A pōhiri will take place at Te Papa today to welcome home the remains of sixty Māori and Moriori individuals. The remains are returning from museums and private collections,
Ancestral remains belonging to at least 54 individuals are being repatriated by Washington DC's Smithsonian Institution, including four toi moko.
Remains from a further six individuals are also being returned from other US and UK institutions.
This is the second largest repatriation conducted by the Karanga Aotearoa repatriation programme, which returns the remains of indigenous people to Aotearoa.
Te Papa Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says the collections date to a dark time in the history of collecting and museums.
"These were dark days, when these tupuna (ancestors) were traded, collected and stolen, but today we have the opportunity to put right the mistakes of the past.
We are extremely thankful to the Smithsonian Institute for their efforts to return our ancestors to their homes.
Their genuine commitment to the return of these remains allows us to resolve a dark period in our history."
Director of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History Dr Kirk Johnson says the Smithsonian was honoured to work alongside Te Papa.
“We are delighted that we could work closely with Te Papa on the return of these Māori and Moriori individuals to New Zealand.
I join the leadership and staff of Te Papa in recognizing this as an important landmark in the positive relations between our two museums, and the people of New Zealand and the United States."
Chair of the Karanga Aotearoa repatriation committee, Professor Pou Temara, says the work of the programme is essential.
“The spirits of our kin which have long been in suspension for these many years can now be appropriately consigned to Hawaiki, upon the return of their remains to Aotearoa. We look forward to the occasion,” he says.