Protecting ancient Native Hawaiian gravesites from rail - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Protecting ancient Native Hawaiian gravesites from rail

Jace McQuivey Jace McQuivey

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - State leaders in charge of protecting Native Hawaiian burial grounds, are stepping in to make sure rail doesn't disturb too many ancient gravesites.

On Wednesday, the Oahu Island Burial Council took an archaeological tour of the rail route to address cultural concerns about rail.

"With any construction in Hawaii, everybody knows that iwi are going to come up and so the issue there is how do we deal with those sensitively," said Oahu Burial Council Chair Jace McQuivey.

Council members began their tour in Kapolei, the start of the proposed transit route. As the bus drove along the path of the rail line, archaeologists pointed out possible burial sites rail may threaten.

If construction crews were to disturb any burial sites along the rail route, archaeologists believe they'd likely find 90% of the bones east of Nuuanu Stream.

"Once you go east of Nuuanu Stream into Chinatown, downtown Honolulu greater Kakaako, the concerns for cultural resources or iwi kupuna do increase significantly," said archaeologist David Shideler, Office Director of Cultural Surveys Hawaii.

State archaeologists plan to excavate and look for bones on or near the rail route.

"As time has gone on, the laws have gotten stronger, the Hawaiians have a voice in not only about the burial sites but about their cultural heritage that seems to be eaten up by development today," said archaeologist Nancy McMahon, State Historic Preservation Division Deputy Administrator.

Once burial sites are identified, the Oahu Burial Council plans to work with Honolulu transit leaders to protect grounds Native Hawaiians hold sacred.

Mcquivey admits it's impossible to avoid disturbing all the bones in the path of the rail route, but he says if bones are found on or near the transit corridor, there are three options: move support columns, keep the bones in place without disturbing them, or respectfully relocate them.

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