1,275 Rocks Returned to Haleakalā in 2017
More than 1,200 rocks were returned to Maui’s Haleakalā National Park in 2017. That amounts to about 100 per month.
National Park representatives say: “Letters of apology to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, often accompany these rocks. Expressions of regret over taking the rocks are common; people attribute misfortune in their lives to the taking of rocks and they apologize to Pele for their error.”
The information was shared in a Facebook post that has since been shared thousands of times in less than one week.
In the post, Polly Angelakis, Chief of Interpretation & Education at Haleakalā explains: “This view may be rooted in the Native Hawaiian belief that plants, animals, and rocks are imbued with spiritual significance. Hawaiian culture teaches that nature is the physical manifestation of Hawaiian gods and goddesses. The Hawaiian value of malama ‘āina (caring for the land) is connected to this belief and promotes respect of the natural world.”
Park representatives say the process of accepting returned rocks is not an easy one. “Due to concerns over introducing foreign bacteria and diseases, which can harm endangered native species, the National Park Service freezes the returned rocks for one month, before placing them in the gardens in front of our Summit District visitor centers.”
The rocks cannot be returned to the crater because doing, parks officials say, so confuses the geological story, since they do not know what part of the volcano the rocks came from.
Parks officials note that taking anything from a National Park is illegal.
The park receives 1.5 million visitors per year.
“If everyone took a rock home, native habitats would be harmed and there’d be nothing left for the future. Plus, our freezer just isn’t big enough,” parks officials wrote in a follow up post.