Court bars Kawaiaha'o from iwi disinterment

 UPDATED 4:41 PM HST Sep 28, 2012
Kawaiahao Church
HONOLULU -

The Intermediate Court of Appeals panel unanimously issued an order Friday morning barring Kawaiaha'o Church from the disinterment of iwi from Kawaiaha'o Church grounds that are related to the church's multipurpose center project and from all construction activities related to its project that could result in the disinterment of iwi, according to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.

The church started construction on a multipurpose center on church grounds in January 2009.

The church immediately encountered burials.  By the summer of 2009, the church had discovered sixty-nine burials.

Dana Naone Hall sued to stop Kawaiaha'o Church from digging up more burials in August 2009.

Hall's family members were buried on church grounds.  During the course of her lawsuit, hundreds more burials have been unearthed.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals determined that there is a substantial likelihood that we will conclude that the State Historic Preservation Division should have required Kawaiaha'o Church to complete an archaeological inventory survey before state approval of the project.

The court also said that the State Historic Preservation Division violated its own rules in failing to require an AIS before permitting the project to go forward.

"This case spans the end of the Lingle Administration and the first years of the Abercrombie Administration, during which time the SHPD has routinely failed to follow its own rules to the detriment of historic properties and burial sites.   I am very grateful to the Intermediate Court of Appeals for reaffirming that there is a vital public interest in protecting human skeletal remains and burial sites 'regardless of race, religion, or cultural origin,'" said Hall.  "Although approximately 700 individuals have been disturbed at Kawaiaha'o, there are many hundreds more who can continue to rest in peace."

Kawaiaha'o Church Senior Pastor Kahu Curt Kekuna said the church will continue to follow the direction of the courts and the agencies exercising oversight on the project.  The church is reviewing the ruling and considering our options.

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