Remains stolen from burial caves return to Hawaii after more than a century

Ancient human remains, or iwi, stolen from burial caves in Hawaii and taken to Germany more than a century ago are finally returning home.

The remains were stolen between 1896 and 1902 and sold directly to the Museum of Ethnology in Dresden.

A group of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners traveled to Germany to retrieve the iwi.

On Oct. 23, the museum transferred three skulls and a jaw bone to the group in a ceremony that brings to a close a 25-year effort to return the remains to Hawaii.

The event was historically significant because it marked the first time the eastern German state of Saxony, which owns the museum, repatriated human remains to representatives of the country where the human remains originated.

“Their leadership is progressive and will reverberate throughout Germany and across Europe, and will hopefully usher in a new era of reconciliation and spiritual healing with native and indigenous peoples throughout the world,” said OHA CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe.

“Research together with the people of the communities gives strong evidence how importance it is to return these human remains, their ancestral remains, home to their country and families,” said Marion Ackermann, Dresden State Art Collections. “I want to make clear that we feel deeply sorry for the long lasting way of the return, and we apologize from all of our heart.”

The remains are expected to arrive in Hawaii late Thursday.

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