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August 18, 2022

Hawaiian Repatriation Ceremony

Remarks by  

Ambassador Victoria Reggie Kennedy 

Hawaiian Repatriation Ceremony 

Natural History Museum Vienna

Monday, February 14, 2022 

Mister Vice Chancellor, Doctor Vohland, Members of the Hawaiian Delegation, Ambassador Meindl, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Aloha. Grüß Gott. Greetings.   

This is a solemn day, as we come together to mark an important step in a journey home for the ancestral remains of two Native Hawaiians. These iwi kūpuna were taken from the Kingdom of Hawai’i long ago, and now they will return to the State of Hawai’i for reburial and the restoration of family.  I am humbled to take part in this special repatriation event.  

This important day is only possible because of the tireless commitment, dedication, research, and coordination between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Vienna Natural History Museum, as well as the support of the Austrian Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service, and Sport.  So we extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation to the delegation from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs – Mr. Ayau, Mrs. Caceres, Mr. Caceres, and Ms. Kanaka’ole – and to Doctor Vohland and her team here at the museum and Vice Chancellor Kogler and his team at the Ministry for their critical support.  

Ambassador Kennedy at the Hawaiian Repatriation CeremonyThe United States government strongly supports the efforts of Native Hawaiians to repatriate their ancestors, and we are deeply appreciative that the Republic of Austria recognizes the importance of these issues as well.  We thank Austria for approving the de-accession request that led to today’s ceremony and look forward to our continued collaboration on international repatriation efforts being made by indigenous peoples.  

As I reflect on our historical relationship and both our current and future cooperative efforts, I’m led to my closing thought.  At the most fundamental level, what we are experiencing today is shared humanity, mutual respect, and the desire – the need – to protect human dignity and honor cultural traditions and practices.  We recognize the vital importance of the connection to our past – and the responsibility to acknowledge and address historical injustices.  

Every such encounter creates new possibilities and connections that offer a shared path toward better understanding. Culture shapes who we are, where we have been, and where we are going.   

I’m honored to be a part of this profound moment and look forward to building on it as we move together into a more inclusive future.  On behalf of the United States, I am deeply grateful to all those in Austria and in the State of Hawaii who made this solemn day possible. 

Mahalo. Danke. Thank you.