Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Paikea: Whale People in the Modern Whaling Era


Billie Lythberg and Wayne Ngata explore what it means to be whale people in the modern whaling period by detailing the lengthy process of gifting a taonga (treasure) to an instantiation of the Māori figure Paikea housed at the American Museum of Natural History. In the early twentieth century, a tekoteko (gable figure) of Paikea was taken from Ūawa on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand to the UK and then to the US. In order to reconnect with their ancestor, descendants of Paikea wished to visit Paikea the tekoteko and gift him with a rei puta pendant carved from a whale’s tooth, a process which took multiple years due to modern restrictions on the exchange of whale products.

DOI: doi.org/10.5282/rcc/9182