Remains found on church site


POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2009





        Sets of remains found at other locations:

» 64 at Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku


» About 50 at Ward Village Shops where construction continues for a Whole Foods Market


» 1,000 at Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui in the late 1980s


Construction crews have unearthed 68 undated sets of remains at Kawaiahao Church and could run into more before a multipurpose center is finished in 2010, officials said yesterday.

“;We don't know with any certainty how many more burials are subsurface,”; said Dawn Chang, a cultural consultant for the church.

About a month ago, church officials halted construction of the $18 million center after the remains were disturbed, most beneath a service road on the property. The remains were fragments, secondary burials, or in coffins, Chang said.

Church officials plan to delay the construction for another 30 days until plans are redesigned to avoid running into more bones, or iwi.

;[Preview]    Multiple Grave Disruption Halts Kawaiahao Construction

Work has been suspended on the $17.5 million multipurpose center. Workers dug up 69 human remains, many intact and in coffins.

Watch ]


The changes included widening the multipurpose center's foundation to reduce its depth to 2 1/2 feet from 6 feet and placing underground wiring closer to sewer lines.

Kawaiahao Church, the oldest Christian church on Oahu, broke ground on its center in February.

The church has one of the oldest Western-style cemeteries in Hawaii, with most of the graves dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Before construction began, leaders expected there would be bones in the area and made plans to avoid them. They confined designs for the new building to within the footprint of Likeke Hall, torn down about 1 1/2 years ago to make room for the center.

They also eliminated plans for an underground parking garage, and church volunteers formed a Na Iwi Committee to establish procedures if undocumented burials were found.

Chang said leaders had consulted with families and checked maps before construction began. A 1912 cemetery map didn't show the burials under the current roadway, which was removed to install sewer and electrical utility lines.

During construction, crews found bones stacked up.

Since then, church leaders have met with families with plots nearby. The families helped wrap the iwi and place them into lauhala baskets to be stored in the church sanctuary until they are reburied.

Church leaders have received state permission to relocate the bones, Chang said.

The congregation continues to support the construction as long as the iwi are dealt with respectfully, said Chang and Frank Pestana, chairman of the church board of trustees.