Sweden returns Maori remains to New Zealand

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 11:21 AM

Swedish museum officials returned the remains of five indigenous Maori people to New Zealand on Wednesday as part of a broader move in Europe to repatriate remains taken from burial grounds.

Museum officials said they handed over three skeleton parts, a near complete skeleton and a skull to visiting delegates from the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.

The ceremony was held at the Natural History Museum in southwestern Goteborg, and included songs and prayers.

"The human remains in Western museums are mostly the result of colonial relationships and a racist view of the world," Swedish museum director Goran Blomberg said. "We now aim to work actively for the repatriation of human remains younger than around 200 years to their country of origin."

Te Herekiekie Herewini, repatriation manager at Te Papa Tongarewa, thanked the Swedish museums for agreeing to return the remains to New Zealand.

"This is significant for Maori as it is believed that through the ancestors' return to their homeland, the dead and their living descendants will retrieve their dignity, and also close the hurt and misdeeds of the past," he said.

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Museums across Europe have begun repatriating human remains taken from indigenous burial grounds in violation of local customs. A museum in Wales returned Maori remains in a ceremony Monday.

On Saturday, Sweden also returned 22 skulls taken from a native Hawaiian community during a ceremony in Stockholm.

(This version CORRECTS day in last paragraph to Saturday sted Sunday.)