The families of Yukun, an Aboriginal man shot and killed by police at Uluru almost 90 years ago, have finally been able to lay his remains to rest at the base of the Rock.
In a deeply emotional ceremony late last year, representatives of Adelaide University and the South Australian Museum where Yukon’s remains had been stored, travelled to Uluru to present them to his family members for the reinterment. Sadly for Yukun’s family, a forensic search was only able to positively identify his skull, and this was laid to rest in a deep narrow grave, close to the site where he died in 1934.
In August 1934. Mounted Constable Bill McKinnon was sent to investigate the killing of an Aboriginal man near Mount Conner, approximately 150 kilometres east of Uluru. A few weeks into the search, McKinnon and his Aboriginal trackers found Yukun sheltering in a cave near Mutitjulu waterhole at the base of Uluru. McKinnon shot Yukun from a distance and brought him from the cave. Yukon died from his wounds several hours later and they buried him there.
In 1935 a board of inquiry investigated the incident and ultimately exonerated McKinnon. As part of the inquiry, Yukun’s remains were exhumed and taken to Adelaide.
Some of Yukun’s closest surviving family members are leaders of Areyonga Lutheran Church – Margaret and Abraham Poulson and Joy Kunia, and Joy expressed the family’s feelings about Yunkun’s death. ‘We are really, really sad and upset. That part of history is really cruel and sad for us’, she said.
Abraham Poulson is training to be the pastor at Areyonga. Despite a media contingent and a multitude of Yunkun’s descendants attending the reinterment ceremony, Abraham displayed quiet and calm dignity and represented his family and community with integrity. Even though he and his relatives were distressed and angry that only Yukun’s skull was returned, Abraham gave the SA Museum representative a hug of thanks.
Furthermore, he expressed his sympathy to Bill McKinnon’s descendants who had travelled from Queensland for the ceremony and also thanked them for their presence.
Many handshakes and hugs were shared between the Yukun and McKinnon families after the ceremony. The love and forgiveness demonstrated so warmly by our Lutheran brothers and sisters from Areyonga was something to behold.
Malcolm Willcocks is the Pitjantjatjara Support Worker in the Western Arrarnta language area and led the reinterment ceremony for Yukun.