A Legacy of Lies

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

Last month I shared with Hawaiians my efforts to get the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the State of Hawaiʻi Historic Preservation Division (SHPD), the University of Hawaii (UH), and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to work together to protect Kumukahi.

In my last article, I explained how UH had obtained title to sacred Kumukahi by promising to create an educational program and curriculum within the UH system for this wahi pana (sacred place). After two long Zoom meetings with Greg Chun of UH and DLNR staff members (the two state agencies that hold title to these lands) I was shocked by their proposal.

Their solution is to “gift” the land to OHA so that OHA can create an educational curriculum, hire a contractor, pay for the Burial Treatment Plan (BTP), pay for the Historic Preservation Plan (HPP), and then pay for the (MP) Management plan! In addition, Chun suggested that it is OHA’s job to work with lineal descendants to protect the area from desecration and tourism.

This plan is nothing less than the continuance of a big lie. The record shows that years ago, after UH received this land, they initiated cultural “huakaʻi” (little tours) to Kumukahi for astronomy and science linked to Mauna Kea. UH Hilo took Kumukahi for astronomy purposes and did not protect its cultural resources or sacred burials.

Even more outrageous is UH’s claim that they “have no money” to implement the law. You can look it up online. In 2023, the UH Foundation brought in over $100 million, and in 2024, they anticipate bringing in $1 billion. According to Chun, that money is not for anything related to culture.

It is time to stop the desecration of Kumukahi. It is time for UH and DLNR to conduct LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning of the parcels to identify cultural sites and burials.

It is time for UH and DLNR to: 1) Complete a burial treatment plan for the state lands in the area; 2) Undertake the Historic Preservation Plan; and, 3) Create a Management Plan for the area. Only when these three steps are completed can Kumukahi be transferred to OHA as Legacy Lands.

We tried for many years to work with UH and DLNR to protect Mauna Kea. Some 25,000 people came to support our effort. More than 60 kūpuna camped there day and night until they were eventually arrested, charged as criminals, and dragged thru two years of trials. But we won. Now OHA has had to go back to court to protect Mauna Kea. Do we also have to sue UH and DLNR over Kumukahi?

I was one of the Mauna kupuna. I am sending this kāhea (call) to all Hawaiians to be ready to come forward to protect the iwi kūpuna at Kumukahi. I have practiced and worshiped at Kumukahi for more than 40 years. If I must go back to get arrested, I will do so and I will send a message to our Hawaiʻi ‘ohana to come to join me.

There is a way for us to resolve this, but it takes honest and good faith effort on the part of everyone. To address these matters, a Zoom call was recently arranged with UH President David Lassner. However, the day before the meeting he abruptly cancelled, and I have yet to hear back from him to reschedule. I will keep you all posted.

We will go forward together, Mililani