It's so exciting to see it getting light much earlier in the mornings. Today, for instance, a red glow was already smoldering in the east when the dogs and I stepped outside at 6:30. The moon, shrinking down to a crescent, was framed by curves and swoops and wisps that were turning the faintest shade of pink. Waialeale had a quilt tossed over her summit, which was wise, as I was shivering in shorts and a flannel shirt. And at one point in our walk I turned around to find the mist that crept out of the pasture had become an ethereal cloud of shimmering rose.
An hour later, the light was pale and flat, the sky was clouded over, and all the magical bits had gone missing.
Some of the island burial councils haven't been meeting because they're missing members needed to form a quorum. When I ran into John Kruse in Koloa last week, he mentioned that he'd been called and asked to serve again on the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council, but was inclined to say no.
“It's hard,” he said. “You take it from all sides. People get really frustrated because we're so limited in what we can do under the law.”
John also noted that both Kaiulani Mahuka and Puanani Rogers had applied for the Kauai-Niihau Council, and he thought they'd be great. But Phyllis "Coochie" Cayan of the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) reportedly told him that they can't serve because they've been arrested. So what, then all radical kanaka are barred from serving on the Councils? What kind of shibai is that?
But rather than change the burial law to make it a more meaningful preservation tool, as even Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe suggested, the governor has come up with SB2854. It would eliminate the individual island councils, and replace them with one statewide panel with equal representation from all islands.
Here's the rationale given within the bill, which is scheduled for a vote today:
The legislature finds that the island burial councils have been having difficulty meeting quorum, in large part because of the difficulty of finding qualified large landowner representatives to serve on the island burial councils. The Molokai island burial council has not been able to meet since April 2008 because the State has not been able to attract large landowners on Molokai to serve on the island burial council.
Recently, this has also become a problem for the other island burial councils. Maui and Hawaii have canceled nine meetings due to quorum issues and Kauai has lost two regional representatives and is seeking an additional large landowner.
So if they don't want to participate, why not get rid of the requirement that large landowners serve? That's always been a sore spot with Hawaiians, anyway, who quite rightly feel that landowners are already well represented in the development process and shouldn't have a say over the fate of iwi kupuna.
As the Office of Hawaiian Affairs noted in its testimony:
Landowners rights are already well-protected by the public meeting process, the appellate process, the notification and consultation process, and the U.S. Constitution and other property rights, including case law on takings.
Not to mention that landowner reps are paid by their employers when they're attending meetings, whereas citizens are not.
Instead, this bill aims to make it even easier for large landowners “who have lands on multiple islands (Crown Trusts) to sit one person, rather than commit staff from multiple islands.” Landowners would comprise “no more than thirty-three per cent and no less than twenty-five per cent of the total number of all island representatives.
And here's the capper: the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, or his designee, would also chair the Burial Council. Come on. Already there have been serious problems with how burials are handled by SHPD, which is under DLNR's auspices. And now you're going to give DLNR even more say?
Interestingly, only DLNR Director William Aila, in yet another disappointing turn, submitted testimony in favor of the bill. All the rest was opposed. Dr. Jonathan Likeke Scheur, vice chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council, suggested that the governor's office, SHPD and DLNR haven't been taking meaningful steps to solicit nominations for the seats. He went on to note:
Killing this bill and introducing a resolution to examine the Administration's implementation of our burial laws, however, would restore some of this confidence [that the community has lost in government.]
Interestingly, Charles Flaherty testified that Gov. Abercrombie had dropped in at the recent Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs convention, where he reportedly “proceeded to give an emotional apology to the Hawaiian people for the actions of his administration to that date and promised to devote the remainder of his administration to helping the Hawaiian people.”
The prior day, Flaherty wrote, the audience became very upset when SHPD Director Pua Aiu said she supported the bill. “It was clear that no one supported the proposal of one state-wide burial council, with the most common complaint being that it would destroy the ability of the average Hawaiian `ohana to protect their iwi kupuna.”
So why the big push from Abercrombie?
Edwin Miranda, who serves on the Big Island Burial Council, seems to have hit the nail on the head with his testimony:
This bill serves only to fast-track projects and not fully address the concerns of our iwi Kupuna, their descendants, our culture and the reputation of the Island Burial Councils.
And folks thought things would change when Lingle left office.....