Saturday, March 27, 2004

Plan in works to reinter
remains at Wal-Mart site

Wal-Mart said it is working on a plan to inter the human remains uncovered at the site of the Wal-Mart/Sam's Club project at the Keeaumoku superblock.

The state Historic Preservation Division made a determination last month that the remains found at the site will be relocated and reburied on-site, said Cynthia Lin, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart.

"We have been throughout this whole process committed to treating the remains with respect and with appropriate cultural protocols," Lin said.

About 25 skeletal remains were uncovered between January and March 2003. To date, a total of 42 sets of remains -- 35 adults and seven juveniles -- have been dug up in six separate locations on the southwest and northwest sections of the project site.

Nineteen remains, including that of an infant, that were found in one burial area are believed to have been the result of the smallpox epidemic of 1853.

On Feb. 20, the Oahu Burial Council unanimously recommended relocation of the remains and reinterment at the site.

On Feb. 26, the state Historic Preservation Division concluded that the "cultural appropriateness of the proposed relocation site is greater than leaving the remains in place and that current conditions constitute possible and ongoing harm."

Descendants former owners of the property support the , according to state documents.

A relocation was also favored by Wal-Mart because of the requirements imposed upon it by the city to address traffic congestion and noise concerns.

Some of the burials were discovered in the area where a concrete receiving area and driveway to provide truck access and maneuvering room for the loading docks were being built. Another burial site is in an area where a ramp to upper-level parking was planned.

Wal-Mart has begun discussions with the Historic Preservation Division and recognized descendants to develop a plan to reinter the remains, Lin said.

The proposed plan will set out procedures for how the remains are to be removed, where they will be curated and the proposed burial site, said Holly McEldowney, administrator for the Historic Preservation Division. The remains will be reinterred in a single site on the property.

While there is no timetable for the reburial, "we'd like things to happen," McEldowney said. "We don't want the remains to be left in limbo."

Wal-Mart, which expects the entire project to be completed this fall, has previously proposed reinterring the remains in the southwest corner of the property.

The plan will be sent to the descendants, the Oahu Island Burial Council and other interested parties. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over any inadvertent discovery of human remains more than 50 years old, must review and approve the plan before Wal-Mart can remove any of the remains.


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