Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Te Hokinga Mai O Ngā Tūpuna: Māori Perspectives of Repatriation and the Scientific Research of Ancestral Remains.

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posted on 2021-12-07, 08:12 authored by Amber AranuiAmber Aranui

The repatriation of human remains has been the subject of much discussion and debate, especially since the 1990s. Since then, there has been a marked increase in the international literature relating to museums, indigenous peoples and repatriation; however, this literature is mainly written from the perspective of museums and universities. Although there has been some publication of the views on repatriation of indigenous communities there is a conspicuous absence of Māori perspectives in this literature. In particular, there is a lack of Māori voice on the repatriation of ancestral remains, as well as a lack of commentary on the so-called scientific research on ancestral remains that has taken place, and continues to take place, in universities, museums, and medical institutions around the world. This lack of indigenous perspective in the repatriation literature has resulted in mainstream assumptions about why indigenous communities, such as Māori, have been so active in repatriation activities over the last 25 years. The assumptions have tended to view the motives of indigenous peoples as politically motivated and even go as far as describing them as “activist” in nature rather than motivated by cultural beliefs and imperatives. This perceived view, as well as the views of many writers in the scientific and museum professions who do not agree with the repatriation of human remains back to origin communities because of their “loss to science” and therefore humankind, has prompted hotly contested debates concerning these issues. These contested views lead inevitably to the question of consent and whether the taking of skeletal remains from burial contexts to carry out ‘scientific’ research without consent is deemed ethical by today’s standards.  The primary aim of this thesis is to document Māori perspectives on the repatriation of ancestral human remains and to understand the significance of Māori ancestral human remains for descendant communities. A secondary aim is to review some of the scientific research which has been carried out on Māori ancestral remains, and to identify the benefits, if any, of that research for descendant communities.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Maori Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Maori Studies : Te Kawa a Māui


Adds, Peter