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Field Museum to Return Human Remains to New Zealand

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2007-09-03 17:56:26     
The Field Museum

A delegation from New Zealand will arrive in Chicago on September 3, 2007, to collect the human remains of at least 14 Maori individuals (native New Zealanders) and repatriate them to New Zealand. The delegation will return to New Zealand with the remains on Sept. 6, accompanied by two Field Museum curators and seven representatives of Chicago's American Indian Center.

"The Field Museum is doing this not because we have to but because it is the right thing to do," said Dr. John Terrell, Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at The Field Museum.

A repatriation ceremony will be held Sept. 10, at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) in Wellington, New Zealand, to transfer responsibly for the remains officially from The Field Museum to Te Papa Tongarewa.

"This repatriation will be very significant as it will be the first time Maori human remains have been returned to the National Museum of New Zealand from the continental United States," said Arapata Hakiwai, Director Matauranga Maori at Te Papa.

The Maori, comprising tribal groups who make up about 15% of New Zealand's population, are the original settlers of the north and south islands of that country. They are actively seeking the return of Maori human remains from museums around the world.

The remains in question here include bones, such as mandibles and crania, and one preserved head with facial tattoos. Nothing is known about the individual identifies of the remains.

The Field Columbian Museum purchased most of these remains from a supply house in 1893 at the conclusion of Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition. That museum was formed after the Fair closed to preserve objects and artifacts that had been gathered from around the world for display. The Field Columbian Museum was later renamed The Field Museum.

An unusual aspect of this repatriation is that Native Americans are participating. They have been involved at cultural and spiritual ceremonies at The Field Museum preparing for the repatriation. In addition, they will accompany the remains back to New Zealand, assist at the repatriation ceremony there, and conduct follow-up events back in Chicago.

"As First People of these lands, the United States and New Zealand, we want to support each other," said Joseph Podlasek, Executive Director of the American Indian Center.

"I cannot say too strongly how grateful I am that Joe Podlasek, Director of the American Indian Center, and six other Native Americans from Chicago, will be traveling with Dr. Robert Martin, Curator of Biological Anthropology at The Field Museum, and me to Wellington to stand together at Te Papa," Terrell said. "Our presence at that time will demonstrate to all the people of New Zealand how fully we support this repatriation."

Specialized in: Field Museum - Human Remains - New Zealand
URL: http://www.fieldmuseum.org
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