Moriori skeletal remains returning in 'historic repatriation'

Source: 1News

A historic repatriation of over 100 Moriori skeletal remains and two Māori ancestral remains are being brought home to Aotearoa this week.

Wellington’s Te Papa Tongarewa will welcome 111 Kōimi T’chakat Moriori, and two Māori ancestral remains in a hokomaurahiri (repatriation ceremony) on July 8.

It’s the largest-ever return of ancestors belonging to a single imi (iwi or tribe), which will be returning from London’s Natural History Museum.

The remains were taken from Chatham Islands for collection, trade and research.

Dr Arapata Hakiwai, Te Papa’s Kaihautū/Māori co-leader hopes the "momentous repatriation" encourages other institutions around the world to follow suit.

"This historic repatriation is the first from the Natural History Museum, London. We acknowledge those at the Museum who have been assisting with this repatriation for many years and treated our discussions with sensitivity and care.

"We also acknowledge the contribution of the New Zealand institutions whose collaborative approach has enabled this to be the largest coordinated return of ancestral human remains in our country’s history."

The repatriation is a culmination of 15 years of research and negotiation by the Moriori people and the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme.

Maui Solomon, Hokotehi Moriori Trust Chair commended the Natural History Museum for its actions.

"This demonstrates the Natural History Museum’s respect for Moriori culture, and their willingness to right past wrongdoings and return Kōimi T’chakat Moriori home."

The ancestors will join hundreds of others to eventually be returned to their homeland, Rēkohu (Chatham Islands).

The repatriation includes almost 200 karāpuna (Moriori ancestral remains) from Otago University, Tūhura Otago Museum, Canterbury Museum, Whanganui Regional Museum and Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Director of The Natural History Museum, London, Dr Doug Gurr said the repatriation was an important moment for the institution.

"Respect and responsibility towards the remains of the deceased are important for us all, and we understand the importance of the return of the ancestors to the care of their communities as part of a process of healing and reconciliation. Me rongo," Dr Gurr said.

The Natural History Museum’s formal handover ceremony took place in London last week, and included tikane Moriori and tikanga Māori - indigenous cultural customs and protocols.