The Awakening of Honokahua: Part II


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Photo: Edward Halealoha AyauIn 1988 Edward Kanahele wrote a letter to the editor bringing attention to the dire situation at Honokahua and media coverage swelled placing Honokahua at the forefront of the thoughts and conscience of many throughout Hawai‘i. Dana Nāone Hall describes this situation: “Disturbing and displacing Native Hawaiian iwi was not new. What differentiated Honokahua was a drawn-out excavation process that occurred over many months, not a quick unearthing and scattering witnessed by a few. It provided the time necessary for people to comprehend the magnitude of what was happening and, most importantly, to reflect on the spiritual and moral dimensions of such actions. Once the reality of Honokahua pierced the public conscience, the digging had to stop.

Edward Kanahele. Photo: Courtesy

Community members throughout the islands were outraged by the news coming out of Honokahua, with the disinterments numbering 791 individuals by October 1988. What followed was an outpouring of disbelief, concern, anguish and sheer determination to halt further excavations. On December 11, 1988 a protest was held at Honokahua and some placed blame on Hui Alanui o Mākena and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, while others recognized that the responsibility lay with the County Planning Commission for granting the SMA permit for the development without meaningful consultation with the Hawaiian community. There simply was no legal authority to protect unmarked Hawaiian burial sites at that time. Emotions were running high. On December 22, 1988, a vigil was held at the State Capitol and ‘Iolani Palace to protest the excavations at Honokahua. Immediately following that, Governor Waihe‘e met with concerned Hawaiian activists, calling the matter a “moral issue” and stating that the digging “must stop.”12

Hui Alanui o Mākena ceremonially reinterred the 1,100 iwi kūpuna and their moepū and were able to protect in place approximately half of the iwi kūpuna and moepū buried at Honokahua while reburying the other half. The circle was now complete and at the time Hall described the situation as follows: “During negotiations regarding the Honokahua Site, Colin Cameron stated that what he and his partners sought in the resolution of the issue was to be ‘made whole’ again. I might add that our cultural desire as Hawaiians paralleled that economic desire, and by the end of April of this year (1990), the site was made whole again with the reinterment of the iwi.” The momentum created by the events at Honokahua carried over into the legislative realm.