36 more sets of 'iwi found at Ward site
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
The unearthing of more than 45 sets of ancient Hawaiian human remains at a Kaka'ako construction site in recent months is alarming some Hawaiians.
Archeological crews at General Growth Properties' Ward Village Shops project have found 36 sets of remains, or 'iwi, on the six-acre site, future home of Hawai'i's first Whole Foods Market.
That's in addition to 11 sets of 'iwi previously found there. Dwight Yoshimura, General Growth Properties' senior vice president, confirmed the latest finds to The Advertiser yesterday.
Paulette Kaleikini, a cultural descendant of the remains, said she learned last month that in the process of relocating the original 11 sets, General Growth crews found 11 more.
But it wasn't until Friday, at the deposition of a former state archaeologist in a related court proceeding, that Kaleikini and others with an interest in the 'iwi learned the second find had climbed to 36. A cultural descendant is someone who can prove her ancestors once lived within a certain ahupua'a, or traditional Hawaiian land division.
The project has been a continuing source of concern for the descendants who oppose General Growth's initial plan to relocate the original 11 'iwi to a separate location, though some recognized cultural descendants of the Ward area support the relocation of the 'iwi. Kaleikini and other descendants, citing traditional Hawaiian culture, asked that they remain in place. However, the O'ahu Island Burial Council voted 6-4 in favor of the relocation last fall.
"If the council were aware that the burial sites contained at least 47 sets of remains, it may have decided differently," Kaleikini said. "The council was concerned at its last meeting that there might be more burials at that time. Now it has come true."
Yoshimura said the additional discoveries have surprised him and others at General Growth. "We did a very extensive inventory survey of the six-acre parcel and we only discovered 11," he said. "We did our best to see whether or not there were any previously identified remains and the only ones we found were those 11."
Archaeologists have notified the State Historic Preservation Division of the findings when they happen as required, Yoshimura said.
"We want to be respectful and sensitive to this whole issue," he said.
Yoshimura said he is unclear what impact the new finds will have on the project, adding that they were found on the 'ewa-makai end of the property.
"For the most part, the majority of the construction is occurring away from this particular area," he said.
The project includes a Whole Foods Market, a 17-story rental apartment building, assorted retail shops and a parking garage at the diamondhead end of Auahi Street. The $100 million project is expected to be done during the first half of next year.
Melanie Chinen, administrator with the historic preservation division, would not comment on the Kaka'ako project, citing pending litigation involving her agency.
Attorney Moses Haia of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represents Kaleikini, said because the 36 new sets are being classified as "inadvertent" burial finds, the State Historic Preservation Division has final say on the future of the 'iwi.
Haia, Kaleikini and others want the newly found 'iwi classified as "previously discovered," which would leave their final resting place in the hands of the burial council.
Chinen already has given the OK for three of the sets to be reinterred with the original 11 and is expected to now make a determination on the remaining 33 sets, Kaleikini said.
A group of descendants, led by Kaleikini of the Keawemahi family and Edward Halealoha Ayau of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna 'o Hawai'i Nei, said they will hold a news conference at the construction site in front of Auahi Street today to raise their concerns with the growing number of burial finds.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Archeological crews, and not construction workers, hired by General Growth Properties located 36 additional sets of 'iwi, or human remains, on the Ward Villages site in Kaka'ako in recent weeks. A previous version of this story gave incorrect information. Also, some recognized cultural descendants of the Ward area support the relocation of the 'iwi. That point was not clear in the story.