Keep artifacts safe until court hearing
Members of a Hawaiian hui and their attorneys have their work cut out for them. And so do federal and state authorities.
By Tuesday, which is when U.S. District Judge David Ezra will next take up the matter of the 83 Hawaiian artifacts reportedly buried in a pair of Kawaihae caves, they will have to convince the judge that religious considerations prevent them from complying with a court order to list the buried objects' precise locations.
That's a tall order, considering that Ezra already seems disinclined to accept that reason. He already has excused Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei from actively participating in the objects' removal; their attorney will have to persuade the judge that turning over a list is tantamount to participation and that there are bona fide religious precepts at issue.
While members try to make their case, the caves will be vulnerable to trespassers in the intervening days. It's crucial that the security of the area be maintained. Both federal and state officials, including those from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, must cooperate in a sustained program of patrols.
The fate of the cultural objects has been a painful, divisive issue for almost a decade. The resolution of this question should be at hand, but there's likely to be more conflict before it's over. Until the smoke clears, steps must be taken to keep them safe.