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(c. 1800 – 1833)

This page links to documents related to Yagan, an indigenous Australian warrior who led resistance against European settlement in the vicinity of Perth, Western Australia


Biographical material[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

Identified as "the principal actor" in the murder of a settler on the Canning River; captured by boatmen, who enticed him into a fishing boat; sentenced to solitary confinement on Carnac Island; it is intended to teach him English.

Escapes from Carnac Island by stealing a boat and rowing to the coast at Woodman's Point; Robert Menli Lyon had been making rapid progress in teaching him English; son of Worragonga.

Moore recalls an incident "long ago", when Yagan threw a spear at him.

Threatens Norcott with a spear; Charles Macfaull editorialises: "The reckless daring of this desperado who sets his life at a pin's fee, has been the subject of general observation, and we firmly believe for the most trivial offence even with a loaded musket at his breast, he would take the life of any man who provoked him. He is at the head and front of any mischief...." Boasts of his escape from Carnac.

Lyon advises against allowing Yagan to distribute bread, as this would be "a gross insult to Yellowgonga".

Lyon editorialises: "Yagan, allowed by every one to be, of savages the most savage, wept with gratitude after I saved his life, and expressed his sense of the kindness shown to him in the strongest terms Yet this is the man who, in the midst of his guards, on a small island, where his life must have been the forfeit, could seize his spear; and, erect in all the pride of his native independence, determine to sell his life dearly, rather than submit even to an insult. Such are the men you have to deal with in the natives of Western Australia."

Helps to put out a fire in a settler's house.

Enters Mr. Watson's house while Watson is absent, and "offers violence" to Mrs. Watson, who hurries to a neighbour's house. Norcott later brings Yagan back to the house to lecture him, but Yagan absconds into the bush, and is shot at.

Threatens Watson, presumably because "Mr. Watson has frequently repeated to many of his tribe a determination to shoot him".

Ambushes a cart and kills two men; outlawed, and a reward offered for his capture dead or alive.

Sons are named Narah and Willim.

Yagan's father, Midgegoroo, is captured.

Midgegoroo is executed.

Appears on Moore's farm; has an argument with Moore: "I regret that I could not understand him, but I conjectured, from the tone and manner, that the purport was this:—'You came to our country; you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations: as we walk in our own country, we are fired upon by the white men; why should the white men treat us so?'" Demands to know if his father is alive, and threatens to avenge his death by killing three settlers. Departs unharmed; Moore writes "every one wishes him taken, but no one likes to be the captor.... There is something in his daring which one is forced to admire."

Hunted for without success.

Moore reports that Yagan has been seen at a house four miles down the river.

A native offers to take a lead a party of soldiers to Yagan.

Moore learns that Yagan has been shot, and a settler speared.

Head removed and preserved; "possibly it may yet figure in some museum at home"; tribal tattoo removed.

Described as "chief of the tribe of natives inhabiting the banks of the Swan, over whom his remarkable character had acquired an unusual ascendancy. He was strong and active, perfectly fearless, and the best spearsman of his tribe—but passionate, implacable and sullen; in short, a most complete and untameable savage." Life and death summarised: stole a bag of flour; led an attack on the Canning River barracks; committed two murders; reward offered for his capture; enticed into a boat and captured; removed to Carnac Island; escaped; plundered a Fremantle store in company, but discovered and one native shot dead; avenges death by ambushing a cart and killing two settlers; outlawed; shot dead by two boys; one boy speared to death. Father had previously been convicted of murder and executed, and Yagan had promised to take three lives in revenge. "The justice of his death" is recognised by his tribe. Thomas Pettigrew gives a phrenological analysis of Yagan's skull.

Secondary sources[edit]

Summary of life.

Summary of life.

  • James Sykes Battye (1924), Western Australia: a history from its discovery to the inauguration of the Commonwealth, "Chapter 5: 1831 to 1838".