NGĀKAHU | National Repatriation Project update – November 2019

by Dr Amber Aranui, Project Lead, NGĀKAHU | National Repatriation Project

National Services Te Paerangi will be sharing regular updates from NGĀKAHU: Te Korowai o te Aroha mō ngā Kōiwi Tūpuna | National Repatriation Project.

On 5 November Nelson Provincial Museum, in conjunction with the NGĀKAHU | National Repatriation Project, hosted a bone identification workshop which was attended by members of the New Zealand Repatriation Research Network and local iwi. This workshop was the first of many to be held in conjunction with the New Zealand Repatriation Research Network in an effort to support NZ museums in the repatriation of human remains from their collections.

The full day workshop was delivered by University of Otago’s Professor Hallie Buckley and postgraduate student Stacey Ward who shared with us their knowledge of human anatomy. The aim of this workshop was to provide museum staff with basic tools in identifying human remains held in their collection, as well as distinguishing human from non-human remains. We also learned about the differences between Polynesian and non-Polynesian remains, and the how to identify the approximate age and sex of individuals.

Museums and local iwi who attended found the workshop incredibly informative and recognised the importance of this work in the wider repatriation process. One of the main outcomes of the workshop was the knowledge that human remains are often misidentified as animal bone, and that we should all check our fauna collections carefully.

The workshop was so well received by those who attended that it is likely we will hold another bone identification workshop in 2020.

A recommended text for all museums looking to identify human remains was The Human Bone Manual by White and Folken

Find out more about The Human Bone Manual

About NGĀKAHU: Te Korowai o te Aroha mō ngā Kōiwi Tūpuna | National Repatriation Project

The NGĀKAHU | National Repatriation Project has been established to assist the New Zealand museum sector in repatriation initiatives.

This mahi is funded for two years by Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, as announced by the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon Carmel Sepuloni at the Museums Aotearoa Conference in May 2019.

Project Lead Dr Amber Aranui (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) has been seconded from her role as Repatriation Researcher for Te Papa’s Karanga Aotearoa repatriation programme. She also currently chairs the New Zealand Repatriation Research Network.

Amber will work closely with the New Zealand Repatriation Research Network and the Museum Aotearoa Board in developing repatriation principles for New Zealand, good practice resources for undertaking repatriation, and providing practical support for organisations who hold kōiwi and koimi tangata or other human remains.

NSTP Iwi Development Manager Migoto Eria (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti Raukawa) will also provide integrel support for this project.

If your museum holds human remains, and you are not currently part of the New Zealand Repatriation Research Network but would like more information, please contact Dr Amber Aranui at or 021705119.

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