Re-excavating Wairau: A study of New Zealand repatriation and the excavation of Wairau Bar.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
Repatriation is an increasingly significant issue in the museum world. It is concerned with the return of cultural artefacts that have been previously traded or sold into foreign countries or institutions, either at the behest of the indigenous people or the initiative of the institution holding them. This dissertation explores the role of repatriation in modern New Zealand museums and its role in furthering the often contentious relationship between Maori and museum staff. It has a specific focus on the excavation and repatriation of human remains at Wairau Bar in Marlborough. It critiques an unpublished history of the Bar written by independent historian David Armstrong, which was commissioned by Rangitane in 2009. My overall argument disputes Armstrong's portrayal of Roger Duff, ethnologist at the Canterbury Museum, as the leader of a surreptitious excavation who was consistently underhand and secretive in his dealings with Rangitane. I counter Armstrong's claims to demonstrate that Duff valued an open and transparent relationship with Rangitane and respected their cultural attitudes to ancestral remains. I conclude that these remain core values in both modern repatriation policies and museum relations with Maori. My contextual discussion draws largely on secondary scholarship and journal articles while my conclusions about Wairau Bar are largely based on primary archives and Armstrong's report.