Locals pound kapa to enshroud ancient bones

The Molokai Dispatch published a story about a kapa-making workshop on Molokai led by Mililani Hanapi.  Terri Keko’olani was one of the participants. She is one of the claimants for burials at Mokapu, site of the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay:

At the Kewanui fish pond last Sunday, 44 international students learned the Hawaiian craft of kapa-making from Mililani Hanapi as a lesson in the making of traditional clothes, but the Wauke bark they pounded will not be worn by anyone living. Hanapi, along with Terrilee Kekoolani-Raymond of Oahu and several other volunteers, are preparing the kapa for the traditional burial of the largest collection of skeletal remains in the pacific – the bones of Mo`okapu on the island of Oahu.

The kapa prepared on Molokai will be used to wrap the individual bones for reburial. The skeletal remains of 1500 individuals have been stored at the Bishop Museum since 1942, when they were extracted from the Mookapu sand dunes to clear the way for a military airstrip. The US Marine Corps has been in control of the area since 1952.

Although she agrees that University of Hawaii archaeologists have learned invaluable information about Hawaiian history from the remains, Kekoolani-Raymond says that the excavation of the bones represented an assault on the Kahiko of Mo`okapu. She is part of a group of families and organizations who have come together to take responsibility for the proper reburying of their ancestors.

The bones have been released for reburial because of movement led by people in the Oahu community who are federal claimants under the NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation) Act. NAGPRA is a federal law that requires federal agencies to allow federal tribes to obtain culturally affiliated human remains and artifacts. “It is a matter of respect,” explained Kekoolani-Raymond, “This is our way of saying we are sorry. We are so sorry for allowing this to happen.”


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