• Bardi Jawi dancers Lyall Davey, Duane (Cojee) Ah Choo, Robert Wiggan, Frank (Moochoo) Davey Jnr (Supplied)Source: Supplied
After nearly a century since they were taken to the United States, Bardi Jawi cultural artefacts finally return to Country.
Delia Bell

26 Oct 2020 - 12:42 PM  UPDATED 26 Oct 2020 - 12:42 PM

The Bardi Jawi Nation has celebrated the return of cultural artefacts that have been held at museums in the United States for nearly 100 years.

The items were taken by University of Chicago linguistic anthropologist Gerhardt Laves between 1929 and 1931 while he was doing fieldwork in Aboriginal communities.

The University of Chicago later transferred the artefacts to the Illinois State Museum in 1942, where they've been housed until now.

Senior Lawman and Senior Cultural Ranger for the Bardi Jawi Rangers, Kevin George, told NITV News it was a significant moment for the community. 

“The Bardi Jawi Tribe are so happy and thankful that people are openly saying 'these artefacts are not ours' and are doing the right thing by returning them to the rightful owners.

“Everyone felt the same way, the children, the Bardi men and Bardi women, the Bardi aunties and uncles. The other people in the community too, everyone was joyful and respectful and loved it," said Kevin George. 

The returned collection includes boomerangs, shields, spears and body ornaments such as Tusk shell necklaces.


The artefacts have been returned as part of the Return of Cultural Heritage project run by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).  

AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie said formal celebrations at Ardyaloon, or One Arm Point, to mark the return were delayed due to the COVID pandemic.

“It’s important that these significant milestones are marked and celebrated not only by the Bardi Jawi Nation but the entire community and nation as a whole," said Mr Ritchie.

"We are honoured to have been able to support Bardi Jawi in celebrating their return.

“Having these objects in the hands of the Bardi Jawi shows just how important it is for our material to be in care of its Traditional Custodians and on Country."

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