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Te Papa welcomes ancestral remains

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/05/2016
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The remains of 60 Maori and Moriori have been welcomed home from overseas, where they've been held by institutions for more than 100 years.

Wellington's Te Papa marae held a welcoming ceremony for the remains on Friday.

Ancestral remains belonging to at least 54 people were repatriated by Washington DC's Smithsonian Institution - including four toi moko, or mummified tattooed Maori heads.

Remains from six more individuals were returned from other US and UK institutions.

Many of the Smithsonian remains were collected during United States expeditions to New Zealand in the nineteenth century.

Te Papa spokesman Dr Arapata Hakiwai said the collections dated back to a dark time in the history of collecting and museums.

"These were dark days, when these tupuna (ancestors) were traded, collected and stolen, but today we have the opportunity to put right the mistakes of the past," he said.

He acknowledged all the institutions returning remains.

"These are not easy discussions, and we are very grateful to all the institutions, who have shown great sensitivity and respect to reach this milestone with us."

It's the second-largest repatriation in the history of the Karanga Aotearoa repatriation programme, which returns the remains of indigenous people to New Zealand.

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