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UK Museum returns Maori bones to New Zealand

Following the high profile successes of Australian Aboriginal groups [1] in securing the repatriation of human remains from Britain’s museums, New Zealand’s Maori’s [2] are also achieving similar results.

Agence France Presse [3]

Museum returns Maori bones to N.Zealand
(AFP) – Nov 16, 2009

LONDON — A British museum handed back a set of Maori skeletal remains to indigenous leaders from New Zealand on Monday, 80 years after they were discovered in storage there, officials said.

The remains are thought to have been traded but then forgotten, and to be from Ahuahu or Great Mercury Island, off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

They were found in boxes marked “Mercury Islands” during a recent audit at the museum in Cardiff, Wales.

To prepare for their return — arranged by the museum in partnership with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa — the bones were given a 60-minute repatriation ceremony in Cardiff.

“This is the first time the museum has attempted such a process and I hope that opening the doors to the Te Papa Museum will lay the foundations for future collaborations,” said Michael Houlihan, head of the Welsh museum.

Te Herekiekie Herewini, Te Papa’s repatriation manager, thanked the Cardiff institution.

“This is significant for Maori as it is believed that through the ancestors? return to their homeland, the dead and their living descendants will retrieve their dignity, and also close the hurt and misdeeds of the past,” he said.

Since 2004, the New Zealand authority which negotiates the return of Maori ancestral remains has repatriated bones from eight countries bringing home 149 koiwi tangata (skeletal remains) and Toi moko (mummified tattooed heads).