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Saturday, September 30, 2000

Burying the past

Hawaiian artifacts must
be returned to museum

Bullet The issue: Claimants to Hawaiian artifacts that were removed from the Bishop Museum have called for their return.

Bullet Our view: The museum made a huge mistake in releasing the artifacts and must now make every effort to get them back.

THE pressure is on for the return of priceless Hawaiian artifacts that were removed from the Bishop Museum and allegedly hidden in a complex of caves in the Kawaihae area of the Big Island. Eight of the 11 Hawaiian groups recognized as claimants for the so-called Forbes Cave artifacts have given the Bishop Museum until Nov. 1 to get the artifacts back.

Whether that will happen is far from clear. Hui Malama I Na Kapuna O Hawai'i Nei, the group that took the 83 artifacts from the museum last February, allegedly by falsely claiming the consent of other claimants, hasn't indicated whether it will cooperate. The group supposedly returned the artifacts to the burial cave where they were found in 1905.

Clayton Hee, chairman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees, said he had "reservations that the artifacts are still there (in the cave) and safe." If they are not, Hee said, the liability falls on the museum "because the artifacts weren't repatriated, they were loaned."

A museum official in charge of collections said the museum is working with the claimants to solve the problem, but it isn't clear that the institution will succeed in getting the artifacts back, as demanded by most of the claimants.

The artifacts include a famous wooden female figure and other irreplaceable items that are among the most highly valued in the Bishop Museum's collection.

It was a huge mistake to turn the artifacts over to Hui Malama without authenticating its assertion that it had the approval of all claimants. Museum officials, prodded by federal officials, have been scrambling to make amends ever since.

As Hee noted, the incident recalled the 1994 disappearance from the museum of two ka'ai, sennet baskets, that held the bones of noblemen. In that case, the baskets were removed from a locked storage area without permission.

In the current case, the artifacts were removed with permission, but permission should not have been granted. Both cases represent major losses for the museum's unique collection of Hawaiiana.

The mandate from most of the claimants is clear but the way to accomplish it is not. The museum must get the artifacts back -- somehow.

Kamehameha Schools
has new strategic plan

Bullet The issue: Kamehameha Schools has produced a new strategic plan to guide its progress.

Bullet Our view: The plan's strength is that it reflects hundreds of hours of meetings by school staff members with Hawaiians to obtain their opinions.

KAMEHAMEHA Schools has a new strategic plan to go with its revised structure and new leadership. Formulation of the strategic plan was a requirement of the settlement resulting from the state's investigation of the former Bishop Estate trustees. The plan will be submitted to the probate court next month. But it should have value far beyond meeting that legal requirement.

One of the most significant aspects of the plan is the way it was put together. Staff members of the schools traveled throughout the state holding meetings with Hawaiians to obtain their opinions on what direction the schools should take. There were 24 community meetings attended by more than 1,200 people. Still more participated in opinion surveys.

Randall Roth, the University of Hawaii law professor who played a major role in exposing the abuses of the former trustees, hailed the efforts to seek the opinions of the Hawaiian community, which, as he noted, represented a vast change from the former trustees' secretive practices.

Under the plan, the schools will focus on five areas: K-12 education, early childhood education, Hawaiian culture and language, vocational and career education, and literacy.

There is a renewed emphasis on reaching as many Hawaiian children as possible -- a reversal of the former trustees' decision to abandon community-based programs.

Options under consideration include a pre-school in Punaluu in partnership with the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, using the trust's lands as an educational tool, re-establishing involvement with a program for at-risk students at Castle High School and fostering student internships with businesses.

Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin said that within the next 18 months many new programs will be unveiled, presumably including some of these proposals.

The trust also intends to diversify its investments. The former trustees were criticized for questionable investment decisions and the new administration does not want to repeat those mistakes.

Having survived the worst crisis in the history of the trust, Kamehameha Schools is setting its sights on a brighter, more productive future. The strategic plan will set the direction for its efforts.

Bishop Estate Archive
Kamehameha Schools

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