Restitution or a Loss to Science? Understanding the Importance of Māori Ancestral Remains

Amber Kiri Aranui


For the past 20 years, the main focus of repatriation-related publications has been how the return of human remains has affected the institutions in which the remains reside. Be that with regard to the loss to science or public good, or changes in the way human remains are now cared for, treated, displayed, and stored. But what about the effects on the descendant communities from which these remains originate? There are some examples of Indigenous perspectives regarding the importance of repatriation in the literature, but these are few and far between by comparison. This article examines the importance of returning Māori ancestral remains back to descendant communities, and the development of the repatriation movement in Aotearoa New Zealand. The ethical consideration relating to research on Māori ancestral remains is also explored to understand how scientific research is viewed and used in the Aotearoa New Zealand context. Certain academics and scientists have commented over the years that repatriation is a loss to science and a purely political ploy. It is hoped that by sharing some of the impacts that are dealt with from a Māori perspective, that there is a better understanding of how this effects indigenous communities all around the world.


Restitution; Indigenous perspectives; effects on communities; scientific research; ethics

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Copyright (c) 2020 Amber Kiri Aranui

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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