For many Native Hawaiians, the question of which is the largest
Hawaiian burial site disturbance leads to a quick response, "Honokahua."
However, the largest pre-contact Native Hawaiian burial removal occurred
on the island of O`ahu at Mokapu and Heleloa which comprises portions of
the ahupua`a of He`eia and Kane`ohe. Following the intentional
removal of ancestral remains by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and the
University of Hawai`i Department of Anthropology, and following the inadvertent
discovery of additional ancestors over the years, the skeletal remains
and burial objects of approximately 1,600 ancestral Native Hawaiians were
disturbed and removed from Mokapu and Heleloa and are currently stored
at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.
The purpose of this vignette is to share the story of the largest
eviction of Native Hawaiian ancestors in the modern era by discussing the
events that took place, i.e. disinterment, recovery, dates each event took
place, history of land tenure from the time of the Mahele, identification
of those individuals and entities responsible for removal and recovery,
and the motivations, applicable laws, cultural implications, lack of notice,
consultation and consent from living Native Hawaiians:
"If there is anything Native Hawaiians will come to know it's
eviction. They evict us when we're alive, they evict us when we're dead.
We are never safe. Our responsibility is to protect our sense of place."
- Punahele Lerma
Land Tenure in the Peninsula: He`eia and Kane`ohe Ahupua`a
Following the Mahele, Mokapu Peninsula was kept as Crown Lands.
Ko`olaupoko District Chief Abner Pãki was awarded over 3,000
acres in He`eia ahupua`a (LCA 10613) and Queen Kalama, wife of Kamehameha
III was awarded over 9,000 acres in Kãne`ohe ahupua`a (LCA
4452). Both awards were given for nearly the entire ahupua`a. Lands
situated in the ahupua`a of He`eia awarded to Pãki reverted
to the Crown following his death in 1856.
Paki's portion of ili Mokapu was sold at auction to William
and John Sumner and included 464 acres. John Sumner became sole owner upon
his brother's death, and left the lands in trust to Robert Wyllie Davis,
his nephew. The area was later divided into house lots in 1932 and sold
off. In 1940, by Federal Executive Order through the U.S. Navy, all 331
parcels on the 464 acres were condemned and a Declaration of Takings enacted.1 This action occurred ten
months following completion of the University of Hawai`i excavations at
Lands situated in the ahupua`a of Kane`ohe that once
belonged to Queen Kalama were purchased by Judge C.C. Harris in 1871 including
ili Heleloa. The lands were later inherited by his daughter, Nannie
R. Rice. In the late 1800s, some parcels were leased to J.P. Mendoca for
cattle ranching. In 1907, James B. Castle bought stock in the ranch which
had become known as Kane`ohe Ranch, and by 1917, his son Harold K. Castle
had purchased the property from Mrs. Rice. Since 1918, the military controlled
portions of ili Kuwa`a`ohe, situated in Kãne`ohe ahupua`a,
where a camp was established. During World War I the camp was not used.
However, in 1939, Camp Kuwa`a`ohe was reactivated. In 1940, access to Mokapu
was restricted because the United States was going to build a major naval
base and negotiations were ongoing. In 1952, the entire peninsula became
part of the Kane`ohe Marine Corps Station and under federal ownership.
Removal and Recovery of Native Hawaiians by the Bishop Museum, the
University of Hawai`i, the U.S. Navy, the State of Hawai`i, and Private
TABLE OF DISINTERMENTS FROM THE MOKAPU PENINSULA 1915 - PRESENT
Bryan & Thrum
Emory & BM
Bowles & Emory
Bowen & BM
Force Main Tr
* discarded due to poor condition
** noremains identified as acc 1934.035 found during inventory
From 1925 to 1940, jurisdiction over burials recovered from He`eia
and Heleloa belonged to the Territorial Government, not the United States.
The Territorial law on reburial was applicable and governed both Bishop
Museum exploratory excavations and the large scale excavations by the University
The Territorial Government may have some responsibility for
the 1938 excavations, since its agent, the Director of the Sanitation Department,
permitted excavation of human skeletal remains from He`eia on the condition
that (1) proper containers are used, (2) individual remains are distinguished
and separately treated, (3) all containers and boxes must be labeled temporary
acquisitions or in temporary custody, and (4) ultimate disposition,
if ever, must be reburial.
The actions of Professor Bowles is clearly on behalf of the
University of Hawaii`i who authorizes him to direct field work and laboratory
study of the skeletal remains from the He`eia exploratory excavations.
However, it is clear that the permit from the Sanitation Department was
conditioned on the Bishop Museum, not the University of Hawai`i, guaranteeing
compliance with the territorial law to rebury.
Therefore, we believe that both the Bishop Museum and the University
of Hawai`i share responsibility with regard to the 1938 large scale excavations
and should assist with completion of the repatriation and reburial of the
ancestral skeletal remains they ordered removed and studied. Both institutions
should be reminded that at the time this action originally occurred, an
important legal requirement for excavation was that the remains be reburied
and that the time has come to fulfill that legal mandate. Bishop Museum
of course is solely responsible for excavations of the 119 individuals
during the exploratory excavations led by Dr. Emory in the spring of 1938.
The University of Hawai`i and Bishop Museum should provide funding
necessary to acquire all reburial materials including kapa,lauhala and aha for the 965 ancestral Native Hawaiians that
Dr. Bowles and Dr. Emory were responsible for excavating.
How can the Hawaiian nation heal itself from the wounds of Western
contact when such actions have included inflictions that served to undermine
the very foundation of it's families?
The United States Navy contracted the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
to conduct its NAGPRA inventory for Mokapu and Heleloa. As part of the
contractual work, Bishop Museum subcontractor Dr. Sara Collins examined
many of the Mokapu and Heleloa ancestors. Hui Malama strongly objected
to the study of these ancestral remains and filed a lawsuit in federal
district court in an attempt to prevent the osteological information from
being released, thereby exacerbating the offense already caused to the
ancestors by these unnecessary actions. Certain individuals, however, made
sure they would receive copies of the report prior to the federal district
court ruling by requesting copies under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) following intial institution of the suit. These individuals include:
Dr. Tom Dye, 813 16th Avenue, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96816
Dr. Sara Collins, 2231 Noah Street, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96816
Dr. James Anthony, Hawai`i La`ieikawai Assoc., P. O. Box 720,
Other individuals which received copies of the report include: the
claimants, members of the NAGPRA Review Committee, O`ahu Island Burial
Council, Dr. Rober Hommon of the National Park Service, Archaeological
Assistance Division, National Park Service in Washington, D.C., Belt Collins
& Associates, and the legal team representing the U.S. Navy in the
litigation, including Daria Zane, Theodore Meeker, Richard Eddy, and the
Office of Counsel for the Commandant. Reports which were made available
to the Hawai`i State Library, Kane`ohe Regional Library, and Ogden Environmental
& Energy Services were subsequently recovered by the Navy.
It was represented to Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei that after
two years, the reports kept by the Navy would be destroyed in compliance
with federal regulations. Although we have not been notified of such actions,
we sincerely hope this has been done. In addition, we request those
who have these reports to destroy the sections that relate to the examination
of the remains to help mitigate the shame and anguish felt by these ancestors
for being exposed in such an offensive manner.
We also request kokua in convincing the U.S. Navy and the
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum to agree to destroy the photographs and negatives
taken of the ancestral Mokapu and Heleloa remains.
Ultimately, Judge Ezra ruled against Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i
Nei stating that the Mokapu report could be released for public consumption.
However, in doing so, Judge Ezra did not base his ruling on kanawai
(Hawaiian law) and values such as malama and kupale.
Instead, the ruling was based on a highly questionable interpretation of
NAGPRA and its legislative history, and on FOIA.
The question remains -- how do Native Hawaiians obtain justice for
transgressions of the kanawai, such as the removal of hundreds of
burials without the consent of the living families and the examination
and photography of these ancestors, again without consent? The answer must
Imua na poki`i a inu i ka wai `awa`awa, a`ohe hope e ho`i
Forward my children and drink the bitter waters
there is no turning back.
Imperative to Reinter
Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i Nei believes that in order for Native
Hawaiians to firmly and with focused movement (`onipa`a), realize
their future, we must amongst other responsibilities, take appropriate
care of the past by reestablishing and strengthening the ancestral foundation.
It is through this important foundation, that our house (our future) will
be built. Lãhui means all of us, especially the original citizens
of our great nation.
Together with the other claimants, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai`i
Nei has forcefully advocated for the repatriation and reinterment of these
1,600 ancestors. They have been waiting far too long to go home. E `ae
ia lakou e ho`i.
Impediments to Reinterment
After a year of kukakuka for the express purpose of acquiring
the authorization to repatriate and reinter 1,600 ancestral remains through
the unification of all fifteen separate claims under NAGPRA into one, five
claimants decided not to unify with the majority of individuals and Native
Hawaiian organizations. The parties have urged the U.S. Navy to proceed
to determine the rightful claimants. However, the Navy has done little
to advise the parties involved as to its process and timetable for such
decision making. We have waited over two years for a decision.
The five individuals opposing repatriation are demanding that the ancestral
remains be subject to DNA analysis in order to clarify family lines, that
they be granted unrestricted access to the base, surfing spots, and other
conditions. These individuals include Rubellite Johnson, Sam Monet,
Frank Nobriga, Carlos Mahi Manuel and Eric Po`ohina.
The difficulty with the position to subject the Mokapu ancestors to
DNA analysis for purposes of possibly clarifying lineal descent amongst
the claimants is that the process is irreversible. Should the five claimants
turn out not to be family to these ancestors, the desecration would have
to occur first, in order for the issue to possibly be clarified. This implication
renders the demand for DNA unacceptable. Scientists may argue the process
is non-intrusive, however, from the cultural perspective, to delve into
the very origins of these ancestors is nothing but an intrusion of their
being, and an escalation of their shame and anguish. The price to be paid
by the five opponents for being wrong is much too high.
Attempts over a two year period to reconcile differences with these
five claimants have proven unsuccessful. All were repeatedly invited to
join the majority to present a single unified claim on behalf of the ancestral
and living families. All five have refused. On behalf of the Mokapu and
Heleloa ancestors, any kokua would be greatly appreciated.