Museum persecutes Hui Malama members

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Letter to the Editor
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Museums across the country have typically resisted repatriation of 'iwi kupuna (ancestral remains) and moe pu (associated funerary goods) mandated by the federal Native American Graves Protection Act ("Artifacts' sale investigated," Aug. 11).

J.S. Emerson was a grave robber who desecrated Hawaiian burial sites and sold artifacts to Bishop Museum for a handsome profit. Because of his acts and the acts of others like him, the Hawaiian people have inherited a heavy burden, and Hui Malama has been at the forefront of helping us to make things right, restore pono.

Now some of the repatriated moe pu have found their way onto a black market. If true, every Hawaiian should be concerned, but an important subtext is Bishop Museum's vicious federal persecution of Hui Malama members. Into the fray steps museum spokesperson DeSoto Brown, who opportunistically and self-servingly avows that protection from black market profiteers is one reason to retain collections in museums, a racist white practice which no longer has a place in enlightened society.

To add insult to injury, the museum seeks official status as a Native Hawaiian organization eligible to undertake repatriation under NAGPRA, with status equal to Hui Malama, a complete perversion and undermining of NAGPRA's intent. Knowing the conviction and commitment of Hui Malama's principals, I would stake my life on their innocence.

Mahealani Kamauu
Executive director
Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.

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