Ngapuhi stoush over taonga

Ngapuhi are at loggerheads again, this time over some taonga loaned to a museum, with one elder – David Rankin – saying they are now being treated with disrespect.

A museum at Waitangi that opened to the public today has already been hit with a demand for the return of objects including Hone Heke’s tomahawk.

The Museum of Waitangi, part of a $14 million redevelopment of the Treaty Grounds, was formally opened by the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, on Friday, and opened to the public today.

But Ngapuhi leader David Rankin has this evening contacted management to demand the return of two taonga he said his hapu, Te Matarahurahu, agreed to lend to the museum.

Mr Rankin told the Herald he had never been given any documentation after handing over the two precious items — a tomahawk that belonged to his ancestor Hone Heke and a godstick used by the tohunga Papahurihia — in July.

He said the final straw came when neither he nor any of his hapu’s kaumatua were invited to the museum opening, and the artefacts had been treated “like items at a garage sale”.  

In an email to museum staff, Mr Rankin said he wanted the items removed from display and returned by this Friday.

“You … have behaved in a culturally reprehensible manner over this loan, and it is clear that our taonga are no longer in a culturally safe space,” Mr Rankin wrote.

“Considering that Heke was the first rangatira to sign the Treaty, this has been regarded as extremely offensive by our kaumatua and kuia.”

He said he would refer the matter to the police if necessary.

Waitangi National Trust chief executive Greg McManus said it was difficult to comment at short notice and without speaking with staff.

He was confident that loan documentation would have been completed for all loaned items.

“If there has been an issue with Mr Rankin receiving these I can only apologise and would like to discuss it with him next week.”

The Museum of Waitangi features taonga, artefacts and around 500 images from private collections and museums around the world. Some of the items are nearly 200 years old.

The paperwork is problematic, and it isn’t in dispute that Rankin handed over the items. What is not flash is that the people who donated the items appear to have been ignored or not invited to the opening, and that is disrespectful.

Still it shows there are ongoing issues inside of Ngapuhi and so it is no surprise that they are basically the last iwi to settle their Waitangi tribunal disputes despite being the first to sign the treaty.

 

– NZ Herald


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