May 18, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Hapu pleads for return of stolen taonga

2 min read has been contacted by whanau members of Ngati Hori, Ngati Hawea hapu, Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, who have asked us to pass on the following story about thevandalism and theft of their precious whale jaw and niho at Waipatu Marae.

The whanui is desperate to get as many people reading of this loss so that they might be able tohelp in the recovery of these precious taonga, saying:

“We as a whanau/hapu are devestated by the loss and are desperate for the speedy recovery of our taonga, if you could assist us in any way by sharing this story it would be greatly appreciated!

If you know anything, please get in touch ASAP!!


Teeth from a treasured whale jaw bone were stolen from Waipatu Marae over Waitangi Day weekend, shocking local Maori.
(Source | Hawkes Bay Today)

About 35 of the 60 teeth were taken from the sacred jaw, in what marae spokesperson Ngahiwi Tomoana said appeared to be a premeditated theft. The 4.5m jaw bone came from a sperm whale estimated to be nearly half a century old, that beached at Clifton Beach in 2004 and had been housed on the floor of the artists’ studio at the marae. The jaw bone was destined to be mounted for display in the marae meeting house.

Artists noticed the missing teeth after finding the back door had been jimmied open when they arrived at the studio yesterday morning. Mr Tomoana said the jaw bone was taonga and those affiliated with the marae were shocked by the theft.

He said it would have been a tough job to extract the teeth as they were glued in place with “the hardest glue you can find”. Mr Tomoana suspected a tool would have been used to smash the glue that held them in place so the ivory teeth would not be damaged.

Whale bone was highly prized among Maori and second only to greenstone. Mr Tomoana estimated the largest teeth, about the size of a soft drink can, were worth up to $800 each.

Carved teeth could fetch around $3000 each.

While those affiliated with the marae mourned the loss, Mr Tomoana said there was also concern for the thieves. “We’re more worried about the person who took them and the people who may receive these things,” he said. “There’s a ritual that goes with passing these teeth on – blessings to take any tapu off. At the moment there’s still tapu and whoever took them may be at risk.”

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