“Taking Māori Tikanga into the Pākehā Paddock”: Understanding the Return of Kōiwi Tangata/Human Remains in New Zealand

by Emma Clifford

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Kōiwi Tangata/Human Remains; Repatriation; Reburial in New Zealand; Archaeological Ethics
Record ID: 1303440
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4838


The debate surrounding the return of human remains to indigenous communities has morphed from a contentious and hotly debated issue to an acknowledged part of many museums and institutions policies. The acceptance of an onus to return indigenous human remains to their descent communities has led to the opening of a dialogue worldwide. This dialogue, although varied in its success, is an important dialogue for the archaeological community to both understand and participate in, particularly as they become increasing involved. The aim of this thesis is to understand this dialogue in a New Zealand setting. This is done through an analysis of a case study of the process of return of kōiwi tangata from Canterbury Museum to Rangitane o Wairau. This case study focused on the use of key participant interviews to highlight the dialogues within the process as well as the implications of that process. Ultimately, the case study highlighted the importance of partnership and communication in this dialogue as well as the practical nature of these discussions. The discussion of the case studies key themes in relation to wider New Zealand social, political and cultural traits as well as international case studies demonstrates a universally similar dialogue based on establishing cultural affiliation and the practicalities of reburial. However, the relationship between the Crown and Māori in the form of the Treaty of Waitangi, the precedent set by treaty settlement claims and the adoption of these principles and aspects of Māori tikanga by museums has resulted in a unique method of establishing descent as well as how the New Zealand dialogue functions.