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2 more museums agree to return iwi kupuna after European repatriation trip

Family and community members are learning the protocols, prayers and chants to care for iwi kupuna before being returned to their original resting place.
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 4:35 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2022 at 4:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family and community members are learning the protocols, prayers and chants to care for iwi kupuna before being returned to their original resting place.

A group of cultural practitioners returned from Germany and Austria earlier this month bringing back 58 iwi kupuna that were stolen from their burial places and then stored in European collections.

Burial expert Edward Halealoha Ayau says spreading awareness of their trip in Europe led two more organizations to agree to repatriation.

“Two museums came forward since we’ve come home to acknowledge that they have iwi kupuna and that they intend to return them,” said Ayau.

It’s a growing awareness that the iwi kupuna aren’t property, but someone’s loved ones.

“Every society, every culture, they love their grandparents. That’s just who we are as human beings. So to be able to retrieve them, the iwi kupuna that was stolen 150 years ago, we stand in the shoes of their grandchildren who helped bury them,” said cultural practitioner Mana Caceres.

It’s unknown how many iwi kupuna are scattered around the world.

The latest repatriation trips happened during the pandemic and practitioners say they remained virus-free by following CDC guidelines and praying to the iwi kupuna to keep the group safe.

“I don’t think there was any barriers at all. We put our faith in our kupuna,” said cultural practitioner Kalehua Caceres.

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