MAORI and Moriori ancestral remains held by two Australian museums will be returned to New Zealand in a repatriation ceremony next week.
Six koiwi tangata Maori and 14 koimi tangata Moriori from JL Shellshear Museum at the University of Sydney, and two koiwi tangata Maori from the Western Australian Museum in Perth will arrive at Te Papa in Wellington on Monday.
The remains will stay in Te Papa’s care until their origins are traced and they can be returned.
The remains were taken out of New Zealand by collectors in the 1800s.
Te Papa’s kaihautu (Maori leader) Michelle Hippolite thanked the two Australian institutions for their support in returning the remains.
“The repatriation of these tupuna (ancestors) is a time for reflection and joy that they are returning to their homeland,” she said.
The Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation program, run by Te Papa and its predecessor, the National Museum, has repatriated 322 skeletal remains and toi moko (mummified, tattooed Maori heads) from 14 countries since 1990.
Of those, only 89 remains have been returned to iwi.
It is estimated there are still more than 500 sets of remains, including 100 toi moko, awaiting repatriation from overseas, including in England and the United States.
Earlier this year, 20 toi moko taken to Europe in the 1700s and 1800s returned to New Zealand from 10 museums in France.