Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Body Snatching

Body Snatching

When there are cultural conflicts, there are bound to be family feuds.

In 2007 alone, there were two “body snatching” cases in New Zealand. These involved where one side of the family belongs to the native New Zealander, the Maoris and the the other side, the “foreigners”, the Pakehas. The Maoris claim that it is important for their Whanau or family tradition to bring the body home to be buried in their family cemetery or farm.

In the latest case in December, the body of Tina Marshall-McMenamin, allegedly taken from a Lower Hutt funeral home by her estranged Maori father, has "definitely been buried" in the Ruatoria area.

In an emotive, traumatic situation, her Maori Father argued that it was only right to bring her home, while her Pakeha Mother said that she had a pact with her deceased daughter to be cremated and placed together. Tina had not been brought up as a Maori and on top of that, Tina had only been to her estranged Father’s town only once in her life.

Her fiance and maternal family obtained a High Court order to prevent a burial. But the local police at Ruatoria were unaware of the court order and the burial went ahead.

In another case earlier this year, the Maori family of James Takamore took him from Christchurch in the South Island and brought him home to be buried in the North Island. His partner of over twenty years and son’s wishes were ignored. The court order to stop his burial was too late.

The funeral directors say that the body belongs to next of kin, that is the partners, not the fathers. However, in both of these cases, there is a complication. They were in a defacto relationship, not married.

***I asked my Maori colleagues what they thought of this issue which is so strange to us. They said that in fact, it is a privilege to the decease. It means that many people love you and want you even in death.***

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