9 Oct 2012

Te Papa praises overseas museums

6:56 am on 9 October 2012

Te Papa Museum is praising the generosity of overseas museums in helping repatriate hundreds of ancestral Maori remains to their tribal descendants.

Two Australian museums - with the support of Aboriginal people - have given back 22 koiwi tangata (sets of human remains).

It is the biggest repatriation of human remains since the return of 20 Maori toi moko (mummified heads) in January this year from France.

Te Papa's Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation manager, Te Herekiekie Herewini, says the museum recognises the work done by the French Government which spent considerable time passing laws to part with the toi moko.

He says the former the National Museum started negotiating the repatriations of taonga Maori, including ancestral remains, more than 30 years ago.

Mr Herewini says it may have taken a long time for their tupuna or ancestors to be returned home, but Te Papa has to rely on the good will of overseas institutions.

He says the wait has been worthwhile because now those koiwi tangata and taonga are starting to come back home.

Te Papa Tongarewa has been able to recover more than 320 skeletal remains from 12 countries, but estimates that there are over 500 still overseas.