Land board approves burial crypt for Abigail Kawananakoa

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Apr 26 2013 05:48:00 PM HST

A request by Abigail Kawananakoa to build a new tomb at the Royal Mausoleum unleashed backlash in the Native Hawaiian community.

HONOLULU -

It's a royal ruckus.

There’s all sorts of unrest over the final resting place for Abigail Kawananakoa.

She's the adopted granddaughter of King David Kalakaua and wants a crypt at Mauna 'Ala -- the Royal Mausoleum, where Hawaiian ali'i are buried.

The tomb would be similar to the Wylie tomb and would be situated directly across from it.

Kawananakoa’s efforts are supported by Royal Order of Kamehameha and Association of Native Hawaiian Civic Clubs, in part because of her lineage and what she's done to preserve Hawaiian treasures.

"I, myself, had no problem with her being buried there; as a family member she is entitled to, these were her parents, for Christ's sake. It is her legacy," said Kealii Makekau.

But not everyone agrees.

"Very frankly I don’t think you can buy your way into Mauna 'Ala. They were ceremonial titles, not inherited titles. We shouldn't be calling them prince or princess. That era, is an era that is is past," said Lela Hubbard.

Kawananakoa's family is buried in the Kalakaua crypt, but it's apparently full.

Some say there should not be any more burials at Mauna 'Ala; to say yes to this request would open the door to others who maintain they have more direct ties to royalty.

"Yes, Abigail did come forward to do many good deeds as an American. To me, she would be better off at Kawaiahao cemetery in her Kapiolani family plot. She has many options.  With all the land that she owns, she can start her own cemetery," said Paulette Kaleikini.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs did raise a concern -- that the area used to part of the historic Nuuanu Battle and that any new construction would likely disturb human remains.

And there is the prickly governance issue.  Some questioned why a state agency is deciding who can be buried on land owned by the Hawaiian kingdom.

 "I certainly, because of the sensitivity, would agree that at minimum there be an archeological inventory is required," said Land Board Chairman William Aila.

"This is a very difficult situation where you are trying to balance Hawaiian cultural practices and history with contemporary rules and regulations. A government entity versus a sovereignty entity. It’s very conflicting and very troublesome," said cemetery historian Nanette Napoleon.

So troubling that several board members almost abstained from voting.

But in the end, they deferred to Kahu Bill Mai'oho, care taker of the Royal Mausoleum, who said he was fine with the request.

If any archeological remains are uncovered, the issue would go before the Oahu Burial Council.

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