Powhiri as Captain Cook's gifts head home

By Solbin Kang

A powhiri was held at Te Papa museum today to return Hawaii's historic feather cloak and helmet back to its homeland.

The 'ahu'ula (cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) were gifted by Hawaiian Chief Kalani'opu'u to Captain James Cook in 1779 and has been displayed at Wellington's Te Papa museum since 1912.

Now, 237 years later, and after more than 100 years at the museum, the cloak and helmet will make the journey back home to Hawaii.

The powhiri was performed by the local Wellington iwi, Te Ati Awa, and the Hawaiian delegates responded.

Te Papa's Maori co-leader Dr Arapata Hakiwai said he was "thrilled" to return the historic treasures to Hawaii.

Hawaiian warriors with the cloak and helmet, gifted to Captain Cook in 1779, after the ceremony at Te Papa in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hawaiian warriors with the cloak and helmet, gifted to Captain Cook in 1779, after the ceremony at Te Papa in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"When significant treasures are away from their birthplace and their country of origin, I think it's always a sad thing but it's to be celebrated that they are returning.

"It is returning home to be reconnected, to be celebrated by the people in the landscape from where they were born and created," he said.

The clock was created with feathers from about 20,000 birds.

Trappers caught the birds by snaring their prey midair with nets, or using decoy birds to lure them onto branches coated with a sticky substance.

They only took a few feathers from each bird before releasing them back into the wild so they could produce more feathers.

The two artifacts will go on display in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii from 19 March.

Bishop Museum chief executive Blair Collis said this was a "once-in-a-lifetime experience".

"As a museum and as a cultural institution to have this generous gift and have the opportunity to have two incredible treasures return home after 237 years. You can go a lifetime and not have it happen," he said.

"It's absolutely incredible for us as an institution as well as the people of Hawaii as well."

- NZ Herald

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