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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Kalaniʻōpuʻu inspires our movement forward

Message from OHA Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻopono Crabbe printed in the March 2016 Ka Wai Ola

Aloha mai kākou,

This month, the treasured mahiole (feathered helmet) and ‘ahu ‘ula (feathered cloak) of Kalani‘ōpu‘u will be returning to Hawai‘i together for the first time since they left 237 years ago.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is proud of its role to bring these priceless items home, and even prouder of our work with the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Hawaiian Airlines to make this journey possible.

This event allows us to reflect on a unique time in our history. In essence, Kalani‘ōpu‘u thrust us into the realm of international relations by giving the mahiole and ‘ahu ‘ula to Captain Cook as a demonstration of goodwill.

This was the beginning of the changes Kamehameha and Kalani‘ōpu‘u witnessed in a world that began to rapidly change for Hawaiians in the late 18th century and early 19th century that persists today as we work to perpetuate our culture – a key part of OHA’s mission.

We can take a look back and see how our ali‘i handled the changing times to continue to assert their sovereignty and perpetuate our culture.

We can take the lessons they taught us and adapt them to the 21st century.

Sovereignty is much more than writing a constitution or arguing about a governance structure. A nation is much bigger than that. It represents our values – those taught by our ancestors along with those we have learned from others who are now part of our extended family.

A nation’s foundation is not only in its governance but also in our hearts, minds, soul and na‘au.

It means facilitating and listening to the will of the people.

And that’s why the return of the mahiole and ‘ahu ‘ula is so inspiring. The items had passed through a number of hands before they ended up at Te Papa Tongarewa.

Over the years, many Hawaiian cultural practitioners, academics and school groups went to visit New Zealand and suggested the mahiole and ‘ahu ‘ula be returned to Hawai‘i. OHA and the Bishop Museum worked with Te Papa Tongarewa to make that dream a reality. And our New Zealand brothers and sisters knew it was the pono thing to do.

It demonstrated that in the 21st century, building a nation isn’t just about politics, but about partnerships and working together for a common good.

Viewed one way, we put a lot of work into this. In another way, we are only servants and a conduit to open a pathway so all the people of Hawai‘i can share in the inspiration of an ancient king who comes alive for a new generation in 2016.

‘O au iho nō me ke aloha a me ka ‘oia‘i‘o,

Kamana‘opono M. Crabbe, Ph.D.
Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer

For more on this treasured mahiole (feathered helmet) and ‘aha ‘ula (feathered cloak) of Kalani‘ōpu‘u visit oha.org/kalaniopuu


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