HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are steel plates covering the roadway along Halekauwila Street in Kakaako. They cover the latest archaeological trenches -- the digs to find iwi kupuna, or bones from ancient Hawaiian burials.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has been reaching out to native Hawaiians, mainly those who can claim that the bones may belong to their ancestors, who could have lived in the area.
HART and the Oahu Island Burial Council are encouraging those people to come forward.
"One of the things we need to do is reach out to lineal and cultural descendants, let them know what's happening," said HART CEO Dan Grabauskas.
"It becomes much easier and far more valuable to you as someone coming forward to speak up on behalf of iwi, to say that 'this is my claim,'" said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council.
A meeting in Kakaako Thursday was the first one where 'ohana could come forward as possible descendant family members. They also learned about the latest discoveries of iwi kupuna in the last two months in the city center area, including one just a block away from the meeting place near Cooke and Halekauwila streets. Archaeologists also have found bones in two other trenches along Halekauwila, and in one trench last week Thursday in an area along Nimitz Highway.
"If you get your papers and your documents submitted, if you would like recognition as soon as the next meeting comes along, then we can address and serve your needs," said Wong-Kalu.
Over the last month, HART has increased Native Hawaiian involvement regarding iwi kupuna along the planned rail route, including having cultural practitioners present at the archaeological digging. The latest finds also have come as HART has sped up the trenching work to satisfy a state supreme court ruling to complete the archaeological process before any rail construction can resume.
"We had a plan and a schedule that had us completing all the trenching work around the end of February. But it now looks like with the acceleration, we're going to be able to wrap this up, the trenching activity, by the end of the year," said Grabauskas.
Grabauskas and Wong-Kalu are encouraging possible descendant families to file their claims and register with the State Historic Preservation Division to have a say in what happens to iwi kupuna that are found. Grabauskas has said earlier that utilities and pillars for the elevated rail line could still be moved to protect the bones.
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