A feather cloak and helmet given to Captain James Cook in 1779 are being permanently returned to Hawaii by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa after being on long-term loan to the Bishop Museum for the last four years.
The Bishop Museum said it was confirmed today that the ‘ahu ʻula (cloak) and mahiole (helmet) will remain in Hawaii in perpetuity and will be held in trust for the people of Hawaii by the Honolulu museum.
The items were gifts from Hawaiian Chief Kalani‘opu‘u to Capt. James Cook and were in Te Papa’s collection since in 1912. They were returned to Hawaii in March 2016 and were on display at the Bishop Museum on loan.
“These priceless treasures have so much to tell us about our shared Pacific history. We are honored to be able to return them home, to reconnect them with their land and their people,” Arapata Hakiwai, Maori co-leader of Te Papa museum, said in a news release.
Cook was gifted the cloak and helmet during his visit to Hawaii island in late January 1779 by the chief of Hawaii island, Kalani‘opu‘u. The demonstration of goodwill occurred after Cook’s ship anchored in Kealakekua Bay.
According to Cook’s lieutenant James King, the chief “got up & threw in a graceful manner over the Captn’s Shoulders the Cloak he himself wore, & put a feathered Cap upon his head.”
Cook left Kealakekua Bay on Feb. 4 but he unexpectedly returned on Feb. 13 after his ships were damaged in a storm.
After a series of disagreements, a confrontation ensued in which several Hawaiian chiefs and many other Hawaiians were killed or wounded. Cook and four of his men also were killed.