Debate continues over ancestral bones on rail route - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Debate continues over ancestral bones on rail route

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

So far six sets of iwi kupuna or ancestral bones have been found along the proposed rail route and there's debate over what to do with them now that they've been discovered. Do you leave them in place or move them nearby and establish a memorial site?

This is one of the respectful spaces that have already been set aside for iwi kupuna that's been discovered because of previous development. Now the question is whether the city should establish more of these for remains found along the rail route.

Iwi kupuna have been reinterred all over Oahu.  There is a remembrance site in Waikiki near the Honolulu Zoo.  There is a new one near the TJ Maxx store in Kakaako.  And then there's one at Mother Waldron Park.

"Waldron Park, whoever was in charge of that doesn't do a very good job of maintaining it. You go and look at it and it's sad. We want to make sure that doesn't happen and that will be one of the things we do bring up," said Umi Sexton, Kahu and Cultural Practitioner.

What they do not want is another remembrance site like the one near the zoo which is a mound with hundreds of ancestors buried there all together.

"Because you don't know how the iwi in life reacted to one another because we don't want any problems, like poltergeist stuff happening at the train stations," said Mike Lee, Iwi Kupuna Cultural Practitioner.

"First and foremost when we talk about designation about respectful spaces and places it's by whose standards?" said Kawika McKeague, Former Oahu Island Burial Council Chair.  "Whether it's a row of la'i, ti leaf or that wrought iron gate, whatever those design elements are to make it very clear, distinct and honorific, and to me it should come from the families of the iwi."

Whatever the site Native Hawaiians want the city to maintain it since it is the one causing the disturbance.

"Those kinds of details would have to be agreed upon so that, you don't want to have it go into disrepair and not being maintained," said Faith Miyamoto, Rail's Chief Planner.

"For this rail project I won't even visit that idea," said Paulette Kaanohiokalani Kaleikini, Burial Rights Practitioner.

Kaleikini says don't move the iwi kupuna at all.  Leave them alone and move the rail route if need be.  Her lawsuit is the reason construction is stopped now and is exactly why she said the city should have finished searching for iwi kupuna first so it can go around existing burial sites.

"I don't even want to discuss a burial treatment plan because right up front they should be preserved in place," said Kaleikini.

The iwi planning is still in its infancy with plenty still to be determined.

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