Prince William pledges to help return Pemulwuy's head to Aborigines

Prince William has pledged to help give the head of an Australian Aborigine warrior back to his people.

200 years ago, when the British started colonising Australia not long after it was discovered by Captain Cook, Pemulwuy led a fierce war of resistance against the British.

The British, showing no mercy, dismissed him as a "pest to the colony" and, in 1802, they simply shot him, cut off his head, and sent it to Britain to study (nobody had ever seen Australian Aborigines before).

Where the skull is today is a mystery but Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Prince William's private secretary, said that the future King William V was deeply moved by Pemulwuy's story and had started a "supremely important search" to locate the skull.

Many believe the warrior's head is still in England. It may seem macabre to modern people, but the remains of 3000 Aborigines were bottled by the British and sent home for scientific study.

Prince William pledges to help return Pemulwuy's head to Aborigines

By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
01 Apr 2010
The Telegraph

A real Australian: Bundgalung Aborigine Michael Mundine warmly welcomed the prince's help Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Prince William has pledged to help return the skull of Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy to its rightful owners in Australia.

During his visit to Sydney in January, the prince met with several Aboriginal elders who asked him to join them in their mission to repatriate the skull.

More than 200 years ago in the early days of Australia's colonisation by the British, Pemulwuy led a fierce war of resistance against the British settlers.

Considered a "pest to the colony", he was eventually shot and decapitated and his head was sent to England.

Today, the whereabouts of the skull remains a mystery, but the movement to bring it back to its people has a powerful new ally.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Prince William's private secretary, said that the prince was deeply moved by Pemulwuy's story and had started a "supremely important search" to locate the skull.

Finders Keepers: The Royal Navy's Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Britain in 1770 after discovering, and mapping, its eastern coast

"On his return from Australia the prince told me that he intended to do all he could to investigate the circumstances surrounding the missing head," he wrote in a letter to Mick Mundine, head of the Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company.

"His Royal Highness was so profoundly impressed by the determination of the Aboriginal elders in their quest to right the wrongs done to his famous warrior in death, and to afford his remains a proper burial."

Mr Mundine warmly welcomed the prince's help, saying he was shocked to open a letter bearing the royal insignia.

Pemulwuy in a canoe. Seeing white-skinned people, then the mightiest people on Earth, arriving on their shores in huge ships armed with terrifying weapons must have been a shock to the native Australians.

"It's a big thing Prince William even coming to Redfern (in Sydney). For him to return a letter to us is really a blessing," he said.

"I think to get the remains of the Pemulwuy head back here will start to heal the wounds a little bit."

Mr Mundine said the prince had "his mother's spirit, his mother's love."

"He doesn't look down on you – even though he's a tall guy."

While the pledge of support from the prince will greatly advance the project, tracking down the missing body part is no easy task.

A Clarence House spokesman said: "Prince William intends to do what he can to help with the search for Pemulwuy’s missing skull after he was asked to help when he visited Redfern.

"The prince has instructed his office to follow up the request. No new knowledge has unfortunately yet come forth, but the prince will continue to pursue any other information that may emerge."

Many believe the head is still in England with the remains of an estimated 3000 indigenous people whose body parts were bottled in the name of scientific research.

However, the exact location of the jar and its contents remains a mystery.

When it first arrived in England, the skull was reportedly kept at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, and later may have been moved to the Natural History Museum. However, the museum has no record of it.

There are fears that the skull could have been destroyed during the German bombing of the college in 1941, while some believe Pemulwuy's skull was bottled and returned to Australia in 1950, and then lost.

The return of Aboriginal remains is an important issue for indigenous Australians who are lobbying British museums for their repatriation.

Pemulwuy, who was born around 1750, opposed the British settlement and was described by Sydney's then Governor Philip King as "a terrible pest to the colony" but also "a brave and independent character".

He was one of the Eora people, whose land – now known as the suburb of Botany Bay in Sydney's south – was directly affected by the arrival of the British.

In response, Pemulwuy fiercely resisted, using fire to destroy crops and animals and regularly mounting raids on early settlements.

Referred to as "the rainbow warrior" because of his brightly coloured clothes, he had more than 100 followers and at one point was accused of spearing Governor Arthur Phillip's gamekeeper.

But his exploits incurred the wrath of the British, and he was shot dead on the orders of Governor Philip King in 1802.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Apr 1st, 2010 at 12:42 PM..
Brits needed the heads to study how teeth are properly cared for?
What is he going to do if he did find the head? Send it back with a note saying, "sorry 'bout that" and be on his merry way? I think William is out of his league on this one.

Besides, the Aboriginals upon recieving it would think awfull of him trying to take responsibility of returning a head that was stolen. Might as well throw the cuffs at William in exchange for his good deed right there on the spot.

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