Moriori and Māori ancestors offered dignity and respect

29 May 2017

Today the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa will hold a pōwhiri to mark the return home of 59 Māori and Moriori ancestral remains from the United Kingdom and Europe.

The karapuna (Moriori ancestors) and tūpuna (Māori ancestors) have been repatriated from England, Germany and Sweden.

They will all be carried onto Rongomaraeroa Marae at Te Papa, and placed on the atamira (the raised platform on the marae) at the beginning of the ceremony, where they will be offered dignity and respect by those that have gathered.

Te Papa’s Kaihautū, Dr Arapata Hakiwai, who took part in the hand-over ceremonies in Europe, says “there is a growing awareness among overseas institutions about the importance of repatriating ancestral remains. They are realising many ancestors were taken by unethical means, and Te Papa is pleased to be able to work with international institutions in order to facilitate the safe return of the ancestors to their iwi.

The ancestral remains have been repatriated from four institutes – The Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm Sweden, the Übersee Museum in Bremen, Germany, the Manchester University Museum in England and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England.

Dr Hakiwai says “To add, this is also a bitter sweet occasion, as our repatriation work reveals newly established colonial museums, alongside visiting natural historians from Europe actively participated in the trade of Māori and Moriori remains, ‘taken’ from wāhi tapu (sacred repositories). Many New Zealanders are unaware of this history, and do not realise the long standing history of the lack of respect offered to wāhi tapu by colonial settlers.”

The ancestral remains will be welcomed home at Te Papa by representatives of Moriori and Māori communities, senior government officials and representatives of Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany.

After the pōwhiri, the karapuna and tūpuna will rest in Te Papa’s wāhi tapu (sacred repository).

Based on the accession information the returning 59 ancestral remains have provenance to the following parts of New Zealand and iwi (tribal groups), including:

  • The Chatham Islands/Rēkohu (Moriori);

  • Whangaroa (Ngāpuhi) in the Te Taitokerau (Northland);

  • Hokianga River in the Taitokerau (Northland)

  • Tainui/Waikato region;

  • French Pass in the South Island; and

  • The remaining ancestral remains have general provenance to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Further research will be undertaken to confirm provenance where required.

Media advisory:

The Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme will be bringing home 59 Māori and Moriori ancestral remains from the United Kingdom and Europe.

Institutions repatriating tūpuna are Karonlinska Institutet in Sweden, Übersee Museum in Germany, and both the Manchester University Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum in England.

The karapuna and tūpuna will be welcomed on to Te Papa’s marae, Rongomaraeroa on Monday 29 May with the pōwhiri commencing at 3pm.

The pōwhiri is open to media. The ceremony can be filmed and photographed and there will be an opportunity for media interviews following the ceremony.

Prof. Pou Temara (Chair, Repatriation Adivsory Panel); Dr. Arapata Hakiwai (Kaihautū) from Te Papa are available for comment. Additionally Dr Pamela Hyde (a descendant of collector Henry Suter) and the British High Commissioner H.E Mr Jonathan Sinclair (British High Commissioner to New Zealand) are available for comment at the ceremony.

Media please register in advance and come to Te Papa’s main entrance at 2.30 pm on Monday 29th May.

We will escort you to the marae, brief you on protocol (see guidelines below) and give you a chance to set up.

The running order of the event is as follow. Timings are approximate.

2.30pm – Media to meet in the main Te Papa foyer

3pm – Pōwhiri commences with the ancestors and manuhiri entering Rongomaraeroa via Ara a Tāne external stairs

4pm – Karapuna are tūpuna leave Te Papa’s marae.

4.30pm – Kapu ti – light refreshments (Icon, level 2)

5.30pm – Pōwhiri ends

Media guidelines:

Repatriation ceremonies are known as a form of Tangihanga (or funeral) and are deeply significant and moving cultural experiences. The following guidelines will assist media in covering these events in a sensitive way to avoid causing offence or stress for cultural participants.


  • Media are welcome to make audio/visual recordings of these event, provided they have registered with the Communications Manager of Te Papa

  • Journalists, Camera operators, sound crews and producers/directors are requested to follow the guidance of the official media advisors during ceremonial proceedings

  • Media may film the ancestral remains arriving on the marae – but must not cross the centre of the ceremonial space or in front of the ceremonial party as this may cause an unintended cultural offence. To avoid this occurring – media are asked to remain in the position they are allocated/have chosen until all the parties are seated.

  • Leaders from Te Papa’s Repatriation Programme and other representatives will be available for media interviews at the conclusion of the formal proceedings. Under all circumstances please avoid asking questions during ceremonial proceedings.

Media contact

Zara Potts, Acting Communications Manager
029 601 0180

Related press releases since 15 May 2017

About the Karanga Aotearoa repatriation programme

Karanga Aotearoa is a government programme with the mandate to negotiate the return of human remains to New Zealand. Since its inception in 2003, the remains of more than 420 ancestors have been returned from institutions around the world.

For details of previous repatriations see: