For Māori of Aotearoa / New Zealand, feathers from native birds hold spiritual significance and were used in various forms of adornment including kites (manu tukutuku), cloaks (kakahu) and feathered bags (kete). Kiwi (Apteryx spp.) are nocturnal birds endemic to New Zealand and were placed by Māori under the special protection of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest. There are currently hundreds of kete (bags) adorned with kiwi feathers (kete kiwi) that are held in museums and private collections worldwide. However, the unique way each bag was made, the composite materials used, and their provenance are largely unknown. We show here that analyses of partial mitochondrial sequences recovered from kete kiwi can provide important insights into sources of materials and ancient construction techniques employed to make these treasured items (taonga).