In this conversation recorded to be featured in The Funambulist 30 (July-August 2020) REPARATIONS, Hawaiian activist Edward Halealoha Ayau describes the signification of the Return of Hawaiian kūpunas (ancestors) to their homeland, as well as the training, strategies, and rituals that the Return of over 6,000 remains and cultural items have necessitated these past 30 years.
Edward Halealoha Ayau is ‘Ōiwi (Hawaiian), a 56-year- old father of four daughters and a son. For the last 30 years, he has led efforts to repatriate iwi kūpuna (ancestral Hawaiian skeletal remains), moepū (funerary possessions) and mea kapu (sacred objects) as the Executive Director of Hui Mālama I Nā Kūpuna O Hawai‘i Nei (Group Caring for the Ancestors of Hawai‘i). Founded by traditional cultural practitioners Edward and Pualani Kanahele of Hilo, they repatriated and reburied over 6,000 remains and items from museums around the world, before formally dissolving in 2015. He continues to work on international repatriation as a volunteer for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.