Stop the Desecration of Kumukahi Now!

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

Kumukahi is one of the most sacred wahi pana of the Hawaiian people. It is the “aurora” of our culture, the place where the rising sun first touches our ‘āina.

From time immemorial, Hawaiians, including voyagers and fisher folk, kept the twin fires at Kumukahi burning brightly throughout the night to steer travelers home safely.

Following the overthrow of the monarchy, the sacred fires were extinguished, and for many years there was no way for our lawaiʻa to find their way home safely. Many others who are not Hawaiian were also lost at sea. It was Prince Kūhiō who, as a delegate to the U.S. Congress, moved the federal government to erect a lighthouse at Kumukahi.

Two generations later, the U.S. declared the lighthouse to be “surplus.” Existing law required that “surplus” lands be returned to the State of Hawaiʻi to be held in trust for the public and Native Hawaiians. This never happened because the University of Hawaiiʻ intervened, claiming that they needed the land for “education.” They said that they were going to develop a “curriculum” for this purpose.

But a curriculum was never created. Instead, the university neglected the area leaving it unattended and unprotected.

Sacred Kumukahi is now littered with broken glass, discarded trash, abandoned vehicles, scattered piles of human feces and toilet paper, and evidence of illegal activities – including discarded intravenous needles.

Mahalo to the Men of Paʻa, the Lono Lyman Estate, and the County of Hawaiʻi for their ongoing kōkua to clean the area. They have worked together to haul out all the rusted vehicles that were abandoned there, and to clean up the area for cultural practitioners.

I am now 72 years old. I have practiced and worshiped at Kumukahi at sunrise since I was in my mid-20s. I am currently working with other Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) trustees, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) to address and resolve these problems.

The lands of Kumukahi are appropriate for protection under the OHA Legacy Lands Program. The appropriate partners for OHA are the Men of Paʻa and Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo.

The Hawaiians at Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani are the educators most qualified to create a curriculum for Kumukahi.

The Men of Paʻa worked with a local Hawaiian nonprofit to raise funds to hire Kepā and Onaona Mally of Kumu Pono Associates who have already completed a historic assessment of all data relating to Kumukahi. This information was gathered in three languages (English, Hawaiian, and Niʻihau Hawaiian). These data are currently available to everyone on the Kumu Pono Associates website (www.kumupono.com/malama-kumukahi/). These data are what we need to create a new Hawaiian curriculum for the area.

Many Hawaiians are very upset about the ongoing desecration of Kumukahi, as am I. If we are going to protect our wahi pana, we must work together with others to ensure that these precious resources are maintained for future generations.

OHA, DLNR, SHPD (State of Hawaiʻi Historic Preservation Division), and UH can work together to come up with a solution to preserve this unique cultural area for future generations and maintain it as a sacred place of worship and a precious educational resource for our children.

I am committed to achieving this in the coming year so that future generations of our keiki will be able to worship here.