In battle over iwi kupuna, Maui judge invalidates license for archeology firm

Updated: Jun. 17, 2019 at 9:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui judge has invalidated the license for a company accused of desecrating ancient burials in Wailuku’s sand dunes.

In the Central Maui sand dunes of Wailuku, Hawaiian practitioners and descendants with Malama Kakanilua say more than 200 iwi kupuna have been disturbed in an 11 acre parcel at the 1,000 acre Maui Lani housing development. They say the historic area has hundreds to thousands of burials.

“Our only interest is not monetary. It’s to protect not only our kupuna and the place that they rest, but these historical areas,” said Kaniloa Kamaunu, of Malama Kakanilua.

The group wanted the State Historic Preservation Division to hold a contested case hearing over the permit renewal of Maui Lani’s archaeological company, Archaeological Services Hawaii.

But the state declined that request because the plaintiffs have no property interest in the case.

On Friday, however, Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza ordered SHPD to hold a contested case hearing — invalidating Archaeological Services Hawaii’s license for now.

“To have recognition for the fact that we should be able to speak and protect our iwi kupuna is such a triumphant day for us,” said Clare Apana, of Malama Kakanilua.

The group says iwi kupuna were not protected because the archaeology company failed to turn in reports and meet minimum standards.

The group also said it’s the state’s responsibility to monitor the archaeology firm.

“SHPD is overworked, underfunded, understaffed. They can only do so much so in this lack of oversight, Archaeological Services has been not complying and sliding through lots of things,” said attorney Lance Collins.

“The end result is there’s a pattern of violations and failure to meet minimum standards," he added.

Malama Kakanilua sent a letter to Maui County on Monday asking the Department of Public Works to order Archaeological Services Hawaii to stop all of its work.

An attorney for Archaeological Services Hawaii had no immediate comment.

The state Land Department said it can’t comment on the merits of the case, but said an independent hearing officer would be appointed. A spokesman for Maui County had no immediate comment, but said they’re looking into the issue.

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