Groups stand in solidarity to protect Native Hawaiian burials, historic sites

A new bill is making its way through the Hawaii Legislature that would allow for development to begin on certain projects, prior to an archaeological inventory survey.

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April 23, 2013

Two weeks ago, Senate Bill 1171 made it past the state House and is currently in conference committee—where the House and Senate must agree upon amendments before it’s sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Senator Donna Mercado Kim, D-District 14, introduced the bill on Jan. 24 and the bill is meant to allow for a phased archaeology review of development projects as determined by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD). This is in response to the rail project, which had been stopped due to the lack of a full Archeological Inventory Survey (AIS). The bill has caused an uproar in the Hawaiian community and some have said it’s a reminder of the Public Land Development Corporation, which Abercrombie signed legislation to abolish on Monday.

Yesterday, a group called the Friends of SHPD held a press conference at the State Capitol expressing opposition to the bill.  Representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Oahu Island Burial Council, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society of Hawaiian Archaeology and the Sierra Club joined to oppose.

“If this bill becomes law, large-scale developments could begin without first identifying all of the burial sites, and historic properties that might lay in the path of a bulldozer, and reporting them in an archaeological inventory survey, or AIS,” Ty Tengan stated on behalf of all the opposing organizations.

“SB1171 attacks the very foundation of historic preservation, if not the foundations of Hawaii itself. The first principle of historic preservation is to look for sites upfront so you can make reasoned decisions about how to treat them. Phasing, or piece-mealing archaeological studies, as conceived in SB1171, does not allow for responsible planning and reasoned decision-making. Iwi kupuna (ancestral remains) and historic sites are entitled to appropriate identification and treatment before construction starts.”

Update 4/23/13: A decision making meeting has been scheduled tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.