VIDEO: Iwi Kupuna Vigil Held at Proposed Safeway Site
[flashvideo file=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTf3e_bCLvU /] By Wendy Osher
Members of the native Hawaiian research group, Hui Pono Ike Kanawai, began a 12-hour vigil at the site of the proposed Maui Lani Shopping Center in Central Maui on Sunday night.
The vigil, entitled “Turning the hearts of the children to their fathers,” was organized to acknowledge and honor native Hawaiian ancestral burials in the area.
Event participants are doing pule or prayer every hour on the hour until the event concludes at 6 a.m. on Monday, June 25, 2012.
The vigil is being held at the site of the planned Safeway store across from Baldwin High School at the border of Wailuku and Kahului.
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, including the remains of children.
“All through the entire sand dune here, where Maui Lani has come, they’ve found burials, and burials, and burials, and burials, because this is a burial area,” said Clare Apana who has been been a leading advocate for having the remains left in place.
“If someone were to go and dig up my baby’s grave–although he does have a marker and a headstone–I just don’t believe that that’s right,” said J-Lorra Pualani Savala who attended the overnight vigil.
“They expect that as excavation continues, that they’re going to find more kupuna,” said Hui Pono member and event organizer, Kamaunu Kahaialii. “We’re not opposed to the development of the store,” he said, ” but there is a need for us to understand that those who have been buried here–they have rights too. If we’re going to relocate them, then it needs to be done in the right way.”
Kahaialii also noted the significance of the area once known as Pu’u One O Kahalu’u or the sand hills of Kahalu’u.
“One of the reasons that we’re here at this vigil today is to remember those who sacrificed thier lives and lost thier lives in the conflict known as Ahulau ka pi’ipi’i Kakanilua (The heaped up bodies of the Pi’ipi’i regiment at Kakanilua),” said Kahaialii.
Kahaialii said that as a result of that conflict, many of those who lost thier lives “are buried here along Waikapu Common, all the way out to Kihei,” he said.
“As I have always advocated, this is a burial ground,” said Apana. “I’m not quite sure how or why we would need to build shopping centers in a burial ground; or if that’s the wisest thing to do,” said Apana.
She said kupuna, or elders, have offered suggestions to support a center for healing, meeting and education at the site. “What a great honor it would be to have our modern times and our old times meet–especially for the descendants of these iwi kupuna,” said Apana.
“For me, this is the most important thing,” she said, “is that the kupuna here rest peacefully; and that they can continue to guide us, thier descendants, and the people who have come to live in this area,” said Apana.
“My mana’o is that I hope that everybody out there who has a deep sense of our culture, our people, the way we live–that they join us in our efforts to help preserve and protect not just the skeletal remains of our ancestors, but thier rights also,” said Kahaialii. “The dead are not dead and gone–they’re still living–their spirit lives on. If thier spirits live on, then their rights live on; and our kuleana to help defend and protect that, lives on with them,” he said.
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.