Remains of mummified Tainui descendant returned home from Austria

updated By Tepara Koti
Te Papa Museum - Photo / file

The mummified remains of a high-ranking child of Tainui descent, were returned home to Te Papa from Austria more than 100 years after being taken from its burial site.

The repatriation is the result of a formal request to the Weltmuseum Wien (World Museum Vienna) and Austrian Government from Te Papa in 2013.

Tainui elder Meto Hopa says Andreas Reischek, the person responsible for taking the koiwi, was a thief. “He was really a thief. He spoke to Tāwhiao and convinced him to let him take them, though Tāwhiao thought that it was for scientific research”

Recently, a small delegation from Te Papa travelled to the Weltmuseum Wien in Austria to formally receive these remains, as well as three other sets of remains:

•    Nine human vertebrae with a piece of flax weaving from Te Taitokerau/Northland, collected by Andreas Reischek 
•    A coffin with skeletal remains from three different individuals from Te Taitokerau/Northland, collected by Andreas Reischek 
•    A Toi moko, collected by Johann Georg Schwarz

Andreas Reischek, was a well-known collector who acquired Māori remains and taonga from wāhi tapu during his time in Aotearoa in the late 1800s.  When Reischek returned to Austria in 1889, he took with him a huge personal collection of over 14,000 items.

Te Papa's Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says, "We are extremely thankful to the Welmuseum Wien and the Austrian Government for their approval to return these tūpuna.  Their genuine commitment to the repatriation of indigenous remains allows our country to resolve a very dark period in our history."

Professor Pou Temara, the Chairman of Te Papa's Repatriation Advisory Panel, says, "The connection to the tūpuna is continuous, despite time and location.  I am grateful for the legacy offered by the late Māori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu, who in 1985 brought an important ancestor home from Austria, as it has helped to pave the way for this repatriation."

A pōhiri for the tūpuna remains was held this morning at Te Papa. Māori Development, Te Ururoa Flavell says “I welcome this gesture of goodwill and leadership by the Austrian Government, which signals the importance of returning Māori ancestral remains to their communities of origin,” 

He concludes by saying “I am grateful to Te Papa for carrying out this important work on behalf of New Zealand. Since 2003 Te Papa has repatriated more than 350 ancestral remains from overseas institutions. However, there’s still a long way to go, with officials estimating another 550 ancestral remains are still to return home.”

Our reporter, Ripeka Timutimu will have more details on Te Kāea tonight at 5:30pm.