Demonstrators at Mayor’s Address Want Resolution to “Sacred Rocks”
A group of demonstrators held signs outside the venue for the Mayor’s State of the County Address on Thursday, calling for respect of the Hawaiian Culture, accountability, and an apology for comments made about rocks some consider to be sacred at ʻĪao Valley.
“In September, there was a massive flood, and at that time, a few of our community members had gotten notice that there was some activity going on in the Wailuku (ʻĪao) River that was illegal. They went up there and they saw what was going on, that there was machines in the river. They alerted the Mayor’s office, and there was mostly a response of we’re doing everything according to the books,” explained Maui resident Kai Nishiki. “The issue now that there’s been $5 million that has been given by the county and we have another almost $1 million that they’re asking for. We’re really just asking for some accountability, some answers, and also a genuine apology,” she said.
“I completely agree with every single message the signs are saying here today,” said West Maui Councilmember Elle Cochran. “Respecting the culture, the pōhaku isn’t gravel, and just the sacredness of the area. I stand behind all of that. I think that the answers and justifications that this mayor and administration have given–or lack of transparency and answers to the questions that I have personally asked, have not been fulfilling and to me, they haven’t been forthright in explaining their actions,” said Cochran. “Everyday it seems they’re trying to, I don’t know, cover up or explain why it was the right thing to do, and clearly it’s not,” she said.
“We want answers. We want to know where that money was spent. Who did we pay to crush these rocks. And why are we reimbursing money to basically mine rocks to cover our landfill. This is desecration and we still have this continuing and we need to have some accountability for it,” said Nishiki.
When asked what the correct resolution is, Councilmember Cochran said, “I’m beyond having any kind of apology because they never come out–he tried, and it’s not sincere. It’s about transparency, and just explain what was done. We cannot put back the crushed rock, which is so sad and unfortunate and it crushes my heart. Our ancestors died there. There was a battle and lives were lost. It’s just so hard to put it into words, but the desecration that occurred–there’s no undoing that. That’s what’s really hard and sad and hard to take about this whole situation,” said Cochran. She continued saying, “Moving forward, I’d like something like this to never happen again.”
“We just want to stand here as a community and support the Hawaiian culture, and really address the issue across the county and across the state that the Hawaiians and the Hawaiian culture will no longer be put on the side. It must be paramount. It needs to be considered in all of our decisions,” said Nishiki.
Cochran concluded saying, “You don’t need to agree with it, but at least say I hear you and I respect you and we’ll take it into account and not repeat the mistakes that we did. It was a mistake, and again, it’s very very hurtful that we cannot put the pieces back together again, but from here on out, with all the power that I have, I will make sure it never happens again,” said Cochran.
During his address, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa did not mention the rock removal or comments about sacred rocks, but he did speak about the cleanup taking place, saying timing was critical during the initial effort. He also thanked those who participated in the ongoing cleanup of the Valley by saying the following:
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“I would like to thank the men and women who worked tirelessly to fix Kepaniwai Park, our Flood Control along ʻĪao and Kahoma, as well as other areas last year.
This was a monumental, once in a lifetime event, somewhere between a one hundred year and a five hundred year flood. That night, residents said they heard thunder, but really it was boulders rolling down the Wailuku River at incredible speeds.
Our county crews worked fast and hard to get repairs underway, at times placing their own lives in danger. Timing was critical, because right after that flood we had another flood event on New Year’s Eve, which caused no damage due to the repairs made to our flood control. Without those repairs, flood waters could have damaged homes from ʻĪao Parkside to Paukūkalo, and businesses all along Lower Main Street.
Mahalo for all your hard work and know that the community appreciates your efforts, and so do I.