Dr Aranui, Repatriation Researcher at Te Papa since 2008, and Curator Taonga Maori, is of  Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Waikato, and Ngāi Tahu descent. She recently took part in an online discussion  facilitated by the Australian National University in Canberra (ANU).

Amber has a strong background in New Zealand archaeology and anthropology. Her previous experience, knowledge, and existing relationships with iwi throughout the country are assets to the repatriation programme. Her work includes presenting her research (and the repatriation programme’s history and activities) at national and international forums, developing and maintaining relationships with international institutions, connecting with other indigenous communities involved in repatriation to exchange information, support, and experiences, and being part of an international repatriation research project.

Amber’s topic was ‘Reconciling the past to build a better future: Reflections on Repatriation’, with a focus on Aotearoa. She says that she straddles two worlds; firstly, as a descendent, and secondly as an employee of an institution with a history of theft of taonga, and of selling some on. Reconciliation is about reconnecting ancestors whose remains where taken with the life and vitality of their communities, and enabling them to finally rest in peace. She quoted a whakatoki (proverb) which says “when we learn from our past, we can shape our future”.

Since the NZ Repatriation Research Network was established in 2018 it has expanded to include all museums in Aotearoa who hold human remains ( kōiwi tangata) and one university. After the Museums Aotearoa Conference in 2018 the Ngakahu National Repatriation Project was set up in 2019, as work needs to include the return of  all human remains out of New Zealand also.

We plan to bring Amber to you in person soon to expand upon this talk for the Friends.

Feature image: Detail from: Project lead of Ngākaku, Amber Aranui demonstrates how historical maps can be a useful information source during provenance research at a Repatriation Network Meeting. National Services Te Paerangi repatriation workshop, 31 Mar 2021. Photo by Daniel Crichton-Rouse. Te Papa (168649)