Maori remains on their way to Te Papa
The ancestral remains of Maori, including two skulls and a preserved head, are being returned to New Zealand after more than 100 years in Sweden.
The two Maori skulls were taken in 1890 by a Swedish natural historian, Conrad Fristedt, who spent time in the Bay of Islands and kept his discoveries secret from Maori living in the region.
They were given to Karolinska Institutet medical university in Stockholm, where they had remained until this week.
‘‘We are gratified that the Maori remains will now return to their homeland,’’ said medical history and heritage director Dr Eva Ahren.
‘‘Karolinska Institutet takes very seriously our moral obligation to help repatriate remains of indigenous peoples from our historical collections. We greatly appreciate this opportunity to transfer the remains into the care of Te Papa’s repatriation team.’’
In addition to the two skulls, a toi moko – tattooed preserved Maori head – will also be returned to New Zealand with the support of the Swedish Government.
Little is known about the toi moko, other than that it was gifted to the Stockholm-based institute by London collector Henry Christy in late 1862.
The largest repatriation of remains was in 2014, when 107 ancestors were returned to New Zealand from the American Natural History Museum in New York. The collection was gathered by British soldier Major Horatio Robley.
More than 400 individuals have been returned from institutions around the world since the programme was started in 1990, including a third skull taken by Fristedt, which was repatriated in 2011 from the University of Oslo’s anatomy department.
‘‘It’s important to recognise the role governments can have in supporting the return of indigenous remains to their communities,’’ said Te Papa’s Kaihautu (Maori co-leader) Arapata Hakiwai.
‘‘The Swedish Government has been active in this respect, and Te Papa wishes to recognise this in full alongside the Karolinska Institutet.’’
These three Maori ancestral remains will return home along with another 60 Maori and Moriori remains from three other institutions in Europe.
The remains will be formally welcomed home at Te Papa in Wellington on Monday, May 29.
and executing it with a degree of difficulty.