Passions ran high at a community meeting in Na’alehu on Wednesday night.
Rival groups who have acted as caretakers of Kawa for years had heated words amidst the standing room only crowd at the community center.
Abel Simeona Lui, (speaking to the audience from the front of the room): “Abel never did make no statement. Now when I come up all of a sudden I’m the bad guy!”
Front and center was uncle Abel Simeona Lui … although the meeting was organized by the county. Executive assistant to Mayor Billiy Kenoi, Karen Teshima, has taken over the handling of Kawa.
Karen Teshima: “Tonight, what we want to do is we want to hear from you. How do you see Kawa going forward? This is where we want to go, we want to go forward. We continue to meet with various groups that have contacted us with concerns about gates, concerns about us turning it into a park,… its just a lot of hearsay, so we’re here. What we want to do is we want to hear from you.”
She had her hands full at Wednesday’s meeting which was intended to be a discussion on ideas for the county acquired parcels. But Abel used the meeting as an opportunity to plead his case before a room packed with many of his supporters.
Lui: I’m going to tell my story now! You guys never did hear me come up … and talk about this place.
Lui has long claimed allodial rights to the area as an heir of his tutu-man Timoteo Keawe.
Lui (to county officials during a standoff at Kawa in August 2008): The red flag says that this land is not for sale! So why the state coming in here – and the county – trying to purchase this from us.
He has defied American jurisdiction under the flag of Hawaiian Kingdom, having made Kawa his home for decades.
Lui (during an interview at Kawa in January 2012): I’ve been here for almost 25 years, so as far as I know they dont have no paper they just want to take this and make it into a park.
But Abel’s stand came to an end last October when county officials evicted Abel and his supporters under a court ordered writ of possession. The county, which has purchased the land parcels over the years using open space funds and Legacy Land grants, has not recognized Abel’s claims to the title.
The county said the mass evictions were necessary in order to conduct an archaeological survey of Kawa’s many sites and burials.
Wally Lau, deputy managing director at the time of the Kawa eviction (October 2012): We’re here today to ensure that the culturl sites that we have recently come upon are taken care of. We are asking people who are living here to please leave the area so that the next 30 days we can go about doing what we call an archaeological, cultural survey.
Teshima (during Na’alehu community meeting): We had it blessed with different kupunas, and let Kawa settle. And then we came in and requested for Bob (Reichman) to do an archaeological survey.
Since his eviction Abel has become almost a martyr in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. His home at Kawa has since been dismantled and Abel has yet to return to the land.
Lui: They gave me two hours to get off the land. and you know what I did with my two hours? I wen’ go water the kalo, I wen’ go talk to the maia and all of the plants over there. That was my two hours. Only one people get arrested and that was Katrina.
Not everyone in attendance last night was in support of Able.
The Apiki family, whose lineal steward claims at Kawa have been recognized by authorities, lashed out at Abel during the meeting.
Apiki (yelling at Lui during meeting): My family was harassed! My grandma – who is 84 years old – you swore at her. We have nothing to do with you! You dont belong there!
While others who have not seen eye to eye with Abel over the years, like rancher Kyle Suares, tried to bury the hatchet.
But generally, tensions were high
Many had questions for state historic preservation officials about how the survey is being conducted
Others wondered if the prime coastal property was fraudulently conveyed to the county considering how much iwi was found.
The younger generation also shared their mana’o.
And as meetings of this nature tend to do, the topic of conversation eventually turned to Hawaiian sovereignty and illegal occupation.
Teshima – who had the unenviable position of running the meeting – said she gladly accepted the assignment of Kawa
At the end of the evening the Kupuna spoke. With tears in her eyes, aunty Wilma Holi flew over from Kauai to deliver this message to the county.