New Zealand will return six Aboriginal artifacts to their rightful owners in Australia a century after they were first taken.
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has confirmed that successful repatriation discussions have now led to the return of these objects from the Tūhura Otago Museum to the Warumungu people of Tennant Creek in the Territory. North.
“These old things were carved by the old people who also had the songs for it. I’m glad these things are coming back,” said Michael Jones, a senior Warumungu official, in a statement.
“Museums respect us and they think of us. They didn’t take them, they just ended up there. We can still teach young people now about these old things and our culture.”
The objects – including a boomerang (kalpunta), an adze tool (palya/kupija) and stone knives (marttan) – are believed to have been collected by a British-born telegraph stationmaster and anthropologist in the late 19th century or early 20th century.
They found their way to the New Zealand Museum in 1923 and 1937, where they have been held ever since.
“The return of cultural heritage material after more than a century is an important moment for the Warumungu people and fundamental to truth and reconciliation processes,” said Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney.
“Repatriations like these are essential for knowledge transfer, cultural maintenance and revitalization for future generations.”
AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie also expressed his thanks to the museum and praised his team for their hard work.
“Storytelling is integral to transmitting our cultural knowledge,” he said. “The objects created in our communities, both sacred and profane, testify to the skills of those who created them as well as to our cultural values.
“We don’t want to lose sight of these storytelling aids, and our communities want to have a say in how they are used.
“AIATSIS is grateful to the Tūhura Otago Museum Maori Advisory Committee, the Museum Board of Trustees and the museum staff for the very positive way in which they have led a dialogue on this return.”
Originally published as ‘Significant moment’: New Zealand museum will return Indigenous artifacts