Hei tiki (pendant in human form) 1600-1850, Maker unknown, Auckland. Gift of W Leo Buller, 1911. Te Papa
Hei tiki (pendant in human form) 1600-1850, Maker unknown, Auckland. Gift of W Leo Buller, 1911. Te Papa

Where can I find further information about repatriation?

Te Papa currently oversees a repatriation programme dedicated to returning kōiwi tangata Māori and koimi Moriori (Māori and Moriori ancestral remains) to their home communities. The Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme has worked closely with iwi (tribes) and hapū (sub-tribes) to see the return of ancestral remains from dozens of institutions around the world back to New Zealand.

In New Zealand, special objects and artefacts are looked after under the Protected Objects Act administered by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. This Act regulates the import and export of protected New Zealand objects to ensure that they are not brought in or out of the country illegally. It also specifies what should be done if a taonga Māori (Māori treasure) is newly found, and regulates the sale or trade of taonga tūturu (Māori treasures over 50 years old).  

What should my museum do if it becomes involved in a repatriation claim?

A repatriation claim could involve your museum seeking the return of an object from another institution or a request for your museum to return an object from its collection. In any event, it is important that the process goes through the most senior members of your organisation and governing body. If necessary, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage should be contacted.

It is very important that the provenance of an object (when, where, and who it came from) is thoroughly checked and verified. A lot of research has to go into the background of the object in order to check the validity of a claim. If you are making a claim, be sure to compile as much information and documentation about the object as you can. Try to talk to other museums and organisations that have gone through similar experiences to get their advice.

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