Moriori and Māori ancestors remains returned

By Heta Gardiner

The remains of Moriori and Māori ancestors have been returned to New Zealand with the support of the city of Bremen in Germany. The Mayor of Bremen says possession of the collection contravenes human dignity and made an apology to Māori. A delegation from Te Papa Museum travelled to Germany to return the ancestors back to New Zealand.

Professor Pou Temara says, "The main thing is that they've been returned.  Some of them have been overseas for over 200 years.  They've now returned home."

In just over 10 years, hundreds of human remains have been gathered from across the globe with the funding and support of the Ministry of Arts Culture and Heritage. These particular remains were returned from England, Germany and Sweden.  Professor Temara says negotiating their return was difficult at times. 

"The most difficult ones would go so high up that the discussions would be minister-to-minister or even government-to-government," says Professor Temara.

Due to its success, the Ministry of Arts Culture and Heritage has boosted funding for the project.  If the allocated funds don't see the return of all the bones, they hope the Ministry will again increase their funding. 

"If we think there are still some human remains in museums around the world to be returned, then we'll request more funds to do so," says Professor Temara.

Despite hiccups, the repatriation group remain optimistic. 

Professor Temara says, "We believe we'll be able to bring back almost all of the human remains currently in museums overseas." 

Professor Temara says this has been one of the more successful years for repatriation since the start of the project.