"The clash of values"

Letter to the Editor
Honolulu Advertiser

In your editorial of Sunday June 11, 2000 coined "Museum slow getting on right artifact track" reeks of misunderstanding of the Hawaiian spiritual culture as it relates to the Moepu (things placed with the dead) housed in the Bishop Museum. First of all the mere fact that the objects are spoken about publicly and shown in your newspaper is disrespectful to our dead Kupuna and their intent of secrecy they bestowed on these items.

When these items were carved it was done so in reverence to a personal god or gods that it represented. It was not an art object and had no monetary value. It contained deep spiritual connection that is not known to this generation. Why are we not respecting the wishes of the dead?

I have been privileged to handle thousands of our Kupuna Iwi and have reburied them at Honokahua. There were many Moepu with the remains and they all went back. Many things were considered "art work" but it would be unthinkable to remove these objects from the dead. As Kanaka Maoli we were all brought up not to be niele (inquisitive) about things that are sacred which pertains to the dead. Apparently there are other Hawaiians who have lost track of their cultural ties and permit western logic to influence their Hawaiian judgement

To answer some of your questions in your editorial: Proper disposition of artifacts, religious items, carvings, artwork and other objects dug from caves, graves and storage places. Simply, it should go back where it came from. It is private property of the people that put it there in the first place. The owners are the bones that are buried with it. It is Moepu, grave objects, plain and simple.

The culture is better served by having the Moepu returned in their original resting placed. Why should the objects be studied for the betterment of all? It is time that the word of mouth from a Hawaiian should be enough documentation and should be considered fact. Why does the written word have to be documented to be fact? Our native culture was oral, not written.

The fact is that the teaching of our Kupuna is not documentation in our western society, only the word is used as proof.

I was fortunate to view an Akua Kaai in a cave that we stumbled upon here on Maui. There were Moepu and other objects with the burial. It was left intact and the opening of the cave was collapsed forever. I am a board of director of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii' Nei and have been so since its inception at the Honokahua Burials. Several of us went up to Washington D.C. to testify on the NAGPRA Act and returned the first Iwi Kupuna to Hawaii. My views are my own. The Moepu should stay where they are and respect the wishes of our Kupuna that placed it in caves in the first place a long time ago.

I beg this newspaper not to show pictures of the Moepu again, it is very hurtful to the memory of our kupuna and their descendants that are living today.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
157 Alea Place, Pukalani, Maui Hawaii 96768
Phone 572-8038

Ho`iho`i Mai