Wellington Scoop

Powhiri at Te Papa marks return of Moriori and Maori remains from Germany


News from Te Papa
Te Papa photos by Amanda Rogers
Today the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa held a pōwhiri to mark the return home of 59 Māori and Moriori ancestral remains from the United Kingdom and Europe. The karapuna (Moriori ancestors) and tūpuna (Māori ancestors) have been repatriated from England, Germany and Sweden.



They were carried onto Rongomaraeroa Marae at Te Papa, and placed on the atamira (the raised platform on the marae) at the beginning of the ceremony, where they were offered dignity and respect by those who have gathered.

Te Papa’s Kaihautū, Dr Arapata Hakiwai, who took part in the hand-over ceremonies in Europe, says “there is a growing awareness among overseas institutions about the importance of repatriating ancestral remains. They are realising many ancestors were taken by unethical means, and Te Papa is pleased to be able to work with international institutions in order to facilitate the safe return of the ancestors to their iwi.”



The ancestral remains have been repatriated from four institutes – The Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm Sweden, the Übersee Museum in Bremen, Germany, the Manchester University Museum in England and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England.

Dr Hakiwai says “This is also a bitter sweet occasion, as our repatriation work reveals newly established colonial museums, alongside visiting natural historians from Europe actively participated in the trade of Māori and Moriori remains, ‘taken’ from wāhi tapu (sacred repositories). Many New Zealanders are unaware of this history, and do not realise the long standing history of the lack of respect offered to wāhi tapu by colonial settlers.”

The ancestral remains were welcomed home at Te Papa by representatives of Moriori and Māori communities, senior government officials and representatives of Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany. After the pōwhiri, the karapuna and tūpuna were to rest in Te Papa’s wāhi tapu (sacred repository).

Based on the accession information the returning 59 ancestral remains have provenance to the following parts of New Zealand and iwi (tribal groups), including:

· The Chatham Islands/Rēkohu (Moriori);

· Whangaroa (Ngāpuhi) in the Te Taitokerau (Northland);

· Hokianga River in the Taitokerau (Northland)

· Tainui/Waikato region;

· French Pass in the South Island; and

· The remaining ancestral remains have general provenance to Aotearoa New Zealand.


Further research will be undertaken to confirm provenance where required.