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Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Human bones
halt Kalakaua Ave.

Mayor Harris holds a meeting
with members of a Hawaiian
burial group after complaints

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The city is halting construction on a water main project along Kalakaua Avenue while it figures out what to do about human remains found while digging up the street.

The 37 sets of bones unearthed represent a serious violation of historic preservation law, according to a group dedicated to the proper care of Hawaiian burial remains.

"At best it's negligence, at worst it's woeful disregard for the laws that should protect our kupuna," said Kehau Abad, a member of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawaii Nei.

Mayor Jeremy Harris met behind closed doors yesterday morning with officials from the Oahu Burial Council, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawaii Nei and other native Hawaiian groups to discuss what to do with the remains. After the meeting he said his staff is reviewing the city's overall policy on handling of remains found in the course of city construction projects.

Abad said the latest incident is part of a pattern of neglect on the part of the city when it comes to historic preservation requirements.

She said human remains were found at six other projects where the city failed to meet its historic preservation law requirements.

The city either failed to submit project plans for review by the Historic Preservation Division, failed to disclose the full nature or extent of projects, or did not have archaeological monitors present until after remains were discovered, Abad said.

"Any one of these cases could have turned into a really huge problem. Their luck ran out on Kalakaua Avenue," she said.

Harris said that as soon as it was discovered that bones were disturbed, the city informed the Historic Preservation Division. The city was then required to have an onsite archaeological monitor oversee the waterline project, the mayor said.

Peter Apo, the city's director of Waikiki development, has been charged with resolving the current problem by working with the potential descendants on a reburial plan.

Apo will help set up a program that will instruct the city's engineers and its private contractors on how to handle the disruption of remains during construction, the mayor said. The program will include a publication showing the do's and don't's of handling burial remains.

"We're going to make sure everybody in the process knows exactly what the rules are and that they are to be sensitive and respectful about the iwi kupuna," Harris said.

The city is also placing advertisements in local newspapers seeking the identities of descendants of Hawaiian families who have lived in the area of the waterline project.

E-mail to City Desk

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