Burial council hears concerns over moving iwi kupuna for rail

Published On: Oct 11 2012 10:05:30 AM HST   Updated On: Oct 11 2012 10:05:00 AM HST

The Oahu Island Burial Council heard pleas on Wednesday to leave the iwi kupuna alone as the city continues its work on the Honolulu rail system.

The council and the community were given a promise by the CEO of the Honolulu Authority of Rapid Transportation Dan Grabauskas.

He says there is still time to move the rail path if these burials need to remain in place.

Community members shared their frustration over how the finding of a single human bone fragment during the rail archaeology survey is being treated.

"It doesn't matter if you found one fragment or found a thousand.  It doesn't matter.  It's the same thing," said Kamuela Kala'i, who opposes moving the iwi.

Archaeologists hired by the city told the burial council they will recommend HART officials not consider that discovery a burial as they might lead to further excavation that has a high possibility of remains.

"The only remnants of the ike and the kuleana, the role that they played while they were on this Earth is their bones," said Kala'i.  "In the 'aina, that becomes part of the 'aina."

"I remember when this discussion first started and one of the things the council members at that time really stressed was the reason for the testing was so they could remain in place and redesign," said Kaleo Paik, who opposes moving the iwi.

A big concern raised was over cultural monitoring of the project.  Community members say there have been no cultural practitioners on site who specialize in burials.

Grabauskas promised the crowd and the council a cultural monitoring program will begin soon and they will be compensated.

"As long as I am the Executive Director of HART, we will respect iwi kupuna and you can help me to understand what that means and how I can do that," said Grabauskas.

Grabauskas said the cultural and lineal descendants will be there and be consulted.

Archaeological crews made two separate discoveries of iwi on Friday and Saturday, including an intact human burial.  Wednesday's meeting only addressed the first remains found which was the remains of a minimum of two individuals.


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