Sweden gives Maori remains back to New Zealand

The skeletons of three Maori people are finally going back to New Zealand after spending more than a century in Sweden.

The remains of the three indigenous New Zealanders, a woman and two men, were discovered on the country’s North Island in 1876 and were taken to London and later to the anatomy department of Lund’s historical museum.

But last Thursday saw the skeletons given to a Maori-representative delegation in an emotional and solemn ceremony. The event saw delegates call on the spirits of the three deceased individuals via a putatara, an instrument made from a seashell, before they were welcomed back to their homeland. Delegate head from the Museum of New Zealand, Michelle Hippolite, called the event a funeral service of sorts.

Hippolite said in the ceremony: “We have with us two elders from the Maori community to make sure that the whole ritual proceeds according to the tradition,” according to Stockholm News and Dagens Nyheter. She went on to say: “We are sad of the fact that they have been gone for such a long time, but at the same time a new journey starts and we have the possibility to greet our forefathers welcome home again.”

Despite the event, some Maori remains remain in Sweden at Stockholm University. The delegation has since moved on to collect additional Maori remains in Norway, France and Germany before heading back to New Zealand.

There are skeletons of some 500 Maori people in museums on the European continent.

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