Red Kangaroo was a Gamilaraay [Kamilaroi] man who lived in the 18th century in the area that is now known as the town of Gunnedah. He was also known as Gambu Ganuurru, or Cumbo Gunnerah in an older spelling of his name.
He had a reputation as a warrior and wise leader of the Gunn-e-darr tribe. He was buried in the mid 18th century in a manner befitting a Kamilaroi man of great importance; in a sitting position, backed by a tree carved with totemic designs. The stories of his unsurpassed bravery, achievements and adventures were handed down through the generations and his burial place was treated with great respect. In 1887, the town's doctor arranged for his remains to be dug up, and later sent them, along with a slab of what was locally known as The Blackfellow’s Tree, to the Australian Museum.
As custom demanded, "Old Joe" Bungaree [born c.1817], the last full-blooded Aborigine of the Gunn-e-darr tribe, was unwilling to talk about his great leader. It was only just before he died that he decided to confide the story to his friend, J P Ewing, the local Police Sergeant. The Sergeant's son, Stan Ewing, recorded this information and passed it on to other historians.
Gambu Ganuurru soon became recognized as a great Aboriginal leader, his story appearing in The Sydney Mail in 1891. Writer Ion Idriess later wrote a book called The Red Chief first published in 1953, which became a best-seller of its day. The tag 'Red Chief' was coined by Idriess; it is not used in the original documents that were created.
In the 1960s, the Gunnedah Historical Society erected a sign to mark the burial site of "The Red Chief". This sign still stands on the footpath near the corner of Abbott and Little Conadilly Streets. In 1984, a sculpture, designed by Dennis Adams in consultation with local Elders, was erected to mark the burial site, the text reads:
Yilambu giwihr gayir Kambu Gunirah gir ginyi.
Ngihrngu mari ngihrma gayir Gaweh Canuhr.
Ngihrma binal wuraya, wahrunggul yiliyan
maringu Gunidahngu ginyi.
Yirahla ganu wunda dawandah nahbu gayir
gaweh Gawinbara Wuraya.
In times past there was an Aboriginal man
called Cumbo Gunnerah
His people called him The Red Kangaroo.
He was a clever chief and a mighty fighter
(this man from Gunnedah)
Later, the white people of this place
called him The Red Chief.
Dr Margaret Sharpe, Lecturer in Aboriginal Languages, wrote the Gamilaraay text.