Kalaniōpu‘u’s Gifts to Captain Cook Return to Hawai‘i

Feb 17, 2016

Credit Te Papa Tongarewa


"Kalaniōpu`u, King of Owyhee bringing Presents to Captain Cook, ca. 1781-83. Pen, ink wash, watercolor, by John Webber, artist aboard Cook's ship.
Credit Wikipedia Commons
“Ahu ‘Ula” or feathered cloak
Credit Te Papa Tongarewa
"Mahiole” or feathered helmet
Credit Te Papa Tongarewa

A set of artifacts present at the contact between Native Hawaiians and Captain Cook are on their way back to the islands.

In 1779, Cook arrived in Kealakekua Bay and was greeted by Kalaniōpu‘u – The Chief of Hawai‘i Island.  As a demonstration of goodwill, he gave Cook the “Mahiole” or feathered helmet and “Ahu ‘Ula” or feathered cloak he was wearing.  The episode marks a brief window of peace between Cook and the natives, before the skirmish in which Cook was killed broke out.

The helmet and cloak were taken back to England where they were passed through different collectors and museums before landing in the Dominion Museum in New Zealand, the predecessor of Te Papa Tongarewa in 1912.  Now a partnership among The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Bishop Museum and the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum is bringing the cloak and helmet back to Hawai‘i for a ten year stay.  Dr. Kamanaopono Crabbe is the CEO of OHA.  

Marques Marzan is the Cultural Resource Specialist of the Bishop Museum. 

The helmet and cloak of Kalaniōpu‘u will go on display at the Bishop Museum starting March 19th.