Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Wal-Mart in court
over burial grounds
A Nanakuli woman objects
to the planned relocation of
42 sets of human remains
By Diana Leone
A state circuit judge will hear arguments today on whether to stop Wal-Mart from relocating 42 sets of human remains on its Keeaumoku Street property.
The state Historic Preservation Division and Oahu Island Burial Council, which have jurisdiction in such matters, gave Wal-Mart approval in February to move the burials within its 10.5-acre site for a Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.
But Nanakuli resident Paulette Kaleikini, who believes her ancestors could be among those buried on the site, is seeking a court injunction to prevent the relocation.
Kaleikini believes that a portion of the Wal-Mart “superblock” where 25 sets of remains were found in January 2003 should be recognized and preserved as a cemetery and that other remains from the construction site be moved there, she said yesterday.
“We don’t know who the particular iwi kupuna (ancestral bones) are, but in my genealogy, my ohana were there from very ancient times,” Kaleikini said.
The remains were discovered in six different locations on the building site, between January 2003 and January 2004.
Based on archaeological evidence reviewed by the state Historic Preservation Division, at least five of the remains were buried in a fetal position common to ancient Hawaiian custom and 19 of the burials could have been native Hawaiians who died in the smallpox epidemic of 1853.
“We’re disappointed that the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. is using legal tactics to prolong this process after the state Historic Preservation Division made this decision, along with the support of Oahu Island Burial Council and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin said yesterday. “It’s unfortunate.”
Lin said Wal-Mart is conferring with the Historic Preservation Division “to develop an internment process for long-term protection of the iwi,” but has no specific timeline for relocating the bones.
Wal-Mart expects to open its 317,000 square feet of retail space, plus a 1,600-stall parking structure, in the fall.
Circuit Judge Victoria Marks heard some arguments relating to the requested injunction last Wednesday and was expected to conclude hearing arguments this afternoon.
On behalf of the state Historic Preservation Division, the state Attorney General’s Office is asking Marks to deny Kaleikini’s request for a temporary injunction to stop relocation of the burials.