Desecration of Hawaiian Gravesite
A state historic preservation agency
recommends that $210,000 in fines be
levied against an archaeological firm and others for tampering
remains at the construction site of the Ke'eaumoku Street
Among the infractions cited in an agency report were "writing on
a child's skull with indelible red ink, taping a child's teeth
to an index card, using duct tape and modeling clay to hold
remains together, and writing the words 'Handbag Louis Vuitton'
on a paper sack that contained a human hand."
The recommendation is part of a report filed by the State
Historic Preservation Division to the Board of Land and Natural
Resources, and comes on the heels of an investigation by state
attorneys. The board will consider the recommendation at its
Nov. 18 meeting.
Besides unauthorized examination and tampering of the iwi, or
bones, the report also accuses Aki Sinoto Consulting, the
archaeological firm, and others of failing to notify the proper
authorities about the inadvertent find of human remains in a
timely fashion, moving human remains without permission and
failing to examine human skeletal remains in a respectful
Messages left at Sinoto's home and cell phones were not
According to the report, the remains examined in 2003 and 2004
were presumed to be "Native Hawaiians, juvenile remains,
including the remains of infants, and remains for which requests
for examination had been specifically denied by the state."
Besides the Sinoto firm and principal archaeologist Aki Sinoto,
others cited within the 21 counts were Sinoto employees L.J.
Moana Lee and Paul Titchenal, the firm of International
Archaeological Research Institute Inc., and two of its
employees, J. Stephen Athens and Rona Ikehara-Quebral.
Besides the fines, the report recommends that the Sinoto firm's
permit to conduct archaeological activities in the state be
revoked for the remainder of the year.
Ikehara-Quebral, lead osteologist for the International
Archaeological Research Institute, which had been hired as a
subcontractor by Sinoto, said she would reserve comment on the
specifics of the allegations until she could thoroughly review
Historic Preservation's report.
"A quick review reveals it's full of inaccuracies,"
Ikehara-Quebral said. "And the State Historic Preservation
Division, DLNR, continues to misrepresent our work to the
She added: "We were instructed by SHPD to inventory every set of
human remains from the Wal-Mart site, separate commingled burial
remains into individuals and to determine their ethnicity, as
required by law, which we did using standards of the profession.
We always handled the remains in a respectful manner."
Melanie Chinen, SHPD administrator, said the recommendation was
based in large part on a report given to her by the state
attorney general's office.
Chinen said the $210,000 in fines recommended by her office is
amount allowed under the law.
"There was total disregard for the laws, for the rules, for our
warnings that unnecessary handling and examination is considered
desecration by many Native Hawaiians," Chinen said. "We're
talking about human beings."
Partly in reaction to the Wal-Mart case, Chinen said, state
lawmakers last session passed legislation increasing the maximum
fine for violating burial laws and rules from $10,000 a day to
Regina Keana'aina, whose family was recognized by the O'ahu
Island Burial Council as a lineal descendant to iwi in the area,
opposes the fines.
"The archaeologists were doing the right thing," she said. "They
did not desecrate any of our iwi kupuna at the Wal-Mart site."
Keana'aina, who helped Sinoto and the other archaeologists on a
voluntary basis, said some of the personnel at Historic
Preservation are unqualified to deal with finds. "I think the
state needs to be hiring more qualified people to be running
But Paulette Kaleikini, whose family was one of several
designated cultural descendants to bones on the site, said she
was pleased with Historic Preservation's recommendation.
"It's very disturbing what they did, how they desecrated the iwi,"
Kaleikini said. "They shouldn't be let off the hook so easily."
Kaleikini said both Wal-Mart and contractor Dick Pacific
Construction, which hired Sinoto, also should bear some
responsibility for what happened to the bones.
A lawsuit filed by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. on behalf of
Kaleikini's family and the nonprofit Hui Malama I Na Kupuna 'O
Hawai'i Nei named Wal-Mart, the city and the state as
responsible for the mishandling of the iwi.
Wal-Mart, however, was dismissed by a Circuit Court judge from
that suit. The claim against the state was settled while a
judgment in favor of the city is expected to be appealed.
Moses Haia, an attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.,
said proper action by the city planning officials and Historic
Preservation also could have prevented the desecration.
"This could have been avoided," Haia said.
At least 61 sets of remains have been found on the site. After
taking possession of the remains, state officials initially were
prepared to rebury them on the site in February. That date was
postponed indefinitely after state attorneys began their
The remains continue to be housed in a trailer on the Wal-Mart
site that is secured 24 hours a day. Chinen said when they are
reburied could depend on what the Land Board chooses to do with
her division's report, and whether one of the sides will appeal
Submitted by Tony