taonga

Te Whakaokiokinga – “Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them …”

The Whanganui Regional Museum (WRM) opened to the public in 1895 and since then,= hundreds of thousands of taonga (treasures) from all cultures have been presented to be looked after in perpetuity for the whole rohe (region). But for the contents of one small room in our Museum, eternal care is the opposite of what we are wishing to achieve.

Many museums around the world have kōiwi tangata (skeletal human remains). Our Museum is no different. These tūpuna (ancestors) were gathered by various means over the last century or so. They may have eroded from overhangs or dunes, they may have been accidental finds during land developments, from archaeological excavations, from trading and also from being consciously dug out of urupā (graves) by looters looking for taonga to steal.

Our late Museum Kaumātua (elders), Henry Bennett and Matiu Mareikura, resolved that all tūpuna would be returned to their people, or buried here if no identifying information was available. Unfortunately, they both died in 1998 before the Museum had begun repatriation.

In 2006 Ngāti Apa led the Museum’s first repatriation after they were made aware that there were tūpuna from their rohe. Eleven tūpuna were returned for reburial at Parawanui in Manawatū, 49 years after they were deposited in the Museum.

In 2010 the request to bury all kōiwi tangata was again taken to the Museum’s governing bodies by the Museums new Kaitiaki Taonga Māori. She had previously helped her iwi of Ngāti Rangitāne ki Te Wairau repatriate 56 tūpuna from Canterbury Museum back to Te Wairau (by Blenheim), after 70 years of continually petitioning that institute. She wanted to ensure that repatriation of tūpuna held at WRM would not include any of the trauma that Rangitāne had experienced.

1. Ceremony of repatriation

 Spending time with kōiwi before re-interment, January 2016.

Guided by iwi, and funded by Te Puni Kōkiri, a strategy was developed, which included Te Whakaokiokinga, our Human Remains Repatriation Policy. Our policy has major points of differences: actively seeking to repatriate or bury all tūpuna, utilising tikanga (protocols) Whanganui, and repatriating all taonga robbed from graves, back to their respective hapū and iwi.

In January 2016 over 80 individuals were buried at Aramoho Cemetery after a decision was made to reinter kōiwi from Whanganui, and also those with no known background. Most were Māori, but there were also some of European and Indian origin. Te Papa and Cleveland Funeral Home also brought remains from Whanganui for this mass burial. The plots were sponsored by Ngāti Tūpoho and Cleveland Funeral Home.

In March 2018, a female tupuna was repatriated. She and her living entourage of mainly kaumātua were welcomed onto Rānana Marae before taking the final journey back to Tawhitinui (on the opposite bank upstream of Rānana), 68 years after she was taken.

Seven of our longest residing tūpuna returned home to the Bay of Islands in April. They had arrived here in 1898. Five Museum staff and board members were supported by the local Kaumātua Kaunihera and whānau from Ngāti Hinemanu and Ngāti Paki of Otaihape (Taihape) to return these tūpuna home. They were hosted by Ngāti Manu of Kāretu Marae, near Kawakawa, in what all described as a humbling, moving and life-changing experience.

2. Carrying tupuna from Museum

 Supportive hands carry kōiwi from the Museum for re-interment, January 2016.

This significant work is only achievable because of support received from some wonderful people. Marty and Marilynn Vreede sponsored hundreds of dollars’ worth of beautiful harakeke paper to help “dress” the burial boxes, kaumātua from near and far have supported this endeavor, and our spiritual protection and guidance has been provided by Te Whakataumatatanga Mareikura, Marie Waretini and our stalwart kaumātua, John Maihi.

No matter how or why kōiwi, or any human remains, arrived at any museum in the world, no matter whether or not we know who they are or where they are from, there is no denying that this is somebody’s son or daughter. No-one ever laid their parent, grandparent, grandchild or friend to rest in the hope that they would one day be disturbed to end up on display somewhere or in a box on a shelf. No matter which culture you belong to, respect for the dead, burial rites and rest is a given.

We may not have played a part in how they arrived here, but we can be part of the resolution to grant them eternal rest.

 

Āwhina Twomey is Kaitiaki Taonga Māori and Kaiwhakaako at the Whanganui Regional Museum

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Hōne Heke and the Flagpole

Getting close and personal with taonga (treasures) that speak of people and nations is one of the many things that make working at the Whanganui Regional Museum special. It would be easy to write a sexy piece about something elaborate or breath-taking, but I have chosen a very unassuming chunk of a painted wooden pole.

1. Flagpole

“Part of a flagpole”; one, in fact, cut down by Hone Heke. Ref: TH.1321

The label simply reads “TH.1231. Part of a flagpole”. Some pretty intense research, however, has revealed an amazing story. This 50cm length of flagpole is an important part of Aotearoa history; it is a section of the fourth flagstaff that the legendary Hōne Heke chopped down.

At school we were taught about this “troublemaker”, the flagpole-felling rebel who was finally subdued by Governor George Grey. But there is more to Hōne Heke than meets the eye.

Hōne Wiremu Heke Pōkai was a great rangatira (chief) and war strategist from Ngā Puhi, who was the first to sign Te Tiriti o Waitangi. After Māori leaders of The United Tribes signed the Declaration of Independence on 28 October 1835 and declared their sovereignty, Hōne gifted a flagstaff to Kororāreka (Russell) so that the United Tribes flag could be flown.

In 1836 King William IV sanctioned The United Tribes Declaration and the flag, making it our nation’s first official flag. Used until 1902, this flag featured on the medals presented to soldiers who served in the South African War (1899–1902).

2. First NZ flag

 The first NZ flag, sanctioned by King William IV in 1836 and used until 1900, was chosen by Māori of the United Tribes who signed the Declaration of Independence on 28 October 1835.
Source: www.mch.govt.nz, the website of Manatū Taonga-Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Licensed by Manatū Taonga-Ministry for Culture and Heritage for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 New Zealand License.

After the signing of the Tiriti o Waitangi, Governor Hobson had the United Tribes flag removed from the flagstaff and flew the British flag there. Hōne Heke saw this as a rejection of the equal status of Māori with the government. He wished to show his objection without hurting or alarming settlers so cut his flagstaff down on 8 July 1844, and wrote to the new Governor Fitzroy on 19 June:

 Friend Governor… I am thinking of leaving off my rude conduct towards the Europeans. Now I say that I will prepare another pole … in order to put an end to our present quarrel. … The pole that was cut down belonged to me, I made it for the native flag, and it was never paid for by the Europeans.

The flagstaff was replaced and the British flag re-flown, increasing Māori disquiet. Hōne cut down replacement flagstaffs on 10 January and 18 January 1845. A military presence was established in Kororāreka in February and Governor Fitzroy posted a £100 reward for the arrest of Hōne Heke. It is rumoured that Heke responded by offering a £100 reward for the governor’s head!

On 30 December 1897 the Wanganui Chronicle published a letter by Samuel Drew, our Museum founder, stating that James J Clendon Esq, RM, sent him the piece of flagpole and “vouched” its authenticity. Clendon was a ship owner and captain before settling in Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) in 1832. A successful merchant, farmer, JP, Police Magistrate, and eventually Magistrate of the Court, he collected the pole whilst holding the position of Police Magistrate. The article reads:

… the last chopping down of this staff that was the starting point of that Hone Heke war which proved so disastrous to our troops. …  He considered that while the British flag was floating there the Pakeha would acquire Maori land and with it a power that would oust the Maori, much in the same way as the white people were doing in Van Dieman’s Land and Australia …

Drew continued:

… to prevent any more chopping iron plates were fastened round its base, and a block house built round it so that the staff came through the centre of the roof. This time it was left unmolested until March 11th, 1845, when in the first grey of the morning an attack was made. … The strong iron casing on the flagstaff did not protect it for the Maoris quickly dug below the iron and soon chopped it through. Here it fell and lay on the ground for many years. … Our soldiers were afterwards sent several times to chastise Heke. He was a noble old warrior and fought well, and was never beaten, but our troops suffered severely in the assaults on their strong pahs.

This plain, humble piece of wood is the essence of our nation’s history.

 

Āwhina Twomey is Kaitiaki Taonga Māori and Kaiwhakaako at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Pūoro Karetao – Musical Puppet Show

Karetao

Nau mai ki te Whare Tāpere! We are fortunate to be able to bring you James Webster and his team, who will have you mesmerised throughout their stage production. Let them introduce you to karetao (puppets) which are also pūoro (instruments). A true tohunga (expert), James has carefully carved the exquisite cast, and when these pūoro karetao sing – you don’t want to miss it.

In June our Pūoro Karetao show was postponed due to the flood. We are pleased to announce that we have secured another date with James Webster to showcase these wonderful taonga, next Monday Aug 10th in our Davis Theatre.

The two school sessions at 10.30-11.30am and 1-2pm are almost booked out, so reply now to awhinat@wrm.org.nz to secure a seat for your students and enquire about the school rates.

There is ONLY evening show from 6.30 – 7.30pm. Ring 349 1110 or email info@wrm.org.nz now to find out more.