed his sense of the kindness shown to him in the strongest terms Yet this is the man who, in the midst of his guards, on a small island, where his life must have been the forfeit, could seize his spear; and, erect in all the pride of his native independence, determine to sell his life dearly, rather than submit even to an insult. Such are the men you have to deal with in the natives of Western Australia.
  • We have been informed by Captain Ellis of an interesting fact, that Yagan the native we alluded to in a previous number as the daring chief of the tribe, hurried to him in the greatest anxiety during the time the fire was raging, and wished to know whether suspicion rested upon black man or white man; on its being intimated to him that the fire was purely accidental, he evinced by his expressions and gestures great delight. He made every exertion to procure water, and stimulated others by his cry for mocha, mocha. This we believe may be relied on, and is a striking trait in his character.
  • On Saturday last, Yagan taking advantage of Mr. Watsons absence from home, he entered the house, and offered such violence as occasioned Mrs. Watsons hurrying in great agitation to the house of a neighbour for protection; finding his intention defeated, he endeavoured to remove her suspicions by calling her back and exclaiming "White Woman, very good!—good bye!"—but when he found his efforts unavailing, he made off in a different direction.
    The report of this occurrence reaching the ears of Capt. Ellis, the Superintendent of the native tribes, he, accompanied by Mr. Norcott and two soldiers took advantage of the first appearance of Yagan in the town of Perth, on the Monday, to conduct him with other natives to Mr. Watson's house, for the purpose of explaining to them the punishment which would attend a repetition of such an attempt as Yagan had been guilty of; however, on reaching the spot, Yagan, who had been entrapped once before, conscious of his offence, and apprehending danger, started into the bush followed by the others of his tribe. Ryan one of the privates of the 63d. misunderstanding Capt. Ellis's order hastily fired, but without injuring any of them;—Captain Ellis rode after them, but could not prevail upon them to return. Yagan and Migo (the man who was supposed to have been wounded), have since been in the town, and the whole affair which has been magnified into a desperate attack upon the natives, has thus ended as the mere idle gossip of the day.

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