Storied Hawaiian pieces returning to islands for first time in centuries

Storied Hawaiian pieces returning to islands for first time in centuries

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Treasured pieces of Hawaiian history are finally returning to the islands, more than two centuries after leaving.

The mahiole and 'ahu 'ula -- a feathered helmet and feathered cloak -- once belonging to the chief of Hawaii Island will soon be available for public viewing on Oahu.

The pieces date back to 1779 when Captain James Cook first arrived in Hawaii and anchored at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. Relations were good during this visit, and Chief Kalani'opu'u exchanged gifts with Captain Cook. The gifts included the ornately feathered helmet and cloak off his back.

Now, the pieces are returning to Hawaii for the first time since leaving on Captain Cook's ship 237 years ago.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the Bishop Museum have worked together since 2013 to make the move happen.

The journey started this week in New Zealand, where the helmet and cloak have been for many years. From there, they will be carefully packaged and flown to Hawaii on March 13. A private ceremony marking their return will be held on March 17, and the pieces will be available for public viewing at the Bishop Museum starting on March 19.

The 'ahu 'ula and mahiole will remain on loan from the museum in New Zealand for at least 10 years.

"When they are shared with the people of Hawaii, I am sure they will inspire some wonderful conversations and insights, as they did when displayed here in Aotearoa New Zealand," said Rick Ellis, chief executive of Te Papa Tongarewa.

The helmet and cape are in incredible condition for their age, considering their delicate craftsmanship. This particular cloak is made up of feathers from about 20,000 birds that were caught and released after a few feathers were harvested. Pieces such as these were reserved exclusively for Hawaii's royalty.

"These priceless treasures have so much to tell us about our shared Pacific history. We are honored to be able to return them home, to reconnect them with their land and their people," said Arapata Hakiwai, Kaihautu (Maori co-leader) of Te Papa Tongarewa. "Woven into these (treasures) is the story of our Pacific history, with all its beauty, challenges and complexity."

The exhibit at Bishop Museum will be called "He Nae Akea: Bound Together". Click here for more information.

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