Concern grows after construction workers unearth 2 sets of iwi

Concern grows after construction workers unearth 2 sets of iwi

AIEA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Construction workers have unearthed two sets of human remains at the rail project's Pearlridge station.

"One was not in a coffin and one was in a coffin. Obviously we have some historic burials," said Hina Wong-Kalu, chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council.

The iwi – believed to date back to the 1800s – were found last month during excavation. They're believed to be the first remains uncovered since construction on the 20-mile rail line resumed four years ago.

That's when the project stalled for a year because of a lawsuit that forced rail officials to survey the entire rail line for native Hawaiian burials.

Some activists believe rail authority isn't doing enough to protect iwi. They see potential lawsuits and further delays costing millions.

"I don't see how we can have a decent protection for these burials because they're planning to put a ... station over them," said native Hawaiian activist and attorney Mililani Trask.

But officials with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said they immediately notified state historical preservation officials of the finds.

They said cultural and archeological monitors were on site during the excavation.

Wong-Kalu, of the burial council, said she believes HART handled the situation the right way.

"In terms of the HART project and burials, we have had a relatively positive engage with them," she said.

The burial council must now come up with a plan for the iwi. That could involve leaving them in place or re interring them elsewhere.

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