A FORMAL CEREMONY that saw a Maori skull being handed back for repatriation to New Zealand was successfully concluded in Forres yesterday.
The skull had been gifted to the Falconer Museum in the late 19th century having been taken from Waikouaita in the Otago region of New Zealand’s south island by John Hugh McKenzie.
While the artefact was never on public display since Victorian times, it was retained by the Museum in storage and carefully preserved. Last year the Museum was contacted by the Museum of New Zealand requesting repatriation of the skull, a request that was immediately granted by Moray Council.
Now the skull will be returned to its rightful resting place alongside several other similar remains that have been located and retrieved from establishments around the world.
Moray Council’s convener Allan Wright signed the formal document handing the relics back to New Zealand’s representatives Te Herekiekie Herewini and Hema Temara on Tuesday, Councillor Wright saying: “We are pleased to be able to return these remains to the Maori people where they rightfully belong.
“It may seem strange and perhaps even macabre for any institution to be in possession of human remains from thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.
“But these things have to be seen in a historical context and in those far-off days it was the only opportunity that people had to appreciate and understand objects from other nations and other cultures.
“However, we now know of and recognise the great importance of these ancestral remains to the Maori people and we warmly welcome the delegation from the Museum of New Zealand who have come all the way to Moray to take possession of the remains and accompany them on their journey home.”
Museum of New Zealand spokesman Dr Arapata Hakiwai said: “These were dark days when these ancestors were traded, collected and stolen.
“But today we have the opportunity to put right the mistakes of the past and we are very grateful to all the institutions who have shown great sensitivity and respect to reach this milestone with us.”
The ceremony included Maori singing and chanting, ending with Councillor Wright being invited to take part in the Maori tradition of ‘hongi’ – a form of greeting in which parties press their noses together.