Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Solidarity Action!


Dear ally of Kanaka Maoli Scholars Against Desecration:

Thank you for asking us about our open letter against desecration from
September 13, 2008. We have an update and an URGENT ACTION REQUEST.
Kanaka Maoli Scholars Against Desecration ask that you take time to speak
out and send letters to select Hawai`i state representatives by Wednesday,
October 1 at 5pm HST (11am EDT) before the KNIBC meets on Thursday 9am HST
to review the case again, as per Judge Watanabe’s order.

It is CRUCIAL that letters reach these people by the deadline, especially
from allies outside of Hawai`i so that those trying to circumvent their
own state laws know "the whole world is watching."

On September 15th, 5th circuit Judge Watanabe delivered her oral ruling on
the case opining that the Hawai`i State Historic Preservation Division
(SHPD) failed to follow state law after the Kaua`i-Ni`ihau Island Burial
Council (KNIBC) voted in April to preserve the burials in place. Instead,
state archaeologist Nancy MacMahon (Deputy Officer of the SHPD) improperly
approved a Burial Treatment Plan (BTP) for property owned by California
developer Joseph Brescia, without the consultation of the council.
Still, the judge refused to grant a temporary injunction to haul
construction at the site.

Desecration continues at the site today in violation of HI state law.
Nonetheless, the agency must now consult with the KNIBC, any lineal
descendants of the remains, interested Hawaiian organizations, and the
landowner about a revised BTP. The BTP is now in its third version and
was prepared by contract archaeologists on behalf of the developer Joseph
Brescia. We reject the BTP because "Burial treatment" = desecration.
Desecration is desecration, and it’s against the US federal and HI state
laws. See details on the Hawai`i revised statute 711-1107 in original
letter below.

Besides encouraging you to draw from our original letter (included
further) below as you daft one of your own, here are our suggested key
points to assert in your letter (since these items are on the agenda for
Thursday’s Burial Council meeting re: this case):

* Naue is an ancient Hawaiian cemetery (SHPD doesn't even recognize
that it is a cemetery);

* "Preserve in place" means no building on top of the cemetery at Naue;

* Vertical buffers and concrete jackets around each of the seven burials
within the footprint of the planned residence does NOT constitute
"preserve in place" for those burials as well as the entire cemetery; this
is desecration. No house should be built there;

* It is unacceptable to have no access rights delineated in the most
recent proposal since anyone who might be later recognized as a lineal or
cultural descendant would be cut out of the right to conduct their
tradition religious and customary practices at the site.

Please send all letters to:

Nancy McMahon Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer

AND BE SURE TO CC: the following: (as well as me at jkauanui@wesleyan.edu):

Laura H. Thielen, Chairperson of Department of Land and Natural Resources

Pua Aiu, SHPD Administrator

Hawai`i Gov. Linda Lingle

Kaua`i County Council members

Kaipo Asing, Mayor of Kaua`i

Kaua'i & Ni'ihau Office of Hawaiian Affairs


Mahalo, with thanks, Kehaulani
J. Kehaulani Kauanui

September 13, 2008

Open Letter from Kanaka Maoli Scholars Against Desecration

As Kanaka Maoli professors and scholars we write to publicly condemn the
state-sponsored desecration of a Native Hawaiian burial site at Wainiha,
Kaua`i resulting from the construction of a new home at Naue Point by
California businessman Joseph Brescia. For years Brescia has been trying
to build a home on top of our ancestral graves despite a litany of
environmental, legal and community challenges to his construction. In
2007 Brescia unearthed and then covered over the bones of our ancestors
when he began clearing the area. The illegal and immoral disturbance and
desecration of our ancestors’ remains must stop now.

The Hawai`i revised statute 711-1107 on Desecration specifically states
that no one may commit the offense of desecrating "a place of worship or
burial," and the statute defines "desecrate" as "defacing, damaging,
polluting, or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the defendant
knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or
discover the defendant's action." In complete contradiction to their own
law, the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land
and Natural Resources approved a "burial treatment plan" for Brescia that
undermines both the very concept of historic preservation and the reason
for the founding of the Hawai`i Burials Council: to protect burials, not
"treat" them. This "burial treatment plan" enabled Brescia to secure
permits to build as long as the graves remain "in place," which in this
case means the burials have been capped with concrete already poured for
the footings of his house.

To date, 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe has denied requests for a
temporary restraining order and has even refused to grant a temporary
injunction to stop further construction until the full civil suit is
adjudicated by the state court. State Historic Preservation Division
archaeologist and Kaua`i County Council candidate Nancy McMahon testified
that the dozens of previously identified burials do not constitute a
cemetery, but should be thought of instead as individual grave sites—a
distinction that is meaningless in the laws against the desecration of
burial sites. An archaeologist hired by Brescia, Mike Dega, told the court
that he would not define the site as a cemetery because for "pre-contact"
burials, he has no standards by which he can say a burial ground is a
cemetery. In other words, in his view there is no such thing as a
"pre-contact" (by which he means pre-European or pre-Christian) Native
Hawaiian "cemetery." According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a
cemetery is defined simply as "a burial ground"; within this standard
definition there are no additional historical or cultural qualifications
that need to be met. Dega’s assessments and the court's acceptance of them
shamelessly evade the entire moral and ethical purpose of the legislation
enacted to protect gravesites by playing a deceptive game of words. Let us
be clear: a burial is a cemetery and a cemetery is a burial. No matter
how they describe the grave sites, they cannot erase the existence of the
burials; they cannot turn these graves into a "non-cemetery," and they
cannot erase the reality of the ongoing desecration caused by this

Adding further insult to his desecration of Hawaiian graves, Brescia
recently lodged a lawsuit against six people—all of whom are Kanaka
Maoli—implicated in protecting the burial site from his construction work.
He has charged them with trespassing, unspecified damages, and even
"terroristic acts." Brescia subsequently filed a motion to identify nearly
a dozen more "Doe defendants" and add them to his original lawsuit in an
attempt to include cultural and religious practitioners from neighbor
islands that came to bear witness to and defend against the crimes at
Naue. We strongly condemn this Orwellian view of who should be defined as
trespassing and causing damage.

We call out to all people of conscience to join in our condemnation of the
desecration of the ancestral remains; to support an end to the illegal
construction supported by the state, and to protest any prosecution of
those who have laid their bodies down to prevent the further degradation
of the bones of our kūpuna.


Hokulani Aikau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Political Science, University
of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Carlos Andrade, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for
Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

J. Leilani Basham, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Humanities, University of
Hawai`i at West O`ahu

Maenette Benham, Ed.D., Dean, Hawai`inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge,
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

J. Noelani Goodyear- Ka`ōpua, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Political
Science, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Wells

Kū Kahakalau, Ph.D., founder and director of Kanu o ka ‘Āina New Century
Public Charter School

Lilikalā Kame`eleihiwa, Ph.D., Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for
Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Val Kalei Kanuha, Ph.D., M.S.W., Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Anthropology and
American Studies, Wesleyan University

Manulani Meyer, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Education, University of
Hawai`i at Hilo

Jon Kamakawiwo`ole Osorio, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Kamakakūokalani
Center for Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Noenoe K. Silva, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Political Science, University
of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Ty Kawika Tengan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Anthropology and Ethnic
Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Haunani-Kay Trask,Ph.D. Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian
Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Erin K. Wright, Ph.D., Director of Native Hawaiian Student Services
Hawai'inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge


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