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Return of burial ashes sparks celebration in Tasmania

Tasmanian aboriginals are excited about the return of cremation ashes from the British Museum last week. There is disappointment however, that many other museums do not seem to have dealt seriously with restitution requests, giving various reasons why they feel that returns of human remains in their collections are not possible.

From:
Tasmania Mercury (Australia) [1]

Return sparks a celebration
MERYL NAIDOO
September 16, 2006 12:00am

THERE were tears, cheers and overwhelming joy, as the remains of Tasmanian Aborigines arrived in Hobart yesterday.
Two young indigenous Tasmanians returned from London with bundles of cremated ancestors to return to their traditional community, after at least 100 years in a British museum and more than 170 years after they died.

Adam Thompson, 28, of Launceston, who is the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s land management co-ordinator for northern Tasmania, and Leah Brown, 23, of Hobart, who works for the Aboriginal Heritage Office, were greeted by about 50 Tasmanian Aboriginal community members at Hobart Airport.

Tears flowed as Ms Brown addressed the crowd.

“The repatriation of these bundles restores the broken spirits of the land and heals the people of today,” she said.

“We brought them back where they belong.

“We have achieved this because we are strong, proud and determined people.

“We will also remember those we were forced to leave behind.”

Tasmanian Aborigines have been lobbying for more than 20 years for the return of ancestral remains and have made several repatriation trips overseas in recent years.

Mr Thompson said obstacles they faced included museum claims the remains held high scientific value, as well as procedural matters.

With ancestral remains held at several other museums in the United Kingdom Mr Thompson said the museums were hard to work with.

“It’s disappointing we haven’t returned with commitment to our requests from other museums,” he said.

But he said the campaign would go on.

Ms Brown said: “Why should they keep our ancestors, they belong to us and they never acquired it properly and although they want to tell our story we are perfectly capable of telling it ourselves”.