Maui News

Protest Signs Condemn Residential Construction for ‘Desecration’ of Iwi

October 20, 2019, 2:50 AM HST
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Signs that read “shame on Maui County,” and “lies, desecration, greed,” are greeting drivers traveling along Maui Lani Parkway.  

In addition to the signs, several upside-down Hawaiian flags with similar messages written on them are hanging from trees lining the sidewalk. 

The symbols express opposition to the construction of 60 new single-family homes for the last phase of The Parkways at Maui Lani due to the presence of iwi kūpuna, or human remains. 

“Iwi kūpuna contains mana, and itʻs their collective mana that gives life to us as kanaka,” Noelani Ahia, a descendant of the area, explained.  

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Construction crews almost finished leveling land for the 11-acre project when Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza stopped further development back in April. 

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The order came after Ahia alleged landowners HBT of Maui Lani disturbed about 180 iwi during construction. 

“We really need to see the laws being enforced, because they havenʻt been and that area has so much desecration,” Ahia added.  

Since Aprilʻs preliminary injunction, the developers have been instructed to use ground penetrating radar, or GPR, to survey the area for burials in a noninvasive way.

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After using GPR the company reported about 194 unidentified objects beneath the construction site grounds.

“Those 194 anomalies could be iwi, or some could be iwi, or like my attorney said, you know, even if itʻs one iwi, and you disturb it, thatʻs too much,” Ahia said. 

During a court hearing on Friday, Ahiaʻs attorney, David K. Kopper, argued the GPR report did not clearly outline which parts of the site would undergo heavy construction. 

Kopper called the lack of clarity from HBT “concerning.”

Maui Now has requested a statement from HBT’s attorney Michael Carroll, who said his client does not have a comment at this time.

However, Carroll claimed during the hearing that there is no evidence pointing to the desecration of iwi from construction.

Judge Cardoza ordered the company to provide a comprehensive map that compares the GPR findings with a construction blueprint by next week. 

“I think the judge could see today, quite clearly, that the GPR is not enough,” Ahia said after the hearing.  

Kapulani Antonio, a Hawaiian history teacher at Kamehameha Schools Maui who served on the Maui Lānaʻi Island burial council for 6 years, said the law should be rewritten to offer iwi more protection.  

“It’s really sad because the law doesn’t allow us to look at it as a whole complex,” Antonio said.

“Every time a development comes up, and they find something, itʻs like, ‘oh, we found an inadvertent find,’ and then the next week, ‘oh we found another,’ and the next…to us it’s ridiculous.”

But Antonio argues the issue runs even deeper. 

“All these foreign businesses coming in…telling us what to do with our land, what to do with our water, and now, telling us how to treat our iwi kūpuna, thatʻs an unbelievable insult,” Antonio said. 

“If it was their ancestors, it would be a different story.”

In the meantime, another court hearing has been set for later this month. 

As for the signs, it is unknown who exactly placed them there, but their message remains clear. 

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