Native Group to Hold Iwi Vigil at New Safeway Site

June 22, 2012, 10:14 AM HST · Updated June 22, 10:47 AM
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Construction site of the future Safeway at Maui Lani. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Members of the native Hawaiian research group, Hui Pono Ike Kanawai, will host a 12-hour candlelight vigil this weekend at the site of the proposed Maui Lani Shopping Center in Central Maui.

The vigil was organized to acknowledge and honor native Hawaiian ancestral burials in the area.

“As lineal and cultural descendants of those who lie buried beneath the sand dunes of Kahalu’u, one of our kuleana or areas of responsibility, is to honor and remember our ancestors who have passed on beyond this life, and to never forget the lessons of the past,” said Hui Pono member, Kamaunu Kahaialii.

Construction site of the future Safeway at Maui Lani. Photo by Wendy Osher.

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“We have a sacred duty to make sure that these areas where their bones are resting, are treated with the utmost sense of respect and reverence,” he said.

The gathering begins on Sunday, June 24 at 6 p.m., and continues until 6 a.m. on Monday at the site of the planned Safeway store across from Baldwin High School.

The area was once known as Pu’u One O Kahalu’u or the sand hills of Kahalu’u.

Organizers cite historic accounts referencing the sand hills of Waikapu and Wailuku as the site of the great battle of Ahulau ka pi’ipi’i i Kakanilua.

The exact number of burials encountered at the project construction site is unclear; however, organizers say reports indicate that there are at least a dozen.

Prior to construction, a burial treatment and preservation plan was included in the project’s Final Environmental Assessment for previously identified and inadvertent burial sites known to exist at the location.

The project’s Draft Burial Component and Preservation Plan is included as an agenda item in the upcoming meeting of the Maui Lana’i Burial Council, scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27, at the Planning Department conference room in Wailuku.

“This vigil is for everyone who has a deep appreciation and understanding of our kupuna, our culture, our history, our way of life,” said Kahaialii.

“We empathize with those who have been emotionally, psychologically and spiritually affected for having disturbed and/or removed the skeletal remains of our kupuna from their final resting place.  Our hearts go out to them,” he said.

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