3 cultural groups want a voice in disposition of wooden icons
KAILUA-KONA » Three West Hawaii cultural and community groups are warning of unspecified "civil action" against a residential and golf development at Kohanaiki, North Kona, where old Hawaiian wooden images were found in a lava tube cave in September.
Kohanaiki Ohana, Pono I Ke Kanawai and Na Keiki Hee Nalu O Hawaii expressed anger at the "willful exclusion of interested parties" who were not consulted when the images were found.
"This week, we were informed by local and outside island groups of plans and intent to conduct acts of civil disobedience against the development," the groups said in a statement.
The groups said they hope to avoid confrontation, "but we will not interfere, intervene nor be responsible for any civil action by others after Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005." They asked for "resolution" by then.
The three groups "may seek legal remedy," they said.
More than 20 images, believed to be kii, or carved images of gods, were found on the 450-acre property north of Kailua-Kona, where the Shores at Kohanaiki is being created by two California companies, Rutter Development Corp. and Kennedy-Wilson International.
Some of the images were finished objects, while others were incomplete, according to sources familiar with them. Probably dating from the first half of the 19th century, they might be religious images hidden when the old Hawaiian religion was overthrown or commercial objects created for sale to foreign sailors, said Hawaiian historian Herb Kane.
No human bones were found in the lava tube, said the development's archaeological consultant, Paul Rosendahl.
The fact that this is not a burial site and was accidentally discovered gives the landowner the legal right to determine how to dispose of the artifacts, Rosendahl said.
The developers see themselves as custodians of the objects while they work with people with specific family links to the area, he said.
The three groups stated, "Gods do not belong to individuals; they belong to the community whose values and practices they represent. They are the cultural and intellectual property of a social group."
Rosendahl said the developers are not obliged to turn the images over to any particular group that makes a claim. The developers are working with "those with the strongest genealogical and residential ties," he said.
The groups accused the developers of violating a 2003 "good faith agreement" that requires consultation with community groups in case of discoveries.
But Rosendahl said that refers only to a 109-acre shoreline area being developed as a park. A state cave protection law allows landowners to keep cave information confidential to protect it, he said.
The lava tube has been sealed, Rosendahl said.