To: News Media
From: Kunani Nihipali, Po'o, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`I Nei
Re: Statement of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'' Nei re: Recent News on NAGPRA issues
Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei (Hui Malama) takes seriously its stewardship of our ancestors, including the repatriation of our iwi. Our members are is appalled by the story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and other print and television media alleging the sale of "artifacts" believed to have been repatriated to us through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. We support federal efforts to investigate any such sale of Hawaiian cultural items. All iwi kupuna (ancestral human remains) and moepu (funerary objects) from Kanupa Cave that was were repatriated to us from the Peabody Essex Museum and the Bishop Museum were ceremonially returned to their place of origin. We support federal efforts to investigate any such sale of Hawaiian cultural items.
As a result of the reports, we were concerned about the alleged desecration and theft that occurred at a burial site, members of Hui Malama sent our people to inspect the burial site yesterday. They were met rudely by a federal official who demanded that they leave the area. All they were told is only that federal officials were investigating a theft. We heard the same news as everyone else and were concerned for the safety of the burial site. Hui Malama has and will continue to conduct security inspections as part of our kuleana (responsibility) to malama (care for) these burial sites.
The allegations that both express and imply that we did not rebury these moepu (funerary objects) are entirely unfounded. Moreover they are malicious and harmful to our efforts to continue to care for and protect iwi kupuna and moepu. We have every confidence that the federal investigation will exonerate us and remove once and for all of these unfounded rumors. We are appalled and dismayed that our organization is being characterized as engaging in this activity that is anathema to our mission. In addition, we will consider all forms of legal recourse against those who continue to attempt to hurt our organization through defamatione, slander and libel and impugn our integrity in the repatriation and reburial work to which we have been committed for the past 14 years.
Hui Malama will continue to advocate for the care and protection of iwi kupuna and moepu through repatriation and reburial. He pono.