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From the Archive: 2007 Repatriation of Maori Human Remains

On Friday, 23 March 2007, The Right Honorable Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, came to the marae of Ruatepupuke II at The Field Museum.

That Monday, prior to her arrival in Chicago—and following several years of quiet negotiation by Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington—the Museum's Board of Trustees had approved the repatriation of the remains of fourteen Maori individuals to New Zealand.

The Field Museum acquired these koiwi (bones) from a New York scientific supply company in the late 19th century; it was not known how they came to be in the United States, or where and how they had been obtained in New Zealand.

The first public announcement of the Board's decision was made formally to the Prime Minister by Dr. John Edward Terrell, Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology, and Mr. Joseph Brennan, then the Museum's Legal Counsel. They were supported on the marae by Christopher J. Philipp, Regenstein Pacific Collections Manager, and Désirée Wisse, then Regenstein Pacific Conservator.

Later that year, Dr. Terrell and A. Watson Armour III Curator Robert Martin traveled to New Zealand to participate in the official repatriation of the Maori ancestral remains held by The Field Museum. John and Bob were accompanied by a delegation of seven representatives from the The American Indian Center in Chicago, who have developed a special relationship with Ruatepupuke II at The Field Museum.

This was the first repatriation of Maori ancestral remains from a mainland museum in the US. A moving ceremony took place at The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, on Te Papa’s stunning, cooperative-built modern marae.

The audio used in the making of this film originally aired on "The World" (a co-production of the BBC, PRI, and WGHB Boston) on 7 September 2007. All images are © Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

These images are supplied for your personal study and research only. Any further reproduction of these images requires the permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. If your image has been used in this film and you would like it removed please contact John Terrell at the Field Museum.

View a transcript of the production here.

Thank you note from the NZ Embassy. Click to enlarge.


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