Treasured Cloak and Helmet of Kalani‘ōpu‘u Arrive in Hawaiʻi
The Treasured Mahiole (feathered helmet) and ‘Ahu ‘Ula (feathered cloak) of Kalani‘ōpu‘u made its historic return to Hawaiʻi aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight from New Zealand on Friday. The return comes 237 years after the artifacts left Hawaiʻi’s shores aboard Captain James Cook’s ship.
A brief ceremony took place to honor and welcome home the treasured items, which had been at the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. They will now be displayed at the Bishop Museum on Oʻahu.
In 1779, the chief of Hawai‘i Island, Kalani‘ōpu‘u, who traced his regal line to the great chief Līloa of Waipiʻo, greeted the English captain after his ship made port in Kealakekua Bay. As a demonstration of his goodwill, Kalani‘ōpu‘u gifted the ‘ahu ʻula and mahiole he was wearing to Captain Cook.
The feathered cloak and helmet have great extrinsic value, but more importantly, they possess great intrinsic and spiritual significance.
After the ‘ahu ‘ula and mahiole left on Cook’s ship, both were taken to England and passed through the hands of various museum owners and collectors. They eventually came under the care of Lord St Oswald, who unexpectedly presented his entire collection in 1912 to the Dominion Museum in New Zealand, the predecessor of Te Papa Tongarewa. The cloak and helmet have been in the national collection ever since.
In 2013, discussions began among Bishop Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, and OHA to bring these treasures back to Hawai‘i, culminating in this significant homecoming.
*Supporting information credit: OHA/Te Papa Tongarewa/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.