June 26, 2004
Following the return of the ghost-shirt to the Lakota Sioux Indians a few years ago, another Scottish museum has agreed to return the preserved heads of three Maori warriors to Wellington, New Zealand.
The New Zealand Herald
Maori win return of preserved heads from Scottish museum
1.00pm – By PAUL KELBIE
The preserved tattooed heads of three Maori warriors which have been hidden away in a Glasgow museum for decades are to be returned to their homeland.
The grisly relics of Britain’s imperial past were kept under lock and key at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
Members of Glasgow’s cultural committee are expected to rubber stamp plans today to return the heads to their Maori communities, including one of a warrior chief with 40 wives.
The artefacts are to be sent to a secure facility at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington where they will be cared for by Maori curators and ceremonial specialists.
The first head was purchased by Glasgow Corporation in 1906 from James Conrad Cross, a Liverpudlian who ran a menagerie and later went on to become mayor. He may have obtained the head from a curiosity shop which was owned by a relative, say historians.
The other two heads were donated to Glasgow in 1951 by Archibald Shanks, a chemist and amateur natural historian, who purchased them from the Blair Museum at Dalry in 1901.
An undated extract from Mr Shanks’s diary states: “Two Maori heads received from Mr Rae Gordon at Blair, Dalry.”1. Tecaro Chief of Wycota, New Zealand, was killed in battle by Wa Tero Great Chief of Coweri. 2. Had 40 wives (New Zealand Chief).
After a world-wide search for Maori remains, the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum wrote to Glasgow Museums last April requesting the return of the heads, which are known as Toi Moko. They are regarded as ancestors and venerated by the Maori people.
The request has already been approved by the council’s newly-established Repatriation of Artifacts Working Group and once the decision is agreed today it will be the first time the city has returned remains to the Maori people.
It follows a policy introduced by the city council to return artefacts to their rightful homes. A famous example was the ghost-shirt returned the native American tribe of the Lakota Sioux of South Dakota in 1999.
“The council’s view has always been that each repatriation request should be considered on its own merits,” said Councillor John Lynch, head of the working group and convener of the Cultural and Leisure Services Committee.
“The case put forward by the Te Papa Museum, combined with the information held by Glasgow Museums, was such that the Repatriation Working Group unanimously agreed that the return of the remains to their native culture was the right and proper thing to do.”
A spokesman for Glasgow Museums said that following the request from the Te Papa Tongarewa the decision to return the items had been straightforward.
“It is no longer morally acceptable to put human remains on display and there is nothing more to learn about them,” he said.
“These remains are part of a community which still has a strong cultural identity and these are very important cultural artefacts.”
Maori curators hope to link the heads with specific tribes which can then give them a traditional burial.
- Glasgow museum returns Maori heads : December 22, 2009
- UK Museum returns Maori bones to New Zealand : December 4, 2009
- Manchester Museum to return Maori remains to New Zealand : November 17, 2008
- University of Aberdeen will return Maori heads : January 30, 2007
- France agrees to return Maori heads to New Zealand : June 12, 2010
- Scotland to return two Maori heads : January 23, 2005
- Toi moko to return home : February 1, 2007
- Taiwan’s hopes to secure the return of artefacts from the British Museum : August 11, 2010