Wooden Treasure Box Presented To Calvin Coolidge By Arawa Chiefs

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From Card: "Wooden container (waka), cut from the solid, with inset cover. Elongated oval shape, cover forming upper half of composition. Decorated with over-all carving in relief of scrolled figures, beaked heads in series, two stylized human faces centerd on either side a squatting human figure at each end serving as supports, and with inlay of Haliotis [paua] shell. Shell inlay serves as eyes for the lateral human, and terminal beaked heads at ends of container. Interior excavated with hand tools including a file. Note: The Arawa is a federation of the tribes extending from Lake Rotorua to Maketu on the east coast, North Island, N. Z., and claiming descent from members of the crew of the Arawa, the legendary voyaging canoe that brought the Maori to New Zealand."
This box is listed in the United States National Museum Annual Report for the year 1956, p. 99, in the list of donors to the National Collections, under entry on U.S. Department of State; the entry identifies this box as "box (waka) of carved wood, decoratively embellished, which was presented in 1925 to President Calvin Coolidge by the chiefs of the Arawa in a ceremony at Rotorua, New Zealand."
The Chiefs of the Arawas of New Zealand presented this carved box to the president through a naval officer who visited Rotorua, New Zealand on the U.S.S. Seattle in August 1925. See accession file for additional information.
Treasure or feather box (wakahuia). There are similar objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum collections (see PRM 2000.21.1 for example), and the Pitt Rivers Museum (http://objects.prm.ox.ac.uk/pages/PRMUID119281.html) notes about boxes designed to stand on a flat surface: "Originally these boxes were designed to be hung from the rafters rather than sit on a flat surface, indicating either a change in use or that this particular example may have been made for the tourist trade, as these were popular souvenirs with European visitors to New Zealand. ... vessels like this were designed to contain treasured personal possessions including the feathers of the now extinct huia bird. In Maori this style of oval-shaped feather box is called a wakahuia, literally translating as waka (vessel) and huia (prized)."
Record Last Modified
26 Feb 2016
Specimen Count
Accession Date
6 Feb 1956
Collection Date
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Accession Number
USNM Number
Donor Name
U.S. State Department
North Island / Rotorua District, New Zealand, Polynesia
Length - Object
59.7 cm
Width - Object
12.7 cm
Depth - Object
26.7 cm
NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Object Type