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Kawananakoa Vows To Shut Down Burial Group

Plans Show Group Wants To Offer Ancient Burial By Steaming Flesh From Bones

POSTED: 2:55 pm HST November 2, 2007
UPDATED: 9:27 pm HST November 2, 2007

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A descendant of Hawaiian royalty is vowing to shut down the state's most prominent Hawaiian burial organization.

The dispute between Princess Abigail Kawananakoa and burial group Hui Malama began when Hui Malama secretly reburied 83 artifacts in a Big Island cave. A federal judge ordered the items retrieved. Hui Malama was ordered to pay half the cost of recovery.

The fight over that debt reveals a deep rift over ancient Hawaiian religion and revealed plans by Hui Malama to offer ancient Hawaiian burials to modern-day Hawaiians by steaming flesh from their bones.

"They have done wrong, and they must not think that they did right," Kawananakoa said.

She was talking about leaders of Hui Malama I na Kupuna o Hawaii Nei.

At places like a Kakaako cemetery, Hui Malama has taken the lead in reburying thousands of sets of ancient Hawaiian bones, or iwi, that were displaced by construction or taken for research.

Hui Malama's practices perpetuate a false interpretation of Hawaiian religion, Kawananakoa said. She said for handling the Forbes caves artifacts, in the old days, Hui Malama would have faced harsh punishment.

"The people that took those things and put them in that cave they would all be dead now," Kawananakoa said.

Kawananakoa is acting out her anger financially. She paid $100,000 to Bishop Museum for the right to collect Hui Malama's debt.

Hui Malama claims not to have the money. So Kawananakoa's lawyers are demanding leaders including Eddie Ayau appear in court.

"We are going to examine those people who would have knowledge of Hui Malama's financial affairs, where their assets may be, where their money may have gone," Kawananakoa's attorney George Van Buren said.

Among other things the lawyers want to ask questions about a patent. It is a proposed steamatory, to steam flesh from bones for burial. Records of a Hui Malama meeting show officers planned to offer burial services to Hawaiian families as a way to promote traditional practices, to make money and save funeral costs for Hawaiians.

Because Hui Malama leaders would not comment for this story, KITV does not know if the steamatory was ever actually built, or how they plan to respond to Kawananakoa's collection demand.

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