Wednesday, April 9, 2003

eBay to clarify policy
on Hawaiian artifacts

The move comes after protests
about an attempted sale
of an item from Kahoolawe

By Gary Kubota

WAILUKU >> An Internet auction company said it will clarify its policy prohibiting the sale of native Hawaiian artifacts, following protests about the attempted sale of an item listed as taken from Kahoolawe.

The anonymous seller, who listed the Big Island as a residence, withdrew the eBay sale of the stone artifact for $305 after he was informed by the Navy that the transaction could be illegal.

The seller informed the Navy of the withdrawal on Monday.

Kevin Pursglove, eBay spokesman, said his business also communicated with the seller and informed him about its policy prohibiting the sale of native American artifacts, including native Hawaiian items.

He said eBay intends to clarify its policy in the next several weeks to explicitly state that it forbids the sale of native Hawaiian artifacts.

The artifact was an 'ulu maika, a hockey puck-shaped stone that is rolled between two pegs in a Hawaiian-style bowling game.

State archaeologist Sara Collins, who had spoken with eBay, said Hawaii law prohibits the taking of objects from historic sites.

Collins said because Kahoolawe is listed under the National Register of Historic Places, any historic objects taken from it constitute a violation punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000.

Archaeologists say taking items from the island could eliminate valuable information about its history.

"It diminishes and could even destroy the historic significance of the site," Collins said. "The sites are held in public trust for the benefit of all of us."

She said archaeologists typically record and photograph the location of artifacts before their removal, so that there is a historical record. She said the artifacts are placed on public display at museums rather than kept for private viewing.

Collins said she saw a photograph of the 'ulu maika and that it could have been an artifact from Kahoolawe.

Collins said the state attorney general's office would have to decide whether to proceed with an investigation.

Pursglove said eBay has difficulty enforcing the artifacts policy unless informed of a potential infraction, because it is not knowledgeable in archaeology and the sales are hard to track.

The state Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, the agency scheduled to assume control of the island from the Navy in November, said taking artifacts from the island goes against the purpose of restoring it as a cultural and historical preserve.

"We want to get people to the island to see these sites and experience them as the Hawaiians left them," said commission Acting Executive Director Stanton Enomoto. "When people take or steal things from Kahoolawe, it robs or deprives the future generations of this opportunity."

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell said she was notified Monday morning by the Kahoolawe commission that an artifact was being sold on eBay. She notified the seller and buyer of the item that the sale could constitute a violation of the law, she said.

The seller sent her an e-mail that evening, saying he was withdrawing the item, Campbell said. He said he got the item from a garage sale and was told it came from Kahoolawe, she said.

He said he had no idea if what he was told was true and that he had had the item for years, Campbell said.

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