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Monday, May 15, 2000

Museum board
votes to retrieve
missing artifacts

That is, unless all the
'Forbes Cave' claimants
want them to stay hidden

By Burl Burlingame


The Bishop Museum's board of directors wants the missing "Forbes Cave" artifacts returned to the museum -- unless all claimants for the priceless objects agree that they should remain missing.

logo The board agreed at an April 27 meeting to authorize Bishop Museum administration to retrieve the artifacts. The museum then sent a letter to the four recognized claimants -- the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei, Hawaiian Homes Commission and Hawaii Island Burial Counsel -- requesting a written statement by July 1.

After that date, unless the claimants agree that the items remain hidden, the museum will demand that Hui Malama return the items.

By that time, there will be additional claimants who must also agree to the artifacts' disposition.

Several claimants -- at least 10 -- have approached Bishop Museum since the objects disappeared, including groups of concerned Hawaiian citizens and individuals who believe they are descended from ancestors buried in the caves. Under guidelines established by the Native American Graves Preservation and Repatriation Act, it is likely that only the groups will be considered.

Museum officials expect to recognize formal claimants within 30 days.

"From the start, Bishop Museum's administration, staff and board has tried to do what's right as we go through this very complex situation," said Pat Duarte, Bishop Museum's chief operating officer and acting president.

"We appreciate the many concerns that have been expressed about these items," Duarte said. "At the same time, we also respect the claimants' opinions and so are asking for their input on recalling the loan.

"As new claimants are recognized, we'll ask for their positions, in order to give consideration to all voices. We do this in the spirit of lokahi, but recognize that, in the end, the museum has responsibility for the safety of all items with which we are entrusted. We intend to meet that responsibility fully."

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