Why Eddie Ayau must be released

Honolulu Advertiser
Sunday, January 1, 2006

The Nation of Hawai'i, Pu'uhonua 'O Waimanalo Village and the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council

We are three of the 13 claimants (for items stolen from the "Forbes" caves on the Big Island and then sold to Bishop Museum) who are officially recognized by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

We are also part of the majority of seven claimants who oppose the removal of the moepu (artifacts) from the caves which would would result in a second desecration.

The other recognized claimants who oppose removal of the moepu are:

Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei.

State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Hawai'i Island Burial Council.

Na Papa Kanaka 'O Kohola Heiau.

The argument that the moepu should be on display or studied is spurious at best as they have already been heavily documented by the Bishop Museum for 95 years since the original desecration and theft in 1905.

There's more than enough information about these moepu. NAGPRA does not require (or allow for) a disruption of a repatriation in order to study or display items that were buried with our ancestors and placed with them as funerary objects. La'akea Suganuma and Na Lei Ali'i Kawananakoa claim that to have effective consultation, the claimants must physically view the moepu. Suganuma previously agreed and promised to forgo recovery.

On Dec. 6, 2000, Suganuma agreed that repatriation was complete. On Dec. 9, 2000, he, as our appointed spokesperson, communicated our collective decision to the Bishop Museum to defer recovery of the moepu until we all agreed on final disposition. Suganuma authored the "Document of Truth" in August 2001, informing the Bishop Museum that we agreed to disagree, to respect one another and to leave what happens to the moepu to "greater and higher powers."

No one thought he meant the western court system. We are deeply distressed that he has now filed this lawsuit and put this matter into federal court rather than where it belongs, among the claimants in a culturally appropriate setting.

Suganuma is the only one of the 13 official claimants who has stepped forth in court to officially complain about the consultation and repatriation process. He was not one of the original four claimants when the moepu were reinterred in February 2000.

None of the original three parties, OHA, DHHL or the Hawai'i Island Burial Council has joined this law suit.

In 1996, Abigail Kawanana-koa is identified by the museum as a party that it consulted. Kawananakoa never participated in any of the consultations or meetings with the other claimant/ owners.

Kawananakoa's organization, Na Lei Ali'i Kawananakoa, was incorporated on Sept. 27, 2004, eight years after the official consultation. Na Lei is not a recognized claimant in this matter.

Under NAGPRA, neither Abigail Kawananakoa nor Na Lei has standing to complain or lay claim to the moepu.

William Brown, the Bishop Museum's director and the key orchestrator of Kawananakoa's involvement, belatedly fast-tracked and recognized Na Lei, contrary to the advice of his own staff and in a total reversal of the Bishop Museum's acknowledgement of a completed repatriation. Brown, in effect, is attempting to "restart" repatriation by "recognizing" Na Lei as a 14th claimant, four years after repatriation ended.

One can only speculate as to how many more groups Brown would allow in as claimants in order to potentially orchestrate a result that finds the moepu back with the museum, a participant in the original theft as an enthusiastic buyer of what it knew to be stolen burial items.

Repatriation is complete, and the official claimants already were determined.

To permit this repatriation to be re-opened and the moepu disturbed four years after it was completed places a pall on all repatriations. No iwi kupuna (bones of the ancestors) or moepu would be safe nationwide in the future.

NAGPRA never intended this result. Although NAGPRA provided for a timely challenge within 30 days of its official notice listing eligible claimants, none was received and repatriation was complete. It should never have been reopened.

We, as well as the other claimant organizations, had to be carefully scrutinized to qualify through our mo'oku'auhau (genealogy). There is no public evidence that Na Lei went through this same process to qualify. NAGPRA requires an opportunity for public comment; we, as claimants, were never permitted that opportunity. Who is Na Lei? Who is its board?

No court should imprison Edward Halealoha Ayau indefinitely to force him to reveal information that would lead to a second desecration and violate his religious beliefs. The court wrongly ignored or refused to consider the submissions from 26 scholars and cultural practitioners who agree with Ayau's principled stand.

The court rejected those statements as untimely.

In balancing the physical and religious freedom of Ayau, especially in light of the pace and timing of this latest court proceeding, the court should not have refused to consider such evidence before imprisoning Ayau.

Prevent the second desecration. Repatriation is complete. Free Eddie Halealoha Ayau.

© COPYRIGHT 2005 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Original article URL: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2006/Jan/01/op/FP601010308.html/?print=on

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