Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Latest on the Dispute Over 83 Hawaiian Cultural Objects (aka “Forbes Collection”)

The Honolulu Advertiser has the latest on the dispute over cultural objects valued at $10 million, taken from the Kawaihae Caves on the Island of Hawaii in 1905.  The objects (some believe they are funerary artifacts) were in the Bishop Museum’s collection until they were loaned in 1990 to the Native Hawaiian group Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawai'i Nei.  Subsequently, Hui Malama was sued by the Bishop Museum and two Hawaiian groups, which claimed an interest in the artifacts under the Native American Graves Repatriation Act.  Hui Malama members are refusing to say where the artifacts are, but they may be back in the cave.  And a leader of Hui Malama spent time in a federal detention center for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of the items.  (Hui Malama was formed in the late 1980s during a dispute over the location of a Ritz Carlton Hotel on Maui, which was to be located on top of an ancient cemetery.  Further evidence of the importance of cemetery law.)

It’s an intriguing case and worth the read; much to talk about here, as with the Elgin Marbles and with sacred sites throughout Oahu.  Makes me think there's still a lot to be written on the Native American Graves Repatriation Act and its implications.

Endnotes:  As usual, my thanks to my colleague Carl Christensen for talking this up.  And if you'd like to see a picture of one of the items, click here.  The picture is from this Honolulu Advertiser story from January of this year.

Alfred Brophy
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