Cultural monitors to watch over rail archaeological survey - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Cultural monitors to watch over rail archaeological survey

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Ann Kobayashi Ann Kobayashi
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu
Kaleo Paik Kaleo Paik
Kamuela Kala'i talks with Dan Grabauskas Kamuela Kala'i talks with Dan Grabauskas
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The discovery of more human bones in Kakaako along the rail route will mean more delays and more costs to the $5.2 billion dollar project.

"It really isn't a delay. The city started this project too quickly, too early and signed the contracts too early," said Ann Kobayashi, Honolulu City Councilmember.

"You are making a lot of adjustments and any adjustment you make costs a lot of money," said Romy Cachola, Honolulu City Councilmember.

HART CEO Dan Grabauskas maintains the city still has flexibility.  It can move the utilities or pillars supporting the elevated rail in order to avoid iwi kupuna or ancestral bones.

"What (engineers) put on the drawing board they don't put in ink, they put in pencil because it will evolve over time," said Grabauskas, to the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee.

After briefing city council members Grabauskas walked over to the Oahu Island Burial Council meeting where he was given an earful.

"How would you feel if this was your grandmother's bones? If it was your child's bones, anyone you loved, this was their iwi, please think about that yeah," said Kamuela Kala'i, Hilo who flew to Oahu for the meeting.

"I do think of it as my relatives. That's some good advice I got early on. How I feel about it is the same way is if someone were to go into a place where my relatives are buried," said Grabauskas, later in the meeting.

"It's okay to acknowledge that there is some mistrust because if you don't acknowledge it than you don't get it," said Grabauskas. "As long as I'm the Executive Director of HART we will respect iwi kupuna and you can help me understand what that means."

Matt McDermott, the project manager for Cultural Surveys Hawaii, the state contractor that found the first tibia bone fragment found last month, addressed the meeting. He thinks it dates back to before 1810. He said it was cut or filed and may have been used as a fishing tool.  He says human bones were used in ancient Hawaii.

McDermott recommends moving the bone fragment because it's a "gray area."  Yes it's a human bone but not part of a burial context.

However Native Hawaiians took offense to that gray area description.

"Iwi is in the ground, leave it alone. Period," said Kala'i.

The Native Hawaiians want to be part of the process and want cultural monitors present at each trench being dug up.  They also want the city to keep an updated list to call burial rights practitioners when remains are found.

"The cultural monitoring that could've, would've, should've been in place but unfortunately it wasn't and I'm sure that was due to their own in house issues they are working to resolve," said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Oahu Island Burial Council Chair.

"It's just coming to this frustration of this should already be done. We should have people in positions that understand. Right now I don't feel confident that people that are making decisions are the right people," said Kaleo Paik, Burial Rights Practitioner.

Grabauskas said the city can do better and says he will work on understanding the respect and trust involved when dealing with iwi kupuna.

"To be very clear we have a cultural monitoring program. Let's work on it together to see how we can implement it as quickly as possible. Done," said Grabauskas.

Grabauskas says the cultural monitoring could start in days and the Native Hawaiian burial practitioners will paid although an exact amount is yet to be worked out.

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