What happened to the Taonga?

At Manuwhetai, this cross marks the site of an ancient burial ground.During the course of the land sales from the 1870s on, many sacred treasures were lost or violated. Many wahi tapu were alienated from tribal ownership or damaged and desecrated through land sales, settlement, and new types of development. Many of the wahi tapu became private farmland or part of State forests, planted in exotic trees for logging. Other areas were sold for beachfront housing subdivisions.

Some of the sacred burial places were discovered and then looted over the years. Human remains and sacred objects such as carved wakatupapaku were sold or taken to museums, where they were handled and studied by scientists and others, even though the tapu had not been lifted from them. This caused considerable distress and grief to Te Roroa, because the dignity of such tapu objects is violated when they are handled by strangers in this way.

In 1988, some the most sacred taonga of Te Roroa, the koiwi and wakatupapaku of their ancestors, were returned to them from the Auckland Institute and Museum for reburial.

Next: How the land was lost

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