Hui Mālama i nā Kūpuna o Hawaiʻi Nei Part 4: Empowerment Through Education

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Read in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Unuhi ʻia e Noʻeau Peralto

Photo: Edward Halealoha Ayau

Another ʻōlelo noʻeau provides that the placement of items with the iwi establishes an inseparable bond between both, in which the items are forever considered moepū (possessions of the dead). “Mai lawe wale i nā mea i hoʻomoepū ʻia,” translates to “don’t wantonly take things placed with the dead.” This makes it clear that the prohibition against disturbing iwi kūpuna extends to moepū.

Maintaining the kuleana to care for the iwi and moepū is a profound expression of our cultural identity as Kanaka ʻōiwi. The time has come for all iwi kūpuna removed from burial sites to be kanu pono (properly buried). By reburying the iwi, the ancestral foundation is strengthened, the interdependence between past and present continues, and the land is re-infused with mana necessary to sustain the ancestors, the living, and the generations to come.

Photo: Peabody Essex Museum Consultation Team
1999 Peabody Essex Museum Consultation Team. – Photo: Hui Mālama

The following achievements are the results of the application of knowledge and instincts gained from ancestry, education, discipline and cultural training. It required our courage, commitment, focus and mana. The work involved the identification, negotiation and repatriation of over 6,000 ancestral Hawaiian remains from museums, government agencies, and private individuals in the United States and abroad. In some cases, we partnered with Native Hawaiian Organizations including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the island burial councils, and other community organizations and families.

Notable institutions in the United States who collected and housed our ancestors, their possessions and sacred objects included the Smithsonian Institute Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History, Field Museum of Natural History, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, University of California Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum, Peabody & Essex Museum, Harvard University Peabody Museum of Archaeology, Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History, Dartmouth College Hood Museum of Art, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition, 14 international repatriation cases were conducted from such institutions as the University of Zurich (Switzerland), South Australian Museum (Australia), Royal Ontario Museum (Canada), University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Statens Historiska Museet and the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), Maidstone Museum, Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Natural History Museum, Science Museum/Wellcome Trust, Oxford Museum of Natural History and the Duckworth Laboratory at Cambridge University (England), and the Museum fūr Volkerkunde Dresden (Germany). Ola nā iwi.