Just a few miles from where work was under way for the city’s rail project, emotions were running high at a community meeting where the topic was the state office charged with protecting archeological sites.
In Kalihi, crews are repaving an area on Dillingham where archeologists have begun a preliminary survey for evidence of any burial sites. So far, no human remains have been unearthed.
This Thursday, a lawsuit will beheard in court over the decision not to conduct a full environmental impact statement along the rail route.
"We have to throw lawsuits all over the place because the bottom line, the law is there but they are not following it," said cultural practitioner Michael Lee.
The state Historic Preservation Division office is on the hotspot.
Some say it's been underfunded, and understaffed for years.
Paulette Kaleikini believes it is also mismanaged. Kaleikini is a party to the rail suit.
She fears if the state loses its certification and federal funding, the community's cultural sites will even be more vulnerable.
"That's scary, because where will that leave all the preservation sites, especially all the burial sites," said Paulette Kaleikini.
"There is some fear we are going to lose this money. I understand that but we have worked very hard to get the hiring done. We are under a lot of pressure and a lot of heat but I do believe we are making good progress," said Pua Aiu, the director of the state Historic Preservation Division.
Lee complained that the lack of oversight has led to the Native Hawaiian community being left out of the repatriation process.
“We are supposed to have input by law. And that has never happened with all those building projects currently," said Lee.
He pointed to Hoopili, Kolohe Gulch and the Haseko development in Honouliuli.
Aiu said she will look into Lee’s complaints, but she maintains her office is on track to make the federal hiring deadline of Sept 30. She said she has just two or three staff positions left to fill.
Aiu has asked the city to help fund staff to oversee the rail archeological contract work. She said she would like to add at least two other positions for the project.