Natural History Museum returns remains to New Zealand

The remains of the indigenous people of the Chatham Islands, known as the Moriori, have been unearthed and traded as artefacts, many of which have ended up in the collection of the Museum of London.

In a ceremony held at Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum, they were returned to their people to be held in a sacred resting place before later being taken to their final resting place.

The repatriation is the end of 15 years of negotiations between the Natural History Museum and New Zealand.

A further 200 remains were returned from national museums and universities in New Zealand.

Maui Solomon, who chairs the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, said the repatriation fulfilled “an obligation to our ancestors”.

He said: ‘To have suffered so much in the history of post-colonial contact and then to have their remains taken offshore for research or curiosity over 100 years ago – bringing them home… is, to many ways, the ultimate tribute to our ancestors.

“They are the shoulders we hold [on] today… saying ‘you haven’t been forgotten, we’ve done everything we can to bring you back from all over the world’… that’s quite emotional.

Doug Gurr, patron of the Natural History Museum, said: “Repatriating remains to countries and communities of origin is part of a process of healing and reconciliation.”

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