Potential sale of artifacts troubling
Reports that objects once held by the Bishop Museum and then "repatriated" to a Native Hawaiian group are being circulated for sale are deeply disturbing.
It must be underscored that, for the moment, all we have are reports and allegations of such proposed sales. The federal government is investigating.
Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei, the group that received the artifacts in 1997 for reburial in a Big Island cave, says it is appalled to hear some of the items might have been up for sale. It says it supports federal efforts to investigate.
These objects were originally taken from the caves more than a century ago and then later sold to the Bishop Museum and others. If the effort to sell them, or even any part of them, is true, then it is a direct insult to the intent of the federal law that led to their repatriation in the first place.
The law is designed to restore dignity and proper cultural practice for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians over burial items and related artifacts that were taken for museums and private collections over the years.
If this incident turns out to be true, it should generate a fresh round of introspection by both the museum and Hawaiian groups that make claim on items for repatriation.
What honor does it do to these objects if they are taken from the museum's care only to become trinkets to be bought and sold by wealthy collectors?