28 Nov 2012

Two Maori heads returned home to Kawhia

6:56 pm on 28 November 2012

The people of Ngati Hikairo in Waikato have warmly welcomed home two ancestral heads that have been held at Stanford University in San Francisco since 1952.

Te Papa Museum and the university have been working on a plan to return them since October last year.

The university made contact with the museum to repatriate a Maori skull and a cranium that were housed in their human remains collection.

The Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation team manager, Te Herekiekie Herewini, says the two upoko (heads) arrived in Wellington on Wednesday morning.

And they were driven straight to Kawhia in Waikato - where they were given a powhiri ceremony that afternoon.

He says those koiwi tangata (skeletal remains) were discovered by a farmer Keith Mackenzie in an ancient burial cave on his Oparau property in 1950, and were given to Felix Keesing an anthropologist at Stanford.

Mr Herewini says Ngati Hikairo people have opened their arms to their ancestors coming back home and welcomed them on to the tribe's Waipapa Marae in Kawhia.