IT WAS a day of national significance and mixed emotions when the remains of four Yaegl ancestors were laid to rest near Maclean on Friday, after almost two centuries spent in European and Australian museums.
Yaegl elder Deidre Randall was one of the many people who attended the special ceremony and described it as "a great relief for the entire Yaegl mob."
"We're only a small tribe and having our ancestors finally brought back home and in peace in their own country ... it was very emotional and very close to our hearts," Mrs Randall said.
Wrapped in bark in the traditional way by four Yaegl elders, the remains were sprinkled with water from the Clarence River and a smoking ceremony was carried out before they were reburied in a Yaegl reserve.
"It's a relief to know our beautiful ancestors will never be disturbed again now they are in their final resting place," Mrs Randall said.
Mrs Randall and a number of other Yaegl elders campaigned for several years to have the remains of the four men brought home to the Clarence Valley.
Three years ago the remains were returned to Australia under the National Repatriation Program. Heritage conservation officer Ashley Moran said not much is known about the men but he believes two were pre-contact with white settlers and two from the post contact period in the Clarence area (from Brushgrove, Iluka and Yamba).
"The people living in and around those areas before early European contact, they were very healthy and physical people back then," he said.
Mrs Randall said it was not uncommon for indigenous remains to be removed and she believes there are many still waiting to be returned home.
"It happened right around Australia; indigenous remains were taken and studied and kept at museums and universities," she said.
"We don't know if there are more from our area, we'll have to wait and see."
Mrs Randall asks anyone who thinks they may have uncovered indigenous remains on their property to contact the Lands Council on 6645 3676 and ask for Deidre or Noelene.