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Rep. Ing Responds to Mayor Arakawa’s ‘Sacred Rocks’ Comment

February 18, 2017, 9:26 AM HST (Updated February 18, 2017, 5:22 PM) · 61 Comments
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Mayor Alan Arakawa brushed off concerns on Friday about the destruction of rocks considered sacred in ʻĪao Valley as part of flood repairs, telling Hawaiʻi News Now Sunrise that “there’s no such thing as sacred rocks.”

Arakawa’s comments came three days after the county’s spokesperson, Rod Antone, apologized after admitting some ʻĪao Valley rocks, mixed in with tree debris, were sent to the landfill where they crushed.

ʻĪao Valley flood restoration. Photo 10.4.16 by Wendy Osher.

“The monarchy, started with Kamehameha, his lineage declared Christianity the religion of Hawaiʻi,” Arakawa said. “In Christianity, if I remember the 10 Commandments correctly, thou shall have no false God before me. There are no sacred rocks in that religion.”

“We have a group of people that are political wannabes that ran for office the last time and are trying to make an issue out of nothing,” Arakawa said. “During an emergeny situation when people’s lives are in danger, we have to do what we have to do,” he continued.

The comments sparked a firestorm on social media, and drew instant condemnation from those criticizing Maui County’s handling of the flood repair project.

“I don’t usually comment on statements made by other elected officials because I feel like it can inflame the combative nature of politics and rarely lead to resolve. But in this particular case, I could not stand by while Maui County’s highest ranking official, Mayor Arakawa, denigrated our host culture and defied our constitutionally-protected, individual right–a tenant of our democracy–religious freedom,” State Representative Kaniela Ing said.

“So in the interest of preserving public trust in government, I want the people of Maui to know that not all of our leaders feel this way, and that you are not alone.

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“The irony is that the first Americans set out in search of the New World fleeing religious persecution and, they were Christian. Then, throughout our history, unfounded anger was directed at Catholics, then Buddhists–whatever religion arrived here. And we learned that democracy doesn’t work without tolerance, aloha and acceptance.

“So, to see Mayor Arakawa take this colonized, theocratic approach saying that one religion is the only acceptable one and we’re going to make decisions in government based on one religion is harmful not just to Hawaiians, but to anyone who believes in democracy.

“For Kepaniwai in particular, the stones are sacred religiously to some Hawaiians, but they are also sacred historically to all Hawaiians. The battle at Kepaniwai was one of the most gruesome, most significant, profound battles in Hawaiian history, where so much of my ancestors’ blood was spilled in the river…on those very rocks years ago. The bodies actually dammed the river.

“You would never see a government desecrating Gettysburg or Arlington. So, why is it okay in a marginalized, indigenous area of historical significance? The answer is it’s not.

“So Mayor Arakawa, if you are watching this, I hope this has been educational. We just really want you to understand where the Hawaiian people are coming from, and not have you school us on our history. Let us speak for own history, and tell you why places are sacred, what’s important to us, and not let any one particular group or religion oppress another.

“I think that’s all we want. An apology might be nice as well,” Ing concluded.

Click here for video of Mayor Alan Arakawa’s statement on Hawaii News Now Sunrise.

Click here for video of Representative Kaniela Ing’s response.

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