James Mainaaupo and his wife were walking near a stretch of Kahana Bay Thursday morning when they came across a grisly find: a skull and other human bones.
"The area was not roped off, not quarantined and it's clearly visible that the bones were left out," he said.
Mainaaupo said the bones were first found a month ago and a state archeologist came out to the site and covered them up. They had determined that the it was an inadvertent find, meaning that they were likely old Hawaiian remains.
What bothered him was that the protections for the iwi were now gone.
"The concern is that after all this time it's still exposed to the elements," he said.
"The bones are exposed, the spinal cord is on top of the soil. It's right in the sunlight and anybody can come by and might even step on it and crush the skull."
Mainaaupo called the police, the Oahu Burial Council and the state Historic Preservation Division but got nowhere.
"We got redirected at the burial council to a number that was busy and we got one call back from the Kahuku police station informing us that they are aware of the situation and they didn't have the right permits to touch the remains or move it," he said.
Experts say the state should act faster to protect the iwi.
"It certainly is not the best practice because then we don't want other people to disturb our burials. And so as quickly as possible the site specialist needs to be able to assess the situation," said Hina Wong-Kalu, former chair of the Oahu Burial Council.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees the discovery of Hawaiian remains, provided the following response on Friday:
"Following initial notification from Honolulu Police Department in August, State Historic Preservation Division staff conducted a site visit to the location and immediately implemented emergency protective measures, notified descendants of Kahana Valley, State Parks, and HDOT. The protective measures taken in August were compromised sometime this week; the specialist visited the site today and secured the remains.
Consultation with the descendants on treatment measures began immediately upon the initial notification. State law gives heavy preference to preservation in place. Due to the compromised nature of the human skeletal remains as well as the surrounding unstable matrix, any treatment would require carefully coordinated effort involving a variety of individuals representing different interests. This coordination effort is ongoing.
Although the SHPD has jurisdiction over this particular case, the division has been actively seeking the input and direction of the descendants, who have taken a very active role in protecting this resource."