Media release from Hawaii County Office of the Mayor

Kāwā, a 784-acre area that came into the stewardship of the County of Hawai‘i through the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation program, is a special place that is home to endangered species and contains many cultural resources, historically significant sites, and burials. It is the County’s kuleana, or responsibility as steward of Kāwā, to protect and preserve this ‘āina and these special sites.

A September 2012 site visit to Kāwā by the State Historic Preservation Division confirmed the presence of a large burial complex, numerous smaller burial sites, and hundreds of archaeological features. Burial and historical sites are afforded protection under law.

After many months of listening, learning, and developing a greater understanding of the many special sites at Kāwā, the time has come for the County of Hawai‘i to move forward in fulfilling its role. In order to provide responsible stewardship of Kāwā, the County will be conducting an archaeological survey of cultural, historic, and burial features on the property.

Access to Kāwā will be limited while this archaeological survey is conducted. This limited access will be enforced by the Hawai‘i County Police Department.

Social service agencies will assist anyone staying at Kāwā with securing other living arrangements. Any structures on the property will be disassembled by workers from the County’s Department of Public Works.

Once the archaeological survey is complete, a management plan will be implemented to protect the cultural, historical, and burial features of Kāwā while allowing public access to learn about and enjoy this wahi pana, this special place.


January 2008: The County of Hawai‘i purchases a 234 acre parcel at Kāwā from the Edmund Olson Trust through the a State grant ($1.2 million) and the County’s Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund ($708,000).

February 2011: The County filed a complaint to get full possession of its property at Kāwā. A similar complaint was filed by the Edmund Olson Trust for two parcels at Kāwā that would be acquired by the County thereafter.

June 2011: Orders giving full possession of Kāwā to the County and the Olson Trust granted. The granted orders allow the landowners to remove any persons on the property.

November 2011: Two additional parcels at Kāwā totaling 550 acres is acquired from the Edmund Olson Trust using a State grant ($1.5 million), a Federal grant ($507,000), and the County’s Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund ($1.9 million).

March 2012: Access to Kāwā comes up as an important topic at a County Community Talk Story event in Nā‘ālehu. Follow-up began with lineal descendants of families from Kāwā.

March – June 2012: The County continued work to identify families with connections to Kāwā.

June 2012: The County brought together families identified as having lineal connections to Kāwā to begin discussion on the best way to care for the area.

July 2012: Families met again with the County to discuss an inventory of cultural and burial sites at Kāwā. The County followed up with families to identify known burials, many of which had documentation in the form of maps and death certificates noting Kāwā as the burial place.

August 2012: The State Historic Preservation Division reports on two archaeological inventory surveys of Kāwā done in 1961 and 1976. The past surveys show over 60 burial sites and 159 cultural features. SHPD advised the County of its liability should these sites and features be disturbed.

September 2012: A two-day site visit was conducted with lineal descendants, an archaeologist, County personnel, and staff from the State Historic Preservation Division. Over 60 burial sites with documentation from lineal descendants, as well as a large burial complex and hundreds of archaeological sites were located and identified. The GPS coordinates of the features were logged for future archaeological survey.

October 2012: An archaeological survey of cultural, historical, and burial sites commences. The archaeological survey will inform future planning and decision making.