Swedish university returns Māori remains

  • 15/05/2017
Representatives from the Gothenburg Natural History Museum and from New Zealand carry boxes with Maori remains in Goteborg, Sweden in 2009 (AAP)
Representatives from the Gothenburg Natural History Museum and from New Zealand carry boxes with Maori remains in Goteborg, Sweden in 2009 (AAP)

Three Māori ancestral remains are to be returned to New Zealand from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Two are Māori skulls taken in 1890 by Swedish natural historian Conrad Fristedt, who spent time in the Bay of Islands and recorded his journey into the Whangaroa region.

He collected three on the journey, which he kept secret from Māori living in the region.

Two went to Karolinska Institutet, a medical university in Stockholm, and the other went to the anatomy department in the University of Olso in Norway. The skull housed in Oslo was repatriated in 2011.

The third Māori ancestor returning home from Karolinska Institutet is a toi moko, or tattooed preserved Māori head, about which little is known.

It was gifted by London collector Henry Christy in late 1862.

"Karolinska Institutet takes very seriously our moral obligation to help repatriate remains of indigenous peoples from our historical collections," says Dr Eva Ahren, director of the unit for medical history and heritage.

The three Māori ancestral remains are returning home with another 60 Māori and Moriori ancestral items from another three institutions in Europe.

The powhiri, or formal welcome, will be held at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa on May 29.

"It's important to recognise the role governments can have in supporting the return of indigenous remains to their communities," says Dr Arapata Hakiwai from Te Papa.

"The Swedish government has been active in this respect, and Te Papa wishes to recognise this in full alongside the Karolinska Institutet."

NZN