Yagan was an Aboriginal Leader of the Nyungar people in Western
Australia. In 1829,when Captain James Stirling established a colony on the Swan River, he proclaimed the
Nyungar people British subjects. The Nyungar people had little choice but to accept the decision.
Yagan, who was keen to learn more about the new arrivals spoke basic English and often conversed with
influential settlers about the inequality and injustice placed on his people.
In the pursuing years Yagan found himself in trouble with the law & in 1832 was sentenced to exile on Carnac
Island. It wasn’t long before Yagan escaped off the island.
In 1833 Yagan was amongst three Aboriginal Tribal leaders who were declared outlaws when two white servants were
speared on the Canning River.
On July 11, 1833 Yagan was killed when reward money of £320 was placed on his head. Two white brothers, William
and James Keats shot him while they shared a meal together.
Nineteen year old William Keats who fired the gun was killed by Yagan’s friends whilst James escaped.
Yagan’s head was later cut off by soldiers and preserved by smoking it in a hollow tree stump for several
Eventually Yagan’s head was sent to London where it was exhibited at various museums and later buried at Everton
A group of Aboriginal Elders led by Ken Colbung located Yagan’s burial site and demanded Yagan’s remains to be
returned to his homeland.
A statue in Yagan’s honour was
erected on Heirisson Island in 1985.