SYDNEY- The University of Cambridge has refused a request by an Australian man to return important Aboriginal artifacts taken by British explorer Captain James Cook nearly 250 years ago, Reuters reported.
Rodney Kelly is seeking the return of four spears from the university’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on behalf of the Gweagal people, who traditionally inhabited southern parts of Sydney, Australia’s largest city.
According the to the university, Cook took the spears following a violent first encounter between Aborigines and Europeans on the shores of Botany Bay in Sydney in 1770. He also took a shield, which is currently held by the British Museum and for which Kelly has also sought repatriation.
The artifacts are recognized as a significant symbol of first contact between the British and indigenous Australians and of Aboriginal resistance to colonization. However, the University of Cambridge has rejected a request for their return lodged by Kelly.
Removing parts of the Cook-Sandwich collection, which is of great historical, scientific and educational importance nationally and internationally, would cause considerable harm by depriving the collection of its integrity,” a spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters on Saturday.
The university said the request contained no clear proposal for housing and conserving the spears if they were to be returned, and added it was important that any request for change be made with “accredited representatives of the Gweagal people”.
Kelly, who submitted a formal request for the repatriation of the spears in November last year, claims to be a direct descendant of the Gweagal warrior Cooman, from whom he claims the spears and shield were taken.
“It makes me angry they are trying these tactics to discredit me and my history,” Kelly told Reuters in an interview.