(BIVN) – Efforts to preserve Puna’s wahi pana of Kumukahi were supported by the Hawaiʻi County Council on Tuesday, during a committee meeting held in Hilo.
Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz introduced Resolution 330-23, urging “protection of iwi kūpuna at Kumukahi and collective action to preserve and manage cultural and natural resources” at the eastern-most location in Hawaiʻi.
After hearing statements in support of the measure from public testifiers, the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations and External Affairs gave the resolution a positive recommendation.
Here is the full text of Res. 330-23:
RESOLUTION NO. 330 23
A RESOLUTION STRONGLY URGING PROTECTION OF IWI KŪPUNA AT KUMUKAHI AND COLLECTIVE ACTION TO PRESERVE AND MANAGE THE CULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES OF KUMUKAHI.
WHEREAS, Ka Lae o Kumukahi, in the ahupuaʻa of Kula, District of Puna, is where the rising sun first touches Hawaiʻi and is among the most celebrated wahi pana (storied and sacred places) in all of the Hawaiian Islands as well as a puʻuhonua (place of refuge); and
WHEREAS, the preservation and protection of iwi kūpuna (traditional burials) and moepū (funerary objects) at Kumukahi, including the reinterment of iwi and moepū that have been disturbed, has been a longstanding issue; and
WHEREAS, in 2018, the Kīlauea Eruption in lower Puna produced over one billion cubic yards of lava that covered residential areas, destroyed precious ecosystems, and completely transformed the coastline of Puna from Kumukahi to Pohoiki; and
WHEREAS, Kumukahi-Lighthouse Road, which has historically provided access to Kumukahi, was partially inundated during the 2018 eruption and is scheduled for restoration, presenting both opportunities and challenges in terms of cultural preservation, management of natural resources, and resolution of historically neglected land and road ownership ambiguities; and
WHEREAS, property owners, direct lineal descendants of Kumukahi, and government stakeholders play a vital role in protecting and preserving iwi kupuna from exposure to indiscriminate, uninformed human influence, allowing traditional cultural information to come forth;
WHEREAS, the County Planning Department has convened the University of Hawaiʻi, State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, property owners in the vicinity of Kumukahi, and direct lineal descendants since 2020 to resolve iwi kupuna issues through development of a burial treatment and preservation plan for certain sites; and
WHEREAS, a new black sand beach has accreted near Kumukahi, accessible only by traversing private property near unmarked cemeteries and hazardous for recreational ocean entry, highlighting the need for area management and stewardship in preparation of road restoration as Kapoho is one of a very few ocean access points in Puna; and
WHEREAS, a collaborative approach involving the County, State, direct lineal descendants, community stakeholders and organizations with expertise in cultural preservation and ʻāina stewardship, and Puna residents is essential to ensuring the management and stewardship of Kumukahi that safeguards iwi kūpuna and cultural features, preserves the natural environment, ensures access for lawaiʻa subsistence lifestyle, and fosters sustainable economic and workforce
development for direct lineal descendants and area residents; and
WHEREAS, Hoʻoulu Lāhui, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in Puna in 1995 for the purpose of awakening Hawaiian culture, values, beliefs, and lifestyle in partnership with the community to achieve unity, harmony, and total well-being, has agreed to provide immediate and long-term support through community engagement and project management; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAIʻI that the iwi kupuna and other cultural and historical features at Kumukahi be preserved and protected to honor the significance of this site.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that immediate and long-term measures be taken to limit exposure to known burial sites and cultural features.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County Planning Department continue to convene all relevant government agencies and community stakeholders to facilitate the protection and preservation of iwi kupuna, and foster the management and stewardship of Kumukahi with the full participation of all parties.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that community-based solutions, area management, and stewardship initiatives be rooted in cultural and historical practices, and involve as well as empower direct lineal descendants and resident stakeholders to be part of planning and implementation.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs commit necessary resources and support for the development and ongoing implementation of an area management and stewardship plan.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the County Clerk shall transmit a copy of this resolution to the Honorable Mayor of Hawaiʻi County; the Honorable Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; the Honorable Members of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature; the Chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources; the Members of the State Board of Land and Natural Resources; the Director of the Department of Planning; the Director of the Department of Public Works; the Director and Deputy of the Department of Research and Development; Hawaiʻi County Disaster Recovery Officer; the Executive Director of Hoʻoulu Lahui; and Dr. Gregory Chun, Executive Director of the Center for Maunakea Stewardship.