March 2001

View Photo Album from Museum Opening

The dancers are from the Yirrkala tribe and live in Arnhemland, which is the Northern Territory of Australia. The feathers they wear are from parrots and the body paintings are family and clan designs.
It was with great pride to have been invited to attend the opening of the National Museum Of Australia by the Honorable John Howard, Prime Minister, to represent the United States of America and the Indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands, in Canberra, the capital of Australia. There were dignitaries from around the world and the festivities lasted all weekend which culminated with the Grand Opening on Sunday 3/11/01. There were an estimated 30 thousand people who went through the museum doors that day. The honor was bittersweet because of the fact that the United States does not recognize the Kanaka Maoli of Hawaii as being the indigenous people of this land. The irony is that I am featured as an indigenous person of the Hawaiian Islands by Australia's National Museum in the Indigenous People Of the World display, along with 5 other people of other countries.

Australia's history was highlighted and focuses on the Aboriginal people of the land and how they survived for over 60,000 years. At one time (before western contact) they had over 500 distinct groups or tribes, living on the entire area, which is now called Australia. The land, animals, fauna and flora gave them sustenance and their cultural and spiritual gods took care of their well being. Everything including the trees, rocks, rivers, clouds and mountains had life and a purpose for its existence. Their quality of life depended on the proper cultural and spiritual values they imparted on these elements.

When the Europeans "discovered" their land, the aboriginal values were ignored as the promise of wealth in gold, diamonds and other "material" wealth, brought out the greed of these "white people", who completely ignored the rights of the true owners of the land, the Aboriginal People. The values of the indigenous people were ignored and the land was mined, blasted and desecrated. The aborigines were driven off their land and at one point were considered vermin and hunted for sport, like deer. The survivors could not practice their culture, their women were sterilized and their children were taken away and put in government-controlled programs. There is a quote by a former Australian Prime Minister 80 years ago, that says: "We should capture all these people (aborigines) and teach them our ways, so they can live among us".

The Aborigines were successfully driven off their land and survived in places that no one else could live. Using their primordial skills of co-existing with nature, they survived into modern times. Their population has grown, and they have sought education in western law and are now demanding for reparations in land and money. They are also demanding to be recognized as an individual nation. They are seeking self-determination, which is similar to what our Hawaiian people are going through.

It is amazing how we live on opposite sides of this earth, yet we as Natives of these lands have suffered similar faith in the hands of colonizers who saw Hawaii for its material wealth. Like Hawaii, the missionaries came first, the businessmen came after and that was the beginning of our downfall as natives of the land.

It is apparent, that the Aborigines suffered more physical harm to their people, however our pain is similar in losing our birthright.

At a luncheon given in our honor, an Aborigine stated: "Too bad Capt. Cook did not go to Hawaii first where your people killed him, then he would have not come up here and "discovered" us". Capt. Cook discovered Australia several years before coming to Hawaii in 1778.

Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.,
157 Alea Place, Pukalani, Maui 96768

View Photo Album from Museum Opening

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