Arts Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson today welcomed the return of 20 Toi moko (mummified Māori Heads), formerly held in French institutions, to New Zealand.
“This is a wonderful day for the people of New Zealand and for those Māori whose ancestors’ remains have been returned home,” Mr Finlayson said. “Toi moko have a great deal of cultural and spiritual value to New Zealand and especially to Māori.”
The French Parliament voted in May 2010 to allow the repatriation of Toi moko, acknowledging the cultural and spiritual importance to New Zealand, and in particular to the Māori people, of bringing Toi moko home to their ancestral lands. The first Toi moko to be repatriated from French institutions arrived in may last year.
Since 2003, New Zealand authorities have followed a policy of facilitating the repatriation of Toi Moko and koiwi tangata Māori (Māori ancestral remains) from museums around the world. Toi moko and koiwi tangata form part of some museum collections of Pacific artefacts dating from the 19th Century.
The Toi moko will be held by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which negotiates and facilitates the return of Toi moko and koiwi tangata Māori from overseas institutions on behalf of the New Zealand Government.
Toi moko and koiwi tangata are repatriated to Te Papa on an interim basis, and Te Papa works closely with iwi (Māori tribes) to determine their attributed place of origin, for eventual burial where possible on ancestral lands.