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Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Burying the Past

Forbes artifacts’
return delayed
until September

The delay was granted
to give more groups time to
register as claimants

By Burl Burlingame


The Forbes Cave artifacts taken from Bishop Museum in February will remain missing at least until late September.

In a meeting yesterday, the museum's executive and collections committees passed a resolution calling for another special meeting as soon as the bylaws allow -- which is July 14 -- to work out details of the museum's rebuilt policies regarding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The committees would also decide on recognition of new claimants for the artifacts, and then all claimants will be allowed 60 days to give Bishop Museum a written opinion on recalling the loan.

Under the Native American Graves Act, an unusual "loan" of ancient Hawaiian artworks from the Kawaihae area of the Big Island was made to claimant group Hui Malama.

Although the group said it was working with other claimants, the museum quickly discovered that was not true, and on April 27 the museum board demanded return of the artifacts unless all claimants were in agreement on July 1.

At least 12 additional claimant groups have sprung up because of the furor in the Hawaiian and archaeological communities over the missing artifacts, which are likely worth millions of dollars to antiquities collectors.

"The board still strongly opposes the means used by Hui Malama to receive this loan, and we also accept the museum's role in this situation," said chairman Bert Kobayashi, a former state senator.

Even so, although the four recognized claimant groups were not in agreement July 1, the board went along with Hui Malama's wishes to table the artifacts' return.

Along with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Hui Malama has requested that nothing happen until all groups -- including the potential new groups -- have been consulted.

Given this apparent division, the museum board agreed that delay was the safest policy.

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