OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Iwi kūpuna returning home from Germany after more than a century

HONOLULU (October 26, 2017) – Human remains stolen from burial caves in Hawaiʻi and taken to Germany more than a century ago are finally returning to home.

The group of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, which included OHA Chief Executive Officer Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, that went to Germany to retrieve the four iwi kūpuna (human remains) have boarded their flight and are returning home. They will arrive in Hawaiʻi late Thursday night.

On Oct. 23, the Museum of Ethnology Dresden in Germany transferred three iwi poʻo (skulls) and an alalo (jaw bone) to the Native Hawaiian group in a ceremony that brings to a close a 25-year effort to return the kūpuna (ancestors) to Hawaiʻi. The event was historically significant because it marked the first time the eastern German state of Saxony, which owns the museum, repatriated human remains to representatives of the country where the human remains originated.

During the ceremony, OHA CEO Crabbe acknowledged the courage and compassion of Saxony government and museum officials involved with the repatriation. “Their leadership is progressive and will reverberate throughout Germany and across Europe, and will hopefully usher in a new era of reconciliation and spiritual healing with native and indigenous peoples throughout the world.”

The remains were stolen from burial caves in Hawaiʻi between 1896 and 1902 and were sold directly to the Museum of Ethnology in Dresden.

For more information on the repatriation, please follow this link to the press release from the Museum of Ethnology Dresden: http://germanworldonline.com/the-free-state-of-saxony-returns-human-remains-to-hawaii/.

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