Monday, April 23, 2012


Honolulu Star Advertiser - April 22, 2012

As Kawaiaha‘o Church continues to excavate human burials in preparation for building a multipurpose center, a rift has emerged between Hawaii's oldest church and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which helped finance the $17.5 million proj­ect.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which donated $1 million in 2007 for the multipurpose building, recently chastised Kawaiaha‘o leaders for pushing ahead with disinterment, and expressed regret at not making its gift contingent on the church following usual practices under a state law created to protect and respect Native Hawaiian burials. As of this month the church has removed about 400 burials....

Disinterment work began last year after controversial decisions by the state Department of Health and a state court judge cleared the way.

Protesters have rallied outside the church, objecting to what Hawaiian cultural tradition considers desecration of ancestral remains, or iwi kupuna, resting in unmarked plots on the site slated for the new building.

"After months of observing Kawaiaha‘o Church's handling of the iwi controversy, I write on behalf of our trustees to express our despair and disappointment with the church's decision to proceed with disinterment, under the legal justification of the Department of Health's ruling, despite violating centuries old Hawaiian cultural burial protocols and traditions," said the letter signed by OHA board Chairwoman Colette Machado.

"We are particularly disappointed that church leaders chose at times to pit Christian teachings against Hawaiian burial law with respect to processes and protocols guiding disinterment and reburial," the letter continued.

OHA disagrees with the court ruling and Health Department approval that determined the burials didn't deserve protection under state law regarding Hawaiian remains because they are on cemetery grounds. Under the burial law, lineal and cultural descendents of iwi are given a say through county burial councils in whether burials should be relocated or left undisturbed....

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