Rail watchers keep eye out for iwi kupuna - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rail watchers keep eye out for iwi kupuna

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Since the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation started its archaeological inventory survey in Kakaako in September, bone fragments have been found in a couple of sites under some watchful eyes.

While road crews dig trenches and sift sand and dirt for bones from ancient Hawaiian burials, two observers wait and pray.

"These are all test plots. Every one we treat as if it was a burial site," Kahu Umi Sexton said.

Sexton and Kahu Manu Mook are with Aloha Aina. The Hawaiian cultural practitioners watch the rail digs to ensure proper protocol is followed. When bones are found, digging stops.

"I do my puli (prayer). I do my conch shell. I call the heavens to look down and bless us, this very sacred place, and bless everyone, and what's happening here," Mook said.

Aloha Aina has twelve members. They call themselves the twelve disciples. They go out in pairs, standing side-by-side with archaeologists and contractors working on the survey.

"We're going to be with them on every dig, on every hole," Sexton said. "Anything that they do we'll have a cultural monitor with them, with the archaeologist."

Sexton and Mook won't say how they feel about the $5 billion rail project. But they will say they are there for their ancestors and the workers.

"We put ti leaves around their area, on their machines," Mook said. "We pray for them also because they have to go home safe. They have to deal with it."

Sexton said so far they have observed at more than 100 digs along Dillingham Boulevard and in Kakaako.

"Every dig to us is just as if it was digging into our graveyard," he said. "We're in an area right now that's sensitive. So we take every hole seriously."

Aloha Aina is getting some payment for its work. But the watchers believe this is more than a job.

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