One of the reasons land developers tend to get bad press is that their hotels, resorts and shopping centers often disturb the remains of those who lived here before the arrival of Westerners. The general rule is that any bones (iwi) found during construction must stay where found. If that can’t happen, then those who dug them up must rebury them as close as possible to their original site.
Apparently, this plan of action–which is actually part of state law–isn’t working too well, because now the state Senate is kicking around SB 320, which proposes that we simply bury all the bones we can’t really find a place for over on Kaho‘olawe.
“Hawaii’s Senate is considering a bill that would designate the island of Kahoolawe as the resting place for unknown or ‘inadvertently discovered’ Hawaiian bones when those remains can’t be reburied nearby,” the Associated Press reported on Jan. 31. “The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, which includes the Historic Preservation Division, supports the bill.”
The bill actually appeared in 2013, but was deferred to this session. It’s also slightly controversial.
“The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) OPPOSES SB320, which requires that iwi kupuna in the possession of the State whose provenience is unknown be reinterred on Kaho‘olawe,” an OHA representative testified back on Feb. 13, 2013. “Iwi kupuna have been purposefully placed and their locations should be honored. In recent years, most burials have been discovered in burial sites and therefore have ancestral origin information. In these cases, iwi should either remain in place, or be reburied in the area in which they were found to honor the intent of the original decedent or ‘ohana.”
The Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs is scheduled to take up the bill at 2:45pm on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons