Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei -- Who This Organization Is, and How It Operates

The organization known as Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei, headed by Edward Halealoha Ayau, has become very powerful in controlling the "repatriation" and re-interment of ancient Hawaiian bones and artifacts. It played a role in the writing and enactment of the NAGPRA law, partly because its leadership had important political connections with the office of U.S. Senator Dan Inouye, who is Chairman (or ranking member) of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs whenever the Democrats (or Republicans) are in control of the Senate. Those political relationships have continued for at least fifteen years, and are still in play today. Hui Malama also gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, partly because of those same political connections. But its leadership, operations, and budget are shrouded in mystery and secrecy, despite laws that require such matters to be open to regulatory and public scrutiny. It is unclear what Hui Malama does with the enormous amounts of money it gets, and also unclear what happens with all the bones and artifacts it "repatriates." Some of those artifacts would be extremely valuable if sold in the (often shady) antiquities markets.

First, some of the content from the front page of the Hui Malama website at:

Following that is some published material about Hui Malama's finances and operational style.

At the end are excerpts of testimony by Dr. Donald Duckworth, President and CEO of the Bishop Museum, delivered to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on April 20, 1999 (ten months before the Forbes Cave controversy erupted). Duckworth's testimony describes the growth of a close special relationship between the museum and Hui Malama, and also the unexpectedly large expenses resulting from NAGPRA-related inventorying and repatriations.


Here are some topics, explained in the order listed, taken from the front page of the Hui Malama website at:

Beliefs And Practices
Federal and State Laws
Completed Repatriations from National and International Institutions
Essay: Advice on Working with Museums



Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei (Group Caring For the Ancestors of Hawai`i) is a Native Hawaiian Organization dedicated to the proper treatment of ancestral Native Hawaiians. Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei was born December 1988 from the kaumaha (heaviness) and aokanaka (enlightenment) caused by the archaeological disinterment of over 1,100 ancestral Native Hawaiians from Honokahua, Maui. The ancestral remains were removed over the protests of the Native Hawaiian community in order to build the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The desecration was stopped following a 24-hour vigil at the State Capital. Governor John Waihe`e, a Native Hawaiian, approved of a settlement that returned the ancestral remains to their one hanau (birth sands), set aside the reburial site in perpetuity, and moved the hotel inland and away from the ancestral resting place. Ironically, Native Hawaiians fighting the approval of the Ritz Carlton Hotel project advocated for the hotel to be moved away from the ancestral burial site to begin with. Today, stone memorials and plaques mark the location of the reinterment site, a chilly reminder of the pain, anguish, and shame that could have been avoided if State and County officials and the private landowner/developer had only listened to those who demanded the the hotel not be built, or at least moved away from the Honokahua families. In one sense Honokahua represents balance, for from this tragedy came enlightment: the realization by living Native Hawaiians that we were ultimately responsible for the care and protection of our ancestors and that cultural protocols needed to be relearned and laws effectively changed to create the empowerment necessary to carry out this important and time honored responsibility to malama (take care) and kupale (protect) our ancestors. Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei members have trained under the direction of Edward and Pualani Kanahele of Hilo in traditional protocols relating to care of na iwi kupuna (ancestral remains). These commitments were undertaken as a form of aloha and respect for our own families, our ancestors, our parents, and our children

Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei has been taught by the Kanahele family about the importance of pule (prayer) necessary to ho`olohe (listen) to the calling of our ancestors. Through pule we request the assistance of ke akua and our ancestors to provide us the tools necessary to conduct our work:

E homai ka ike, e homai ka ikaika, e homai ka akamai, e homai ka maopopo pono, e homai ka `ike papalua, e homai ka mana

Grant us knowledge, grant us strength, grant us intelligence, grant us righteous understanding, grant us visions and avenues of communication, grant us mana.

Moreover, we have been taught that the relationship between our ancestors and ourselves is one of interdependence- as the living, we have a kuleana (responsibility) to care for our kupuna (ancestors). In turn, our ancestors respond by protecting us on the spiritual side. Hence, one side cannot completely exist without the other.


Beliefs And Practices:

* Native Hawaiians possess mana which resides in certain parts of their bodies, especially na iwi (bones).
* Mana and spiritual contact with our gods and ancestors cannot be separated.
* Proper treatments for our kupuna is essential for maintaining our spiritual health and overall well being because they exist in us.
* We are nourished through our cultural and religious beliefs and practices while struggling to exist in modern Hawai`i.
* Foremostly, ancestral burials sites must be left in place and undisturbed.
* Regarding burial treatment, we defer to the wishes of identified lineal descendants and the `ohana (family).
* Our actions relating to care and protection of the kupuna are governed by pono (righteousness).
* We stringently object to the unnecessary handling of ancestral Native Hawaiian remains, especially physical examination, any form of destructive analysis, and photographs without the consent of lineal descendants and the `ohana.
* We advocate for tougher laws protective of ancestral burial sites and their contents from economic, archaeological, and anthropological exploitation.
* We stand by to assist Native Hawaiian families wishing to take responsibility for the care and protection of ancestral remains and burial sites.
* We will set an example for our children such that when our time comes, we will know our bones will be protected
* Our work to repatriate and reinter ancestral Native Hawaiians is intended to restore the responsibilities of caring for our families; it is our gift of aloha to these ancestors and their `ohana and intended to strengthen the foundation of the Hawaiian Nation.

[Note from editor of the Hawaiian sovereignty website, Ken Conklin: For en emotionally compelling essay on the interrelationships among the land, the ancestors' bones, and currently-living descendants, see Eddie Ayau's article "Rooted in Native Soil" at: ]



* Provide ancestral and living Native Hawaiians with traditional interment and reinterment services.
* Provide cultural and legal oversight of Federal, State, and County laws affecting Native Hawaiian burial sites, skeletal remains, and burial goods.
* Help nourish the overall growth of traditional Native Hawaiian cultural beliefs and practices so as to plant the seeds for our future.
* Repatriate all ancestral Native Hawaiian remains, burial objects, sacred objects, and cultural patrimony.


Federal and State Laws:

Repatriation and burial site protection required changes in federal and state laws. Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei is honored to have participated in successful efforts to enact the National Museum of the American Indian Act (P.L. 101-185, November, 1989, "NMAIA") and the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act ("NAGPRA") (P.L. 101-601, November 16, 1990). Although Native Hawaiians are not formally recognized as Native Americans, for purposes of NMAIA and NAGPRA, Native Hawaiians enjoy Native American status. Moreover, Native Hawaiian organizations enjoy legal authorities comparable to Indian tribes. Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are specifically named as Native Hawaiian organizations eligible to conduct repatriation of cultural items and to participate in consultation relating to the treatment of inadvertently discovered Native Hawaiian remains and other cultural items on Federal and Hawaiian Home lands.

NAGPRA gave Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei legal standing to bring the ancestors home back to their `ohana and to protect the sanctity of traditional burial sites. This meant contacting museums nation wide to inquire whether the institution housed Native Hawaiian skeletal remains or funerary objects and if so, begin the process of repatriation and reinterment.

Moreover, the passage of Act 306 in 1990 has provided a higher degree of protection for Native Hawaiian burial and reburial sites in the State of Hawai`i through the creation of island burial councils comprised of a majority of Native Hawaiians, as well as representatives of large landowners and developers. The councils have the legal authority to determine whether to preserve in place or relocate previously identified Native Hawaiian burial sites situate on state, county, and private land. In addition, the councils have the authority to render recommendations regarding any burial related matter, including the treatment of inadvertently discovered Native Hawaiian skeletal remains.


Completed Repatriations from National and International Institutions:

Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei has repatriated and reinterred ancestral Native Hawaiian remains and funerary objects from the following institutions:


o Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington, D.C.)
o Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (Honolulu, Hawai`i)
o American Museum of Natural History (New York, New York)
o Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, Illinois)
o University of Alaska Museum (Fairbanks, Alaska)
o Brigham Young University Museum of Peoples and Cultures (Provo, Utah)
o Milwaukee Public Museum (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
o San Diego Museum of Man (San Diego, California)
o University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
o Sacramento Science Center (Sacramento, California)
o University of Oregon Museum of Natural History (Eugene, Oregon)
o Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts)
o Phoebe Hearst Museum at the University of California (Berkeley, California)
o Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
o Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (New Haven, Connecticut)
o Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire)
o Joseph Moore Museum at Earlham College (Richmond, Indiana)
o Reading Public Museum (Reading, Pennsylvania)
o University of Arkansas Museum (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
o University of Kansas Dept. of Anthropology (Lawrence, Kansas)
o University of California Los Angeles Fowler Museum (Los Angeles, California)
o Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (Los Angeles, California)
o Cal State Fullerton Dept. of Anthropology (Fullerton, California)
o California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco, California)
o Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz, California)
o Springfield Science Museum (Springfield, Massachusetts)


o Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Canada)
o South Australian Museum (Adelaide, Australia)
o University of Zurich Institute of Anthropology (Zurich, Switzerland)

Museums with pending repatriation claims:

o Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (Honolulu, Hawaii)
o University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
o Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
o The British Museum- Museum of Mankind (London, England)
o Staatliches Museum Fur Volkerkunde (Dresden, Germany) o Yale Peabody Museum Harvard Peabody Museum


Advice for Natives Working with Museums

I wish to make the following suggestions to assist tribes with repatriation efforts.

First, and above all else, follow your own teachings and draw strength, guidance, and inspiration from your heritage. Adapt NAGPRA to your indigenous culture.

Second, establish a working relationship with museum staff. The effort will help establish and clarify the museum's philosophy with regard to NAGPRA compliance.

Third, identify the decision-making process or hierarchy at the museum. Be clear who the decision makers are and make it clear to the museum who your decision makers are.

Fourth, for purposes of clarity, reduce discussions to writing wherever possible. Leave little to assumption. Moreover, copy the National Park Service NAGPRA program on correspondences.

Fifth, in problematic cases with uncooperative museums, ask your congressional delegation to write letters or make telephone calls. In extremely problematic cases - and where the culture agrees - use the media to convey your intentions. We have found from experience that society in general agrees with good faith efforts to return ancestral remains, rather than with museum demands to withhold them from reburial.

Finally, whenever making an assertion, ask the museum official to explain back to you what they think you meant. For example, we may say to Museum X, "Don't study our ancestors." By this we mean no taking or gleaning of any scientific data whatsoever. However, the museum may think we meant, "minimal recording of age, sex stature, pathologies, cranial measurements, dentition, and ethnicity determination is acceptable, but not intrusive examinations such as DNA analysis or carbon dating."

If we do not clarify what we mean, the museum may think it adequately consulted with us. For their part, encourage museums to request clarification of any statement or action by the group or any member.

-Edward Halealoha Ayau-


The following cluster of articles was published on December 30, 2000 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, following a tumultuous period of many months during which about 80 Forbes Cave artifacts worth millions of dollars were turned over by Bishop Museum to Hui Malama under very suspicious circumstances. The artifacts were allegedly re-interred near some bones which had allegedly been previously re-interred in the same area; but everything was done in secrecy and there has been no independent verification. All these articles share the URL:

Burying the past

Group picked to bury remains instead gives 205 sets to state

Hui Malama, which is paid to inter Hawaiian remains, gave them to the state with little warning

A closer look at the history of Hui Malama and its board of directors.
The nonprofit group has received at least $500,000 in income.

By Burl Burlingame

Hui Malama, the nonprofit organization that receives funds from the federal government to reinter Hawaiian remains, surprised the state last week by delivering hundreds of remains for disposition.

"We didn't get much warning," said Michelle Bradley of the burials program at the State Historic Preservation Division. Hui Malama called the afternoon of Dec. 20 and delivered the remains the next morning, Bradley said. About 205 sets of remains were dropped off by rented delivery trucks at the state Historic Preservation Division's Diamond Head temporary storage facility, where other remains -- such as those from Waikiki construction projects -- are kept. The returned remains are believed to be part of more than a thousand sets repatriated from Bishop Museum collections, which are called the "Oahu Inventory" remains in government documents.

Hui Malama was paid by the federal Health and Human Service's Administration for Native Americans to re-bury the entire Oahu Inventory collection.

According to Historic Preservation Division Director Don Hibbard, the state is "accepting responsibility for these remains while we figure out what to do next. I think they will likely be turned over to a community organization, such as the Oahu Burial Council. That's probably what Hui Malama had in mind all along."

It is not known whether the state will now have to bear the expense of re-burying these remains, Hibbard said.

Attempts to reach Hui Malama spokesman Eddie Ayau yesterday were not successful.


Group at center of museum controversy

By Burl Burlingame

LOCAL archaeologists remember exactly when Bishop Museum Vice President Elizabeth Tatar got "her head turned" by Hui Malama.

It was in early 1995, when the Hawaiian organization gathered museum officials and contract archaeologists and lectured them on cultural protocol. Bishop Museum had just been dropped as a defendant in Hui Malama's lawsuit over Hawaiian remains found in Mokapu, over issues similar to those raised by the missing Forbes Cave artifacts.

After a series of presentations, Hui Malama co-founder Pua Kanahele began to speak passionately about the sacrilege of scientists studying and measuring human bones. Just as she described anthropologists playfully rolling skulls like bowling balls, Kanahele seized Tatar's head to demonstrate, yanking it back and forth.

Surprised lawyers pulled them apart and suggested the meeting was over. "It was surprising and shocking," said archaeologist Sara Collins.

Last February, Tatar handed over to Hui Malama 83 rare Hawaiian cultural artifacts from Forbes Cave, and the items disappeared. Although the museum has since stated that they were misled into loaning the artifacts, the organization has refused to return them. Who is Hui Malama, and what is the nature of their relationship with the museum?

Hui Malama officials have consistently declined to answer questions from the Star-Bulletin. A detailed examination of the paper trail left by their interactions with government authorities shows a relatively small group of individuals whose names pop up in a variety of organizations. They are well educated, politically astute, zealous in their interpretation of ancient Hawaiian practices, experienced at chasing grant monies and rigorous about billing the government to cover expenses.

"I hope they truly believe in what they profess to believe," said Clayton Hee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, "and that they do what's required by law. I think they're very passionate in what they believe, and it colors their actions."

OHA, one of multiple claimants to the missing Forbes Cave items, voted to urge Hui Malama to return the artifacts. "Or at least provide a reasonable explanation," said Hee.


Incorporated in 1989

Hui Malama was formed by Edward and Pua Kanahele in response to the unearthing of hundreds of bones on Maui by a hotel developer in 1987. Its 1989 incorporation papers list its primary purpose as identifying, protecting and preserving native Hawaiian cemeteries and burial areas, as well as general boosting of native Hawaiian religious beliefs, gathering funds for Hawaiian leaders, distributing knowledge about Hawaiian burial practices and legally representing Hawaiians in such matters.

The group's organizational chart, dated May 1999, lists the Kanaheles as Na Kumu; Kunani Nihipali as Po'o, or president; and a board of directors consisting of Nihipali; Edward Kanahele, vice-president; and Kaleikoa Ka'eo and Charles K. Maxwell as secretary and treasurer.

Edward Kanahele graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1960 and earned a bachelor of science degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in 1970 and a master's from the University of Hawaii in 1975. He first taught at Hayward Elementary School in California in the early 1970s. From the early 1980s until his death from a heart attack last year, he was a professor at Hawaii Community College. Kanahele chaired the Waiakea Soil and Water Conservation District in the 1980s and the Hawaii Island Burial Council from 1989 to 1993. He also worked as a native Hawaiian cultural planner for the state.

A grant application filed by Hui Malama describes the Kanaheles as kumu, providing the members of the organization with cultural protocols and spiritual leadership.

Ronald Kunani Nihipali graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1968 and immediately joined the Honolulu Police Department. In 1979 he retired from HPD with disability. From that point on, he was in the thick of native Hawaiian arts issues as president of the 'Uhane Foa Foundation, also known as the Native Hawaii Artist Guild; as a "Native Hawaiian video technician"; as an instructor to native Hawaiian children; and as an "Eco/Agricultural Consultant." He is also board director of the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council and the Pu'a Foundation, which administers monies from the Hawaii Ecumenical Church Group to Settle Hawaiian Claims. Nihipali unsuccessfully ran for OHA in the 1980s, urging harmony among various Hawaiian groups. Through the last two decades, he often complained about scientists, calling them "culture vultures" for how they analyze Hawaiian remains to learn about ancient Hawaiian life. "We've run into a lot of racism and arrogance" dealing with museum officials, Nihipali said in 1995. In 1992 he claimed that University of California scientists "laughed at" and "played games" with Hui Malama.

Charles Maxwell, also a disabled ex-policeman, has stated that Hawaiians' "biggest enemy is the archaeologist." He was testifying in 1995 at a hearing to amend state law to assume all human remains discovered by accident are Hawaiian. Graduating from Maui's Baldwin High School in the late '50s, Maxwell lists a degree in police science from Maui Community College and is a "lifelong student of Hawaiian culture." In addition to hosting "Uncle Charlie's Drive Home Show" on Maui radio station KNUI, Maxwell has worked as a Hawaiian cultural protocol specialist for a number of large government projects. He was the first president of Aboriginal Lands of Hawaiian Ancestry (ALOHA) and lobbied Congress for reparations payments. He has served as vice chairman of the State Advisory Commission to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and as a member of Ka Lahui Hawai'i.

S. Kaleikoa Ka'eo is a 1984 Baldwin High School graduate who earned a bachelor's in Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. He has taught Hawaiian at UH while pursuing a master's in political science, worked as a juvenile counselor, managed "Risky Bizness" Entertainment Inc. and done research for neighbor island taro farmers. Ka'eo sits on the board of the O'ahu Island Burial Council.

Edward Halealoha "Eddie" Ayau may be the person best known in Hui Malama. He is a nonpracticing attorney who drafts the organization's grant proposals and is project director of Ola Na Iwi, its education program. Ayau graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1982, earned a bachelor's in business management at the University of Redlands (Calif.) in 1986 and a law degree at the University of Colorado in 1989. He clerked at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo. His resume lists him as a staff attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. in 1990, then as a staff counsel, advisor and field representative for U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in 1991. He currently is listed as inactive in the Hawaii Bar Association. From 1990 to 1996, Ayau was director of the Burial Sites Program for the state Historic Preservation Division, and later was repatriation consultant for Bishop Estate.

Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu -- a former Ola Na Iwi project coordinator, former Hui Malama board member and former Inouye legal staffer -- has traveled with Ayau to overseas museums to repatriate remains. Recently, however, Kahanu told the Star-Bulletin, "I'm a peripheral member of Hui Malama, at best." Kahanu received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1988 and a law degree in 1992 from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. She currently works at Bishop Museum.

Both Ayau and Kahanu were contracted by Bishop Museum in 1998 to prepare a Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act inventory of the museum's collection.


Budget of $342,445

The approved grant for Ola Na Iwi provides $49,584 to the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council for administrative services and $1,000 a month to Nihipali as a "cultural specialist." Subtracting all other costs from the $342,445 budget leaves a salary of about $71,000 for Ayau, plus $16,437 in fringe benefits.


Nonprofit has not filed tax returns or reported income

By Burl Burlingame

NO tax returns have ever been filed by Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei, the nonprofit organization that convinced Bishop Museum to surrender the Forbes Cave artifacts, according to Internal Revenue Service officials.

That is despite an income that totaled at least a half-million dollars over the past decade, according to a Star-Bulletin tally.

Hui Malama was founded in 1989 and became a federally recognized nonprofit organization in 1991.

"Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei has not filed any returns despite their status as a federally recognized 501c3 charitable nonprofit," said IRS spokesperson Shawn George. "The only filing we've received from them is an extension request for last year, 1999, and another in 1996 stating they were not going to file a 990 for the previous year."

Under federal tax law, nonprofits do not necessarily have to pay taxes on certain incomes, but a yearly income of more than $25,000 has to be reported on a form called a 990. "This includes all income prior to expenses, including charitable donations and governmental grants," said George. "The only organizations exempt from these rules are churches."

Hui Malama officials declined comment. Hui Malama operates a public-education program called Ola Na Iwi and has close ties with the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council and the Pu'a Foundation, a trust established to manage a $1.5 million donation to the Hawaiian people by the United Church of Christ.

A 1999 membership list provided in a federal grant proposal shows 38 members.

Without tax returns, it is difficult to assess Hui Malama's income, particularly from the private sector. However, federal and state grants, purchases and reimbursements are public record and, along with copies of invoices obtained by the Star-Bulletin, show income adding up to $565,849 since 1990.

Some payments to Hui Malama from the State Historic Preservation Division are for hundreds of dollars in exchange for lau hala baskets to hold bones or to reimburse Hui Malama members for air fare and travel expenses.

Hui Malama last month refused to return the valuable Forbes Cave artifacts it took from Bishop Museum last February. The museum has stated it will seek return of the items.


Half-million income

Hui Malama's income includes federal and state grants, purchases and reimbursements. That, along with copies of invoices obtained by the Star-Bulletin, show at least this much income for these years:

$122,569 for 2000
$264,595 for 1999
$112,219 for 1998
$9,055 for 1997
$38,661 for 1996
$16,472 for 1992
$10,020 for 1991
$2,558 for 1990


DONALD DUCKWORTH'S TESTIMONY OF APRIL 20, 1999 to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, regarding Bishop Museumís close relationship with Hui Malama and the financial burdens of NAGPRA-related inventorying and repatriation

On April 20, 1999 Donald Duckworth, President and CEO of Bishop Museum, gave testimony to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, regarding 9 years of experience under NAGPRA, and the relationship between Bishop Museum and the ethnic Hawaiian community. Following are excerpts from his testimony that seem especially relevant to the Forbes Cave controversy that occurred 10 months later, and to Bishop Museum's special relationship with Hui Malama. Note that Dr. Duckworth asserts that all NAGPRA-related repatriations have already been completed -- he certainly knew Bishop Museum had the Forbes Cave artifacts, and he obviously considered them not to be subject to repatriation under NAGPRA. NAGPRA activities have been very costly to all museums, including Bishop (as Duckworth makes a point of saying); thus, it would be in the interest of the museum to avoid future conflicts and to act as rapidly as possible when NAGPRA challenges arise. Dr. Duckworth's testimony is one of several items from the April 20, 1999 hearing. All hearing items are available at:
and Dr. Duckworth's testimony can be downloaded by clicking here:


NAGPRA is remedial legislation enacted by Congress to ensure that Native American remains, funerary and other objects retained by the federal government and by the museum community are returned in accordance with the law to appropriate tribes and Native American organizations for reburial or other proper care. The Bishop Museum is committed to fulfilling both the letter and spirit of NAGPRA.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop, a businessman from Glens Falls, New York, as a memorial to his wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last of the Kamehameha line of ruling chiefs. Since its inception 110 years ago, the Museum has been dedicated to the preservation, perpetuation and interpretation of the natural and cultural history of Hawai`i and the Pacific. The Museum's role in the Hawaiian community has always been a very special one. The Museum preserves and cares for 1,470,000 collection items that represent the rich and wonderful legacy of Native Hawaiian culture and that tell the story of those who care for the land and each other, respect the spiritual forces of nature, and create things of great beauty and skill. Caring for these collections is a great responsibility guided by professional standards, legal requirements and cultural sensitivity. We carry out this responsibility with Native Hawaiians for their benefit and the benefit of all the people of Hawai`i, past, present and future.

In 1990 Bishop Museum presented testimony to this distinguished committee in favor of the passage of NAGPRA. At that time we estimated that Bishop Museum retained 2,590 Hawaiian remains and funerary objects. We also pointed out that repatriation and consultation with Native Hawaiian organizations were not new to us. We had repatriated Native Hawaiian human remains prior to the passage of NAGPRA and were in the process of repatriating human remains at the time NAGPRA was enacted. We noted that the Bishop Museum was dedicated to serving the Native Hawaiian community and actively sought ways to improve its relationship with this community. We saw NAGPRA as one such way to ensure greater and more meaningful involvement of the Native Hawaiian community in the Museum's future.

Since the passage of NAGPRA in 1990, Bishop Museum has repatriated 4,252 Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects. This number, the result of NAGPRA mandated inventories, and nearly double what we were able to estimate in 1990, represents all the Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects that were retained by Bishop Museum in its collections. These inventories were carried out in consultation with Native Hawaiian organizations and verified by Native Hawaiian claimants as part of the repatriation process.

We are pleased to report that we have completed the repatriation under the law of all Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects. In 1990, we estimated the cost of repatriation to be $388,500. The actual costs are expected to reach $1,000,000, most of which will have been for personnel costs, including consultation. About 64 per cent of the cost was provided by Museum operating funds. The remainder was funded by a contract from the U.S. Navy, a contract from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (discontinued after nine months' work following consultation with Native Hawaiian organizations), and a grant from the National Park Service (NPS).

A substantial part of the costs were due to an inventory conducted under a U.S. Navy contract, which required background historical research, summaries of existing research conducted on the human remains, and a detailed inventory of a large number of human remains by a physical anthropologist. The contract was begun a few months after the enactment of NAGPRA and completed a few months after the National Park Service published the preliminary proposed guidelines. Consultation with Native Hawaiian organizations was minimal.

Shortly after the completion of the inventory and report, the Museum and the Navy were sued by Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawai`i Nei (Hui Malama), a Native Hawaiian organization named in NAGPRA. Hui Malama contended that new research was conducted on the remains as part of the inventory and that the resulting report contained material that was offensive to both the ancestors that were represented by the remains and their present day descendents. Bishop Museum was subsequently released with prejudice from the suit. Ultimately the court decided in favor of the Navy. As a result of this inventory and report, the Museum lost funding for an inventory of Hawaiian remains from the island of O`ahu, the second largest collection in the Museum. The costs of the lawsuit were substantial to the Museum and Hui Malama, both in terms of funds and emotional health. The lesson learned was that consultation was at the core of NAGPRA and that there never could be enough of it. Before and after the U.S. Navy contracted inventory, the process for every inventory, including consultation and repatriation, was carried out without incident and to the satisfaction of all involved. The number of consultations increased in time to include more members of Hawaiian organizations, elders and families. The relationship of the Bishop Museum to these organizations did in fact improve as we had hoped. In some cases, claimants grew to understand and appreciate the role of the Museum as a caretaker and loaned back the repatriated objects for safekeeping, or withdrew their claims. The sense of responsibility for all Hawaiian collections items in the Museum grew among these consultant groups. As a result of these consultations, the Museum created a special, secure area with restricted access that serves as both a storage and ceremonial area for what Native Hawaiians consider are sacred objects, including objects of cultural patrimony.

In 1998, Bishop Museum was awarded a National Park Service (NPS) grant after two previous proposals were rejected. The grant was for the Museum to work with a Native Hawaiian organization to prepare inventories of unassociated funerary objects. The Museum asked Hui Malama to participate in the project and Hui Malama agreed. We chose to work with Hui Malama because of their widely recognized expertise in the implementation of NAGPRA, their understanding of the proper treatment and disposition of Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects, and the need for the Museum to seek resolution to long term problems in our relationship with Hui Malama and other Hawaiian organizations. Two uniquely qualified individuals were hired by the Museum to prepare inventories of unassociated funerary objects, and carry out consultations and repatriation. The Bishop Museum is grateful to NPS for giving us this opportunity, for we have all come to better understand what it takes to properly care for cultural heritage, what the spiritual basis for repatriation is, and how to treat the remains and sacred objects with respect.

We would like to emphasize that consultations between Native Hawaiian organizations and the Museum have brought about a deep sense of mutual respect, trust, and willingness to resolve issues related to NAGPRA and those that are outside of NAGPRA. This relationship took a long time and much hard work on the part of all involved to establish. It is very important that the agreements reached by Native peoples and museums be honored and supported in the spirit of NAGPRA and that the letter of the law be fulfilled with this spirit.

... viable tribal and museum requests for the NPS grants authorized under NAGPRA continue to exceed available funds by a large margin. In addition, museums cannot repatriate to the tribes until appropriate notices go into the Federal Register, and there is currently a backlog of about 150 such notices at the NPS, about a yearís work, due to lack of staff to process them. ... In brief, then, while the situation with respect to repatriation differs very broadly across the museum community, the data we have indicates that the experience of the Bishop with many more repatriable items than it could initially estimate; with much higher costs to follow the procedures of NAGPRA, most of which it has had to bear itself; ...


GO BACK TO: NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) as applied to Hawai'i -- Mokapu, Honokahua, Bishop Museum Ka'ai; Providence Museum Spear Rest; Forbes Cave Artifacts; the Hui Malama organization