Hui Malama leader vows to defy judge

Honolulu Advertiser
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer


Judge Ezra yesterday ordered:

Hui Malama today to provide a "full and specific inventory of each and every item loaned to it by the Bishop Museum" and "the precise location of each and every item loaned to it by the Bishop Museum." The group must also submit the names and addresses of each person who knows the exact location of any of the items.

Masonry contractor George W. Field III to file by Dec. 28 an affidavit describing in detail the materials, equipment and process he used to seal one or both of the Big Island caves where Hui Malama said it buried 83 artifacts borrowed from Bishop Museum.

A defiant leader of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei said yesterday that he will not disclose the exact location of 83 priceless cultural items buried in two caves on the Big Island, despite a court order.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday ordered Hui Malama to disclose by 4 p.m. today specifically where each of the artifacts is buried.

Edward Halealoha Ayau, Hui Malama executive director, said his organization will submit more information to the court today but did not intend to give specifics. He noted that the items were placed alongside the iwi kupuna, or remains, of Native Hawaiians.

"Our responsibility is not to Judge Ezra, it's to the kupuna," Ayau said.

Asked if the group's response will include the precise location of the items, Ayau said: "Hypothetically, do I know where it is? Yes. Am I realistically going to do it? No."

Ayau added: "He is directing us to be an accomplice to a theft and we will not do it."

Yesterday's order is the latest in a series of disagreements between Ezra and Hui Malama arising from a lawsuit by two Native Hawaiian groups seeking to force the return of the objects. The groups, Na Lei Alii Kawananakoa and the Royal Hawaiian Academy of Traditional Arts, are seeking the return of the artifacts to Bishop Museum, which in 2000 loaned them to Hui Malama.

Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a ruling from Ezra ordering Hui Malama to return the artifacts, and sent the matter back to Ezra's courtroom.

In issuing his order yesterday, Ezra denied Hui Malama's request to reconsider his original order to return the objects, stating he did not believe new information had been presented to change his mind.

"I will not have your client ignoring a valid and subsistent order," Ezra told Alan Murakami of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represents Hui Malama.

The judge said he was prepared to find Hui Malama officials in contempt, which could lead to fines and, in extreme cases, jail time. "Make no mistake about it, I am not kidding," he said.

During yesterday's hourlong hearing, Ezra repeatedly expressed irritation and frustration with Murakami and Hui Malama for previous responses he viewed as evasive and vague.

"What I want is a lot less talk and a lot more action," he said.

"I have a great deal of sympathy to the views of your clients," he said at another point. "I also have sympathy to the views of others." He then added: "But there will be no more delays, there will be no more maybe here, maybe there; one cave, two caves, maybe three."

Ezra's last reference was to information disclosed by Hui Malama in court documents filed in preparation for yesterday's hearing showing that the artifacts were buried in two caves, not one as originally stated. The same documents also explained that some of the objects may have originally come from a third cave, but that Hui Malama had not been able to locate it.

"Nobody mentioned to me another cave," Ezra said. "This is a court of law, this is not a cat-and-mouse game."

Murakami said his understanding was that Hui Malama had turned over what information it has, including the Global Positioning System coordinates of the items. But Ezra said what he had seen to date was inadequate.

Ezra made two concessions to the organization. He agreed to Hui Malama's request that its members not be ordered to actively participate in the removal of the artifacts. The group must, however, pay for half the costs of their removal. The other half will be paid by Bishop Museum.

The judge also granted the group's request to keep the exact location under a court seal.

Ezra gave no immediate time line for the return of the items. He ordered each of the parties by next Wednesday to submit a list of three engineers who could survey the structural integrity of the caves and offer a risk assessment.

Hui Malama officials fiercely believe the artifacts should stay where they are, pointing out that they were stolen from caves in Kawaihae in 1905 by Western archaeologists. Removal of the artifacts from the caves would be culturally insulting and be dangerous to those involved, they said.

The artifacts have been in dispute for some time. More than a dozen Native Hawaiian organizations, including Hui Malama, are claimants to the artifacts that have been engaged in discussions over their final resting place.

A key point of discussion is whether the objects are funerary, or placed with the remains of humans at the time of burial. Hui Malama insists the objects are funerary while its opponents say that has never been established.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at

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

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Agency criticized for its silence

Honolulu Advertiser
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday criticized the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for failing to disclose to the court that the agency has known where on state lands 83 artifacts on loan from the Bishop Museum are buried.

DHHL Director Micah Kane yesterday afternoon confirmed that agency employees know where in two Big Island caves the artifacts are buried. But he said he does not believe his agency did anything wrong and he stressed that it has always intended to cooperate with the court.

Members of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei, in its most recent filings, said the items are in the Forbes and Mummy caves, believed to be part of what are known as the Kawaihae Caves. Both are on DHHL property.

Ezra said it was "just absolutely outrageous" that agency officials did not make the disclosure to his court.

Kane said the agency's long-stated backing of Hui Malama's position that the items should not be removed from the caves had no bearing on its decision not to voluntarily disclose the location to the court.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at

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

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