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Today, the Natural History Museum has transferred the custodianship and care of the ancestral remains of over 100 individuals who will be returned to New Zealand. A formal ceremony took place at the Museum to mark this significant event.
The remains of a total of 113 individuals are returning to New Zealand – 111 Kōimi T’chakat Moriori (Moriori skeletal remains) will return to Rēkohu (Chatham Islands) and the ancestral remains of two Māori individuals will be going into the care of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and High Commissioner for New Zealand, H.E. Bede Corry. Representatives from the Natural History Museum included Museum director Dr Doug Gurr and Dr Heather Bonney, Principal Curator of the Anthropology collections.
The formal ceremony was followed by an educational event for Museum sector staff organised by the Natural History Museum in association with the Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, to share knowledge from a special panel of community representatives, researchers and repatriation specialist. Presentations included topics such as the history and traditions of the Moriori people and Te Papa’s Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme.
Maui Solomon, Chair of the Hokotehi Moriori Trust said: “The return of 111 Moriori ancestral remains from the Natural History Museum is a significant event for Moriori. Our thanks go to the Natural History Museum staff and Board for supporting Karanga Aotearoa and Hokotehi Moriori Trust to make this happen.”
Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum, said: “It was a privilege to attend this special ceremony marking the return of these ancestral returns to their country and communities of origin. I was delighted to welcome our friends and colleagues from the Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to the Museum following several years of close collaboration to achieve this repatriation. Me rongo.”
The ancestral remains will now begin their journey home, ahead of a formal ceremony to mark their return at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand on 8 July.
Notes to editors
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The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited indoor attraction in the UK last year. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.
It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens accessed by researchers from all over the world both in person and via over 30 billion digital data downloads to date. The Museum’s 350 scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency from biodiversity loss through to the sustainable extraction of natural resources.
The Museum uses its global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome millions of visitors through our doors each year, our website has had 17 million visits in the last year and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 20 million people in the last 10 years.