Hui Malama’s unyielding tactics are hurtful to Hawaiians
Hui Malama's leader has been jailed for refusing to comply with a federal court order to reveal the location of Hawaiian artifacts.
AS the leader of a group at the center of a dispute over Hawaiian artifacts spends his seventh day in a federal jail today
, resolution of the issue appears no closer.
If he is willing to be confined indefinitely, Edward Halealoha Ayau and his colleagues can remain unyielding to a court order to reveal the locations of the artifacts. Barring intervention by others who may know specifically where the artifacts are buried, Ayau may be in for a long stay.
Unfortunately, that tact further divides a Hawaiian community that at times has failed to achieve common goals as a result of disagreements. While there is no expectation that all Hawaiians have the same perspectives and purposes, it certainly would be beneficial for the claimants of the artifacts to discover what views they do share and work from there.
The spectacle that erupted in a courtroom last week was characterized by members of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei as the refusal of Hawaiians to allow the federal government to trample their religious and cultural beliefs.
That is not the court's intention. The court is merely the arbiter, attempting to settle claims fairly in the absence of any other entity to do so.
As U.S. District Judge David Ezra found Ayau and three other Hui Malama leaders in contempt of court and ordered Ayau to jail, supporters shouted, raised fists and cursed, a outburst not in keeping with the respect they feel they are due and that is due others.
For many Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians, the episode is disturbing and grievous because it pits people against each other needlessly.
Hui Malama is acknowledged as a pioneer in establishing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, through which it began the admirable work of returning Hawaiian remains and artifacts to their proper sites.
But Hui Malama, despite its inceptive role in the law, is not the exclusive beneficiary of the act, as the recent actions and rhetoric of its members seem to suggest. In fact, Hui Malama should be welcoming to other groups and individuals who seek the same objectives.
The law directs conflicting claims to be negotiated. Hui Malama has refused, contending it is the ultimate authority of cultural and religious practices. As is evident, other claimants disagree.
Until its members, leaders and supporters concede that others in their community have rights under the law, Hui Malama will fail in its fundamental mission.