Uploaded on Aug 31, 2010
-of... after dawn yesterday, their faces painted with white ochre, Bunuba elders followed a slow procession of wooden boxes covered in leaves into the mouth of a cave, clapping sticks and singing in mournful tones.
As the group disappeared into the darkness, a great wail went up from the watching men and women, many of whom wiped away tears.
In this ancient meeting place, near Tunnel Creek in the heart of the Kimberley between two towering boabs, the remains of two Bunuba men and one woman will rest in peace at last - 100 years after they were taken away.
Yesterday's reburial was only the third of hundreds to come across the State as a Federal repatriation program slowly retrieves Aboriginal remains from around the world.
Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre spokesman Neil Carter said there were remains still in France, Germany, Austria, England, the US and South Africa. "Rather than having them mailed back to us, we organise for the tribal group to go over and escort the remains back," he said.
Today, the remains of more than 100 Aboriginals, collected from Sweden, Austria and Australian museums, are stored in two sea containers at Fitzroy Crossing, awaiting burial.
The Kimberley Walmajarri people were the first to rebury their ancestral remains near the Yakanarra Aboriginal Community in 2009. Tribal groups then decided that the Bunuba people should be next.
The remains reburied yesterday were from Bunuba country - Tunnel Creek and Winjana Gorge in the Kimberley - and until recently had been stored in the Perth Museum.
After singing a "homecoming" song at a special corroboree to welcome his ancestors' spirits back to the country they once roamed, Bunuba elder Dillon Andrews said he had been "broken inside for these old people".
"It's been a long time to bring our countrymen back," he said.
"Why did the people take them away from here before? I think they'll rest in peace now, because of the songs that we sang for them - and all around here is Bunuba country."
Disturbingly, Kimberley elders have reported that their ancestral remains are still being taken from caves - a practice they view as akin to desecrating graves.
"The Aboriginal elders say that if we don't put those remains back where they come from, the spirits of those remains can't rest . . . we believe that you come from the land and you go back to the land," Mr Carter said.
The next reburial will take place at Bidyadanga.
After each reburial, the sites will be registered with the Department of Indigenous Affairs and small plaques mounted to protect them. "If you go into a cave and see remains," Mr Carter said, "leave them there - don't touch them."
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