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The Korotangi (bird of sorrow) is a taonga or sacred artifact discovered in New Zealand. It is a carving of a bird made in sepentine stone. Some Māori of Tainui allegiance believe that it was brought to the country from Hawaiki in their ancestral waka.


The statue was discovered among the roots of a Manuka tree blown over in a storm in 1878. The location was near Aotea Harbour, traditional landing place of the Tainui waka (c.1350) This was the story of its finding given at the time by Mr Albert Walker,who claimed it was found by a local Māori. He offered it for sale to a local Cambridge antique and ethnographic dealer, Major Drummond-Hay. It was then purchased by Major John Wilson, as a present to his Māori wife, Te Aorere, for 50 pounds. There were other versions of Korotangi's appearance. In one, Mr Walker claimed he bought it from a visiting trading ship. In another, a local shopkeeper, Mr Naylor, was reported to have come across it while digging a fence post hole on his property near Kawhia. Yet another claims that it was carried to New Zealand on an Arab or South-East Asian ship which was wrecked off the west coast of New Zealand. The Maori Tainui tribe claim it came from the 'Homeland' on a migration canoe, but it is carved with metal tools which the Polynesians did not have. It has no similarity to any other manufactured piece in Oceania. Its origin is a mystery.

Physical description[edit]

The stone is a non-specific serpentine, weighs 2097 grams, is 26 cm long and appears to be carved with metal tools. It depicts a bird which seems to be a fusion of a petrel, a duck and a dove or pigeon.

It was allegedly found in New Zealand at Kawhia in 1878 but was claimed by the local Maori as being a lost talisman that had accompanied their migration canoe, Tainui, c1350A.D. After a century of dispute it was given by the Crown from the Dominion Museum in 1995 as part of the Land Settlement Agreement. In May 1995 the korotangi was returned - without the permission and proper consultation of its owners, the Wilson family descendants who had loaned the Korotangi to the Dominion Museum (later Te Papa) - to the Tainui people by Prime minister Jim Bolger as part of the government settlement of their claims under the treaty of Waitangi. The dispute over the government's authority to give the Korotangi, which was not owned by them, to Tainui continues.

cf.The Korotangi, by Christine McKay, Dominion Museum monograph, New Zealand, 1978.

Tuheitia Paki the current Maori King has named his second child Korotangi, an indication of how highly the Tainui Maori regard this taonga.