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Nga Koiwi Tangata

1 August 2013

On Tuesday 30th July 2013 we had a meeting with the ‘Pou Rangahau Rautaki Kōiwi Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation’ group from Te Papa Museum, Wellington. Or to put it more simply the group charged with repatriating Maori bones from museums around the world and in some cases from museums within New Zealand.

It was a bizarre, somewhat macabre, sometimes angry but ultimately sad meeting to discuss what should be done with koiwi (bones) that have been returned to Te Papa Museum.

In 1876 Fredirick Huth Meinertzhagen sent 5 skeletons and 13 crania to the Canterbury Museum. Four of the 18 bkoiwi tangata have been repatriated from two institutions in Sweden, Goteborg Natural History Museum in 2009 and Lund University in 2011. These koiwi tangata were collected by Meinertzhagen and his wife from the sandhills of Waimarama.

Amber Aranui, an archaeologist and whanaunga who is based at Te Papa has researched and assisted in the return of these Koiwi Tangata. The anger arose at the surreptitious nature by which these koiwi were gathered, that is stolen and on sold to museums throughout the world despite the objections of our ancestors.

Now we have an opportunity to plan a homecoming and the whanau will be kept informed as to when and how this will happen. Sadly this is not the sum total of what was taken from us but we will continue to lobby those institutions that are holding our taonga koiwi. Our thanks to the team from Te Papa who remain committed to their repatriation.

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