HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An archaeologist hired by Kawaiahao Church says 36 additional human remains have been found at the construction site for its multi-purpose center.
The bones were exposed during recent erosion and were temporarily reburied in plastic valve boxes — a decision that didn’t sit well with some members of the Oahu Island Burial Council.
"All the remains from that area are put back basically where they are found," said Matt McDermott, Cultural Surveys Hawaii principal investigator.
Cultural descendant Kamuela Kalai was shocked by the new discoveries, which are on top of the 600 iwi kupuna previously unearthed during construction and stored in the church’s basement for years.
“Do the right thing and it’s over. So what is the church waiting for? More kupuna to come out? More kupuna to be exposed? More kupuna to be desecrated and disturbed and more ohana like me cannot understand what is the problem,” she said during emotional testimony.
"We have to make places recognizable again. We have to make places that they are comfortable in," said Aulii Mitchell, Oahu Island Burial Council vice chair.
Kawaiahao Church board member Bill Ha’ole says the 36 iwi are small fragments and not whole bodies.
He said the church has been trying to respectfully re-inter the iwi kupuna, but for years the process has been caught in legal limbo and competing rules between Department of Health and State Historic Preservation.
"No other project that I know of in this country has ever been caught by two sets of laws and then having to navigate with no direction by either of the state agencies on how to proceed," he said.
The church says there are 54 recognized descendants that it is consulting with during this process.