Group appeals court ruling on artifacts
A native Hawaiian group urged a federal appeals court yesterday to dismiss a lower court's order instructing them to return burial artifacts to a museum, arguing the ruling was flawed and violated their religious and cultural rights.
In a 65-page brief to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei said the order infringed on the group's First Amendments rights. The group said the order forced its members into "a crisis of conscience" by asking them to act against their ancestors' wishes.
"This mandatory injunction compels Hui Malama to dig up sacred funerary objects it reinterred with ancient Hawaiian burials four years ago to replace what was stolen 100 years ago from this burial site," the brief said.
Chief U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered the group on Sept. 7 to return 83 burial items it borrowed from the Bishop Museum in 2000.
The appeals court said earlier this month that the artifacts could stay where they are while it heard the case.
Hui Malama says it buried the items -- including a human-hair wig, containers with human teeth and carved wooden statuettes of family gods -- in a Big Island cave.