Maui News

Update: DLNR encourages respect after rock throwing incident at culturally sacred site

December 28, 2021, 6:19 PM HST
* Updated December 29, 3:22 PM
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Update:

The individual who posted a video of a large rock being throwing into Lake Waiau has reportedly contacted the the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and apologized for her actions. Earlier this month, she posted the video on her social media platforms and then removed it after learning of the disrespect it caused. 

Department officials say the woman contacted DLNR Tuesday night to apologize for her role in highlighting what is considered a culturally disrespectful act.

She told authorities that she didn’t toss the rock into the high-altitude lake and that she only “recorded the rock throwing.”

“I removed the video as soon as someone told me it was disrespectful. I filmed someone else throwing the rock in,” she said.  She told department officials that she did see a sign that prohibits swimming,  watercraft, and rock piling. While signage doesn’t specifically address throwing rocks into the lake, she said had she known it was disrespectful to Native Hawaiians, she would not have recorded the video and posted it.

She added that she does not know the identify of the person who threw the rock. The woman also issued an apology on Instagram but disabled her account after receiving several death threats, according to DLNR.

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Steve Bergfeld, the Hawaiʻi Island Branch Manager for the the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife said, “While the rock throwing, the videotaping, and posting are all seen as being disrespectful none of these acts should result in people being threatened in any fashion… We bring these issues to the public’s attention in the hope people will become better educated about what is acceptable (pono) culturally in Hawai’i.”

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Lake Waiau and the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve are under DOFAW’s jurisdiction.

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A recent incident involving a social media post showing large rocks being thrown into a culturally sacred lake on Hawaiʻi Island, drew the attention of both state conservation managers and law enforcement.

DLNR has attempted to contact the woman involved but hasn’t received a response, and department officials say it appears she has removed her social media postings related to the incident.

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According to DLNR, the rock-throwing photos were posted earlier this month.

Jordan “Kama” Lee-Loy, a specialist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Natural Area Reserve system said, “She came up here and decided it was a good idea to throw rocks into the lake. There are several obvious reasons this is upsetting, both to the ecological community that lives here and to the Native Hawaiian community. It can be seen as pretty disrespectful tossing large rocks into a place that Hawaiian culture reveres and holds in such high regard.”

Located at the 13,000-foot-level of Mauna Kea, Lake Waiau is culturally significant and in Hawaiian mythology, three deities (goddesses) inhabited the area. 

Signs near the trailhead to the lake clearly identify Waiau as a Hawaiian sacred site. Swimming, use of watercraft, and rock piling are prohibited. One sign explains, “the Natural Area Reserve System was established to protect representative examples of natural history, land, and water areas which support unique Hawaiian ecosystems.” It asks for all visitors to help maintain the reserves in their natural state.

 Lee-Loy says while the woman may not have meant to be disrespectful, he would like her to understand the level of obvious disrespect for the people who visit Lake Waiau culturally, ancestrally, and have ties to the place. “Though she may not have meant any ill will, whenever you visit anyplace and are unfamiliar with the cultural practices, the best idea is to understand the connection to the people and how you can respectfully visit a place without causing a disturbance or disrespectful action,” he said.

Offerings left at the side of Lake Waiau also got Lee-Loy’s attention. “We don’t want to limit traditional and customary practices, but I’m pretty sure an orange left as an offering is not culturally significant. We ask for everyone to be mindful not to inadvertently introduce invasive species like ants or non-native plants by leaving them as offerings.”

Lake Waiau is one of the highest elevation lakes in the US. Its size fluctuates considerably as water levels change, largely dependent on precipitation amounts from snow and rain.   It currently is surrounded by a mantle of snow.

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