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State secures entrance
In a statement yesterday, Hui Malama said the investigator "discovered that our worst fears had come true -- Kanupa Cave was broken into. Apparently over the course of at least several days, highly motivated thieves worked their way through multiple protective measures that we put in place to secure" the items reburied in the cave.
The statement also said, "Whoever desecrated Kanupa Cave violated Hawaiian kapu (sacred law) regarding the sanctity of a burial site and state laws regarding historic burial sites and must be apprehended."
Hui Malama asked the DLNR this week to investigate the opening of Kanupa cave and was told that the state agency was already cooperating in the federal investigation.
Several members of Hui Malama said yesterday that it is the responsibility of the DLNR to investigate the alleged grave robbery and to secure the cave.
Charles Maxwell, a Hui Malama senior board member, criticized state and federal officials for failing to adequately protect burial caves on all Hawaiian islands.
"If this was the Arlington cemetery, there would be an outcry," he said, adding, "but because we Hawaiian ... nobody does nothing. It's pathetic. It's frustrating that the State of Hawaii does not protect our cultural sites."
But other native Hawaiians argue that Hui Malama took the responsibility of reburying the bones and artifacts and thus assumed the responsibility of securing the cave.
"These people are the self-appointed guardians or kahu of the caves. They cannot be absolved, by tradition, of their responsibility to guard the caves," said La'akea Suganuma, a representative of the Royal Hawaiian Academy of Traditional Arts, a group that has been at odds with Hui Malama over the reburial of 83 items stolen by David Forbes from a cave in Kawaihae in 1905 and purchased by the Bishop Museum.
Suganuma said, "In the old days, if something happened to a cave, the perpetrator was taken to task, but so was the kahu that was sworn to protect the cave."
He added: "Hui Malama took the responsibility and failed. They might escape the laws of man but not the laws of tradition and the spiritual world."
Security at the caves has long been an issue. In 1989, when archaeologist Hallett Hammatt surveyed the Kanupa and Forbes caves for the state, he found the caves "had been heavily visited and desecrated. There were candles on shelves and litter and bottles left behind."
In a 1999 letter to the Native Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council, Bobby Camara, a cave resource specialist with the National Park Service, wrote, "Because of the large amounts of money that these items could bring on the black market ... certain unscrupulous dealers, collectors and thieves would consider gates, constructed sealing walls or other security measures a challenge, not a barrier."
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