New Zealand museum agrees to hand back sacred items to Australian Indigenous community
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A New Zealand museum has agreed to hand back four artefacts belonging to the Warumungu people in Northern Territory more than a century after they were taken.
The Guardian reported the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum will be returning two hooked boomerangs (kalpunta), an adze (palya/kupija) and an axe (marttan) to the Warumungu people later this year.
“They been taken away before us, but we know that they belong to Warumungu people as the new generation,” senior Warumungu man Michael Jones said according to the outlet.
Jones said hooked boomerangs take an exceptionally long time to create and are passed down to younger community members.
According to the National Indigenous Times, Jones added: “It’s a precious thing.”
This marks the second New Zealand museum to return culturally significant objects to the Warumungu people, as the Tūhura Otago Museum announced they would send back six artefacts to Tennant Creek in Northern Territory.
Those artefacts included a boomerang (kalpunta), adze (palya/kupija) and a selection of stone knives (marttan).
The museum in Dunedin acquired the objects from Museum Victoria in 1923 and 1937, where they have been held ever since.
But for the past year, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has negotiated for these items to be returned.
After over a century, six Warumungu objects will be returned to their traditional owners in the Tennant Creek region.— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) September 24, 2022
It’s a significant moment, and crucial for the transfer of knowledge and revitalising culture for future generations.
Here’s the journey they went on… 🧵 pic.twitter.com/B4iAjxF8cS
Following the announcement, Jones praised the museum and said that restoring these artefacts would present an opportunity to teach the public about their meaning.
“Them old things they were carved by the old people who had the songs for it, too. I’m glad these things are returning back,” he said, per an AIATSIS statement.
“The museums are respecting us, and they’ve been thinking about us. They weren’t the ones who took them, they just ended up there.
“We can still teach the young people now about these old things and our culture.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney also shared: “The return of Warumungu cultural heritage material is fundamental to the processes of truth-telling and reconciliation.
“It supports the transfer of knowledge, cultural maintenance, restoration and revitalisation for future generations.”
Members from the Warumungu community will travel to New Zealand to collect the artefacts in a handover ceremony with local Māori communities later this year.
The Warumungu objects will then be showcased at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre in Tennant Creek.