Kānaka Maoli Scholars Against Desecration

Kānaka Maoli Scholars Against Desecration

Second Statement on Naue, March 24, 2009

As Kānaka Maoli scholars we write to follow-up on our statement from
September 13, 2008 publicly condemning 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 real estate
developer Joseph Brescia.  Both the state abuse of power and the
desecration continue unabated and must come to a halt.

In the late 1980s, in response to a massive burial site disturbance at
Honokahua, Maui, Kanaka Maoli came together to challenge the laws that
allowed this type of sacrilege. As a result of this history, five Island
Burial Councils were created and are administratively attached to the
State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) of the Department of Land and
Natural Resources to address concerns relating to Native Hawaiian burial
sites.  By Hawai`i state statute, the composition of each island Burial
Council must consist of a majority of Kānaka Maoli.  The preservation
criteria established by state law favor the “preservation in place” of
burial sites that contain a “concentration of skeletal remains,” or are
“pre-contact” or “historic period” burial sites associated with important
individuals and events.

At Naue, there are 30 known burial remains within less than half of an
acre, with a high likelihood that more remains are present. Naue is a
significant historical site that is frequently acknowledged in hula, oli,
mele, and other Hawaiian knowledge sources.  Accordingly, the Kaua`i-
Ni`ihau Island Burial Council appropriately voted to preserve in place the
burial site on the property claimed by Brescia.

In complete contradiction to both their own state law, and the April 3,
2008 determination adopted by the island Burial Council to preserve the
burials in place, the SHPD improperly approved a “Burial Treatment Plan”
for Brescia without the required consultation with the island Burial
Council.  The Burial Treatment Plan was submitted by Mike Dega, the
archaeologist hired by Joseph Brescia as a consultant in support of his
building a private home atop of the burial site.

The SHPD’s own rules empower the island Burial Council to determine the
disposition of previously known burials.  The island Burial Council’s
decision on this issue is supposed to be binding. Yet, SHPD deputy
administrator Nancy McMahon sanctioned the use of vertical buffers and
concrete caps on the burials to make way for installing the footings of
Brescia’s house.  Her authorization for such an intrusive “preservation”
measure is a fundamental repudiation of the power allocated to all of the
island Burial Councils.

By ignoring the decision of the island Burial Council, her actions
undermine both the very concept of historic preservation and the reason
for the founding of the island Burial Councils.  Tragically, before a
court could intervene, and based on McMahon’s unauthorized agreements,
Brescia’s team managed to install massive house foundations on a portion
of the cemetery.

The Kaua`i Planning Commission’s approval of Brescia’s house plans
included a specific condition issued in a letter dated December 12, 2007
that “No building permit shall be issued until requirements of the State
Historic Preservation Division and the Burial Council have been met.”  The
requirements of the island Burial Council have not been met; the Council
recommended that there be no building upon the cemetery.  SHPD covered up
the island Burial Council’s decision by trying to pretend that vertical
buffers and concrete jackets constitute “preservation”; they do not.

During the consultation required by the preliminary October 2008 court
ruling, on November 6, 2008, the island Burial Council recommended that
the SHPD reject the revised Burial Treatment Proposal submitted by Dega.
Therefore, Brescia still has not met the requirements of the island Burial
Council and thus, the building permit should be revoked.  Because the
Kaua`i Planning Commission’s December 2007 approval was specifically
conditioned on Brescia’s meeting the island Burial Council’s requirements,
there is no real approval of Brescia’s house plans.  The island Burial
Council made clear the proposal to build on the burial site was culturally
unacceptable to its members, which is why the Council rejected the revised
Burial Treatment Plan.  The Kaua`i Planning Commission should be held
accountable to rescind the conditional approval it gave, since its
requirements were not met.

In the midst of this ongoing desecration, last month, on February 4, 2009,
the SHPD wrote a letter to Dega acknowledging his sixth proposed Burial
Treatment Plan.  This is the same Burial Treatment Plan that McMahon
circulated to Native Hawaiian Organizations for consultation as part of a
court order by Judge Watanabe on October 2, 2008.  The outcome of this
consultation with Native Hawaiian Organizations was their sweeping
rejection of the proposal.  Without any regard for this rejection, the
SHPD letter to Dega states, “at this time we cannot accept the Burial
Treatment Plan without some revisions which are to be addressed below” and
then outlines seven concerns for him to deal with such as detailing a
landscape plan for burials outside of the house footprint. In other words,
the letter basically instructs Dega to revise the Burial Treatment Plan in
order for SHPD to approve it.  This is unacceptable; if McMahon’s decision
is reaffirmed despite the outcome of the consultation with Native Hawaiian
Organizations that clearly rejected the proposal, it would set a dangerous
precedent and strip the island Burial Councils of any meaningful
authority.

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.   The civil suit — Joseph Brescia v.
Ka`iulani Huff, et al. — currently in progress is a travesty.  Brescia is
suing at least 17 individuals—almost all of whom are Kānaka Maoli
—implicated in protecting the burial site from his construction work.
Beside trespass, Brescia has accused them of five other counts: private
nuisance and harassment, tortious interference with contract, civil
conspiracy described as “terroristic threatening”, intentional
interference, ejectment, and slander of title.  We stand in solidarity
with the defendants.  Brescia has no one else to blame but himself; he
knowingly took the chance of building his house over a grave site when the
essence of the island Burial Council’s action was to preserve all burials
remains in place.

We must remind the state agencies that their own law, 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.”

We call on all people of conscience to join in our condemnation of the
desecration of the ancestral remains by:

• holding the Kaua`i Planning Commission accountable for upholding their
own condition by finding Brescia in violation of it by starting to build;

• demanding that the SHPD honor the Kaua`i-Ni`ihau Island Burial Council’s
original decision to preserve the burial site without any construction;

• insisting that the SHPD respect the outcome of the court-ordered
consultation process and reject the Burial Treatment Plan;

• supporting an end to the illegal construction supported by the state; and

• protesting Brescia’s lawsuit targeted at those who have served to
prevent the further degradation of the bones of our kūpuna.

Signed,

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

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

Maile Arvin, M.A. candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of
California San Diego

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

Kamanamaikalani Beamer, Ph.D., Mellon-Hawai`i Postdoctoral Fellow, Kohala
Center, Hawai`i

Kealani Robinson Cook, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University
of Michigan

Lani Cupchoy, Ph.D. Candidate, History, University of California, Irvine

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

Sydney Lehua Iaukea, Ph.D., Mellon-Hawai`i Postdoctoral Fellow, Kohala
Center, Hawai`i

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

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

Kanani K. M. Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Geology & Geophysics, Yale
University

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

Lessa Kanani`opua Pelayo, M.L.I.S. Candidate, B.A., University of
California, Los Angeles

Kekailoa Perry, J.D. Assistant Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for
Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Keanu Sai, Ph.D., Lecturer Kapiolani Community College

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

Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Ph.D. Candidate, Program in American Culture,
University of Michigan

Ty Kāwika 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, Mānoa

Liza Keanuenueokalani Williams, Ph.D. student, New York University

Erin Kahunawaika`ala Wright, Ph.D. Director of Native Hawaiian Student
Services, Hawai’inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge

——-
Contact: J. Kehaulani Kauanui
Ph: 860-638-1264
Email: jkauanui@wesleyan.edu
——–

TAKE ACTION

Please cc: all letters and emails to:  J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Center for
the Americas, Wesleyan University, 255 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.
Email: jkauanui@wesleyan.edu

Write the Kaua`i Planning Commission, State Historic Preservation Division
Officials, Governor Linda Lingle, Joseph Brecia, and the Mayor of Kaua`i.

See addresses below:

Ian Costa
Director of Planning
County of Kaua`i
4444 Rice Street, Suite 473
Lihue, HI 96766
(no email available)

Laura Thielan, Chairperson
State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources
State Historic Preservation Division
601 Kamokila Blvd., Room 555
Kapolei, HI 96707
dlnr@hawaii.gov

Pua Aiu, Administrator
State Historic Preservation Division
601 Kamokila Blvd., Room 555
Kapolei, HI 96707
pua.aiu@hawaii.gov

Nancy McMahon, Deputy Administrator
State Historic Preservation Division
601 Kamokila Blvd., Room 555
Kapolei, HI 96707
Nancy.A.McMahon@hawaii.gov

Governor Linda Lingle
State of Hawai`i
Executive Chambers
State Capitol
Honolulu, Hawai`i  96813
governor.lingle@hawaii.gov

Joseph Brescia, President
Architectural Glass & Aluminum
1151 Marina Village Parkway, Suite 101
Alameda, CA 94501
jbrescia@aga-ca.com

Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr.
Mayor, County of Kauai
4444 Rice St., Suite 235
Lihue, HI 96766
mayor@kauai.gov

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