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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 10, 2005

Families still disagree on Wal-Mart reburial

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

A week before the scheduled reburial of Native Hawaiian bones unearthed during construction of the Wal-Mart complex, descendants remain at odds over when and how the estimated 44 to 50 sets of remains will be reinterred.

The O'ahu Island Burial Council voted yesterday to recognize the Keana'aina family as "lineal descendants" of those buried on four of six areas where bones were found. The Keana'ainas are part of a larger clan whose ancestral family land was in one corner of the Wal-Mart property, on Sheridan and Makaloa streets.

Seventy-seven people have been recognized as descendants with ties to the area surrounding Wal-Mart, a district known as Kalia. But some of them are worried that lineal status may give more power to the Keana'ainas, who have opposed the Feb. 18 reburial date set by the State Historic Preservation Division.

"All our concern is that we holomua (move forward) with the reinterment date," said Paulette Kaleikini. The Kaleikini and Norman families are among those who have favored reburial as soon as possible.

All descendants are to meet with historic preservation officials tomorrow to agree on how the bones should be prepared for reburial and write a "burial treatment plan." Council chairman Van Horn Diamond urged the families to set aside their differences to finish that effort.

"The focus ought to be on their getting together and working it out," he said. "The kuleana (duty) begins with the burial treatment plan. All of the families gotta work it out."

However, prospects for peace seemed dim yesterday. Kaleikini said she planned to contest the council's decision. And several members of the Keana'aina family told the council they believed the hired archaeologist, Aki Sinoto, should be allowed to finish the work of separating the bones from one section of ground where several burials had become co-mingled.

"It's ridiculous to be battling over something like this," said Wilsam Keana'aina. "All we want to do is take care of our family and put them back in the ground."

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.