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3 Iwi Kūpuna Brought Home From New Zealand

June 5, 2022, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated June 5, 10:16 AM
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Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement senior director of community programs Mehanaokala Hind and Hui Iwi Kuamoʻo members Kaipo Torco and Makoa Caceres leave the repatriation ceremony in New Zealand and begin the final journey home for the three iwi kūpuna. (Photos courtesy of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement)

Three iwi kūpuna are coming home from New Zealand.

During the Memorial Day weekend, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement supported and participated in the collective repatriation efforts to bring the remains of the three ancestors back to the islands. They were previously in the possession of the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The council’s Mehanaokala Hind, along with Makoa Caceres and Kaipo Torco, took part in a traditional Maori powhiri ceremony at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington followed by a formal handover ceremony. The three iwi kūpuna — one male age 20-30, one female age 20-30 and one female in her 40s — were taken in 1860 from the ʻahupuaʻa of Waikiki. They had been in the Canterbury Museum for 150 years before the ceremony May 29.

This followed months of successful repatriations in Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland by Hui Iwi Kuamoʻo and the return of 62 iwi kūpuna.

“Caring for our lāhui means supporting not only our people today and the generations yet to come, but also our ancestors who came long before us,” Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement CEO Kūhiō Lewis said in a press release. “(The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement) is humbled to kōkua Hui Iwi Kuamoʻo in its efforts to finally bring our kūpuna home,”

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The council has committed $25,000 since January to support Hui Iwi Kuamoʻoʻs efforts. This latest repatriation is the result of years of work by Halealoha Ayau and Hui Iwi Kuamoʻo to research and navigate the return of these ancestors. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs followed with a claim to the Canterbury Museum.

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“There is an immense need to bring our kūpuna home as more of our iwi kūpuna are identified in museums and research institutions across the globe,” Hind, senior director of community programs at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, said in the press release. “As institutions become enlightened and their humanity opens the once locked doors, the opportunity to reunite iwi kūpuna and their homeland is promising. None of this can be done without the continued vigilance of Native Hawaiian descendants.”

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s mission is to enhance the cultural, economic, political and community development of Native Hawaiians. For more information, click here.

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