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Treasure on the Largest Cultural Property Repatriation in Hawaiian History: “Long Overdue”: Kauai Now

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i) spoke out after the University of California, Berkeley recently returned 335 Hawaiian cultural artifacts – including 34 sacred items – to Hawaii.

According to the Berkeley News, UC Berkeley's return of the items is believed to be the largest single repatriation of cultural property in Hawaii's history.

“For more than three decades, museums and universities have ignored federal law and delayed the return of thousands of stolen Native remains and cultural artifacts,” said Schatz, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Although this is long overdue, I thank UC Berkeley for hearing our calls and returning hundreds of native Hawaiian cultural artifacts where they belong,” Schatz continued.

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As chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Schatz led efforts to push institutions to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. In February 2022, Schatz chaired an oversight hearing, and last year he led a bipartisan group of senators calling on UC Berkeley and other colleges and museums that hold the largest known quantities of ancestral remains and cultural artifacts to expeditiously return them to their home communities.

The Berkeley News reported that sacred objects stored for decades at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology included “an ʻōpuʻu (pendant), ʻumeke (bowl), ihe (spear), and Lei niho palaoa (necklaces made of human hair). whale tooth pendants), Lei Lauoho (real hair necklaces) and Lei Hulu (feather necklaces).”

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Anna Harden

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