Ayau out of prison as groups agree to start mediation

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

By Debra Barayuga

Ayau and wife
Edward Ayau left the federal courthouse yesterday with wife Kainani Kahounaele after being released from federal custody.

Opposing groups embroiled in litigation over the reburial of Hawaiian artifacts in two Big Island caves say they are committed to settling their differences "in good faith," following the release of one of the group's leaders from federal prison.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered the release of Edward Halealoha Ayau, po'o or executive director of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei, from prison into home confinement following a hearing yesterday in which the parties notified the court of their intent to mediate and settle the case.

Ezra ordered Ayau to prison Dec. 27 after he refused to reveal to the court the exact location of the 83 artifacts that Hui Malama contends they reburied in February 2000.

"We were ready for mediation from day one," said a subdued Ayau, moments after exiting the federal courthouse hand-in-hand with his wife and flanked by Hui Malama attorneys. "It would have been our preferred mode of dealing with this."

Sherry Broder, attorney for two groups that sued Hui Malama last year, said they hope to proceed "in good faith" and hopes Hui Malama does the same.

"We felt it was very appropriate to agree to allow the court to pick the two mediators so we'll be proceeding and welcome the opportunity to go ahead," Broder said.

U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang, appointed by Ezra to oversee the litigation, announced that he had selected Nainoa Thompson, Kamehameha Schools trustee and renowned Hawaiian navigator, and Earl Kawaa, coordinator for an early childhood family education program in Waimanalo, to mediate. Both have indicated their willingness to participate, Chang said.

The parties were unable to agree on who would serve as mediators and left it up to the court to decide after submitting suggestions.

Ezra, who had indicated at a Jan. 5 hearing that he would reconsider Ayau's detention if it appeared that progress was being made toward a resolution, said that circumstances have changed in Hui Malama's apparent willingness to participate in mediation.

As a matter of basic fairness and to allow Hui Malama to participate on a level playing field, their executive director needs to participate in the discussions, Ezra said. "I think it would be helpful for the negotiations to allow Mr. Ayau to attend."

The purpose of putting Ayau in prison was not to punish him, "but to gain compliance and to some extent, we're moving to that end," Ezra said.

Only the parties in the litigation will be involved in the discussions, not all 14 claimants as initially thought.

Two claimants, the Royal Hawaiian Academy of Traditional Arts and Na Lei Alii Kawananakoa sued Hui Malama last year seeking a return of the items so that all 14 claimants can decide what should happen to them.

In 2000, Bishop Museum turned over the items to Hui Malama on a "one-year loan." The group, which was founded in 1989 to reclaim native Hawaiian remains and funerary objects from museums and construction sites, has repeatedly refused to return them, saying they were reburied in accordance with the wishes of the kupuna and were not meant for public display. They say returning the objects violates their religious and cultural beliefs and amounts to desecration.

The parties are familiar with Thompson, who has been a vocal advocate on native Hawaiian issues, more recently the Kamehameha Schools' efforts to uphold the private school's Hawaiians-only preference policy. But they are less familiar with Kawaa, who has worked for a Kamehameha Schools' outreach program since he was hired in June 2004.

Kawaa is site coordinator and Family Education specialist for the Hi'ilani Program at Waimanalo, which provides a variety of services to children and families, prenatal to age 3, said Kekoa Paulsen, spokesman for Kamehameha Schools.

Hi'ilani began providing services in December 2004 in Waimanalo and has served 81 families with a variety of programs, including parent and prenatal education and early childhood screening.

Hui Malama attorney Alan Murakami said he met Kawaa years ago when Kawaa worked for the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center as a liaison with Hawaiian communities. Kawaa was also involved with homeless issues, assisting homeless families who were being evicted from Waimanalo Beach a couple of decades ago, he said.

Neither Thompson nor Kawaa could be reached for comment.

Murakami said he hopes the parties to the lawsuit, which includes Bishop Museum, could begin meeting early next week with the appointed mediators. They still need to work out parameters for the talks and are not entering the discussions with any preconceived notions about how it ought to work.


Mediation has been ordered to resolve the dispute over artifacts on the Big Island:

What's next: Parties meet with mediators to decide on ground rules and begin negotiations. No specific date or location set.

Who: Representatives of Bishop Museum, defendant Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei and plaintiffs Royal Academy of Hawaiian Arts and Na Lei Alii Kawananakoa.

Target deadline: Feb. 24

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Original article URL: http://starbulletin.com/print/2005.php?fr=/2006/01/18/news/story07.html

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