Ancient cloak returning to Hawai'i

By Taroi Black

A priceless feather cloak and helmet gifted to Captain Cook more than two centuries ago has been returned to the people of Hawaii. The international delegation was treated to an emotional and traditional pōhiri today at Te Papa in Wellington.

The Hawaiians came in full dress to collect what is theirs, “We're bringing something back which is particularly important to our culture.” 

The yellow and red feathered cloak and helmet traces back more than 200 years of Hawaiian history. They came to the Te Papa collection from the National Museum, who held the relics since 1912.

Arapata Hakiwai, Māori Co-Leader at Te Papa Tongarewa, says “Te Papa's aim was to bring these two treasures together here and hand them back to their people.”

The taonga belonged to the famous Hawaiian Chief Kalani'ōpu'u, who greeted the English voyager Captain James Cook. As a demonstration of goodwill, he gifted the captain his cloak and helmet.

“To have Kalani'ōpu'u cape and mahiole back allows us to see the potential that we can achieve by viewing the cape, by remembering his stories and by telling our children these stories so that we don't forget,” says the Hawaiian representative.

These ancient garments have been returned back to its original owners and will be put on display at the Bishop Museum in Hawai'i.