COURTESY OF IKAIKA HUSSEY
Halau Lokahi Public Charter School students and other volunteers helped reassemble an ahu yesterday on the grounds of Iolani Palace. Vandals partly dismantled the ahu, which was built in 1993 for the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, over the weekend.
Vandals desecrate Iolani Palace shrine
More than 20 stones are scattered up to 75 feet from where they were set in 1993
Vandals partly dismantled an ahu on the grounds of Iolani Palace this weekend, scattering more than 20 sacred stones around the grassy area and leaving one atop the site's gated burial mound.
The desecration comes less than a week after a native Hawaiian altar at the summit of Mauna Kea was knocked down.
"It's akin to burning down a black church," said Ikaika Hussey, a native Hawaiian activist. "I think it was a cowardly act of barbarism. The person who did this clearly knew that it was a significant site."
The Iolani Palace ahu was built in 1993 on the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. After the desecration was discovered at about noon yesterday, a group of native Hawaiians gathered at the site to see the damage. Halau Lokahi charter school high school students started the work of putting the ahu back together at around 4 p.m.
The desecration apparently happened sometime late Saturday or early yesterday. No witnesses have come forward.
But Hussey said an unknown man knocked on the door of Iolani Palace at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday and told security guards to "come outside to look at something." The guards told the man they could not leave the palace, according to a mention in the guards' log.
Hussey believes the man might have been a witness or noted something had happened to the ahu.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Students of Halau Lokahi Public Charter School and other members of the Hawaiian community helped rebuild a vandalized ahu yesterday at Iolani Palace. After completing the project, the students performed a spiritual offering, or hookupu, of hula, oli and pule. Varner Allbrett, center, was among those who took part in a hula to Pele.
In addition to scattering stones up to 75 feet from the ahu, vandals also placed one in a tree and a second on the nearby burial mound. In the gated mound area, plants were disrupted and one ti plant was unearthed.
"It becomes a kind of hate speech," said Lynette Cruz, who has placed a stone on the ahu. "Definitely, there's a feeling that it's OK to do this. I think it's just a kind of general disrespect."
Melvin Kalahiki, who helped build the ahu, said there will be a gathering sometime this afternoon to pray at the site.
"Perhaps whoever did this had no idea what they were doing," said Kalahiki as his eyes welled with tears.
The shrine has hundreds of stones, some of which were hand-carried from Hawaiians on the mainland or other islands. Over the years, the ahu has grown as more stones are added.
This is the first time it has been desecrated.
"This ahu was put here. It belongs to the people," Kalahiki said, adding that many feel "a kinship" around the shrine, a regular gathering place for native Hawaiian ceremonies. Some families have even scattered the ashes of their loved ones on the altar, Cruz said.
James Nakapaahu, who has a family stone in the ahu, said the desecration could be some of sort of retaliation -- though he did not know for what.
"This is sacred to all of us," Nakapaahu said. "It's unthinkable."
On Tuesday an alter built in 1997 atop Mauna Kea was vandalized with what appeared to be a machete.
The altar was used for spiritual purposes and also housed the personal items of two soldiers from Hawaii who were killed in Iraq.
Vandals struck two sacred stones in Hilo within a nine-day period in 2003, spray-painting them with Hawaiian words and the dates "1893-2004."