It's kind of a gray and somber day, one of those times when you're looking for the silver lining, the sunshine, within the clouds, which makes it a good time to talk about Koloa Camp and Kaiulani Mahuka's recent conviction for attempting to halt burial desecration.
With a March 8 eviction deadline looming, Sens. Ron Kouchi and Sen. Clayton Hee have introduced Senate Resolution 19 in an effort to intensify the pressure on Grove Farm, which plans to tear down Koloa Camp to build 50 homes. Scheduled for a public hearing this morning, it resolves:
[T]hat the Grove Farm Company is urged to allow the Koloa Plantation Camp tenants to remain on the property past the eviction date and to assign the tenants to designated affordable homes developed at Koloa Plantation Camp
From what I hear, GF President Warren Haruki, who also serves on the boards of Maui Land & Pine, Hawaiian Telcom, First Hawaiian Bank, Pacific Guardian Life Insurance Co. and Hawaii Planing Mill, Ltd., hasn't been too pleased with the adverse publicity, reportedly saying, “who the hell do those people in Koloa think they are?”
Mmmm, just regular folks looking to buy a home they love and can afford....
Meanwhile, I spent a little time this morning talking to Kaiulani, another one of those regular folks fighting a Goliath — in this case, the state. You may recall she was at the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to stop Joe Brescia from building a house atop burials at Naue. More recently, she was arrested while trying to prevent burial desecration at Kaumualii Park, where the state was constructing a septic leach field for the restrooms that serve the hordes of commercial kayak tours on the Wailua River.
Last week, a jury found her guilty of the misdemeanor charge of obstructing a government operation. James “Jimbo” Alalem is still facing trial on the same charge.
Kaiulani's attorney, Charley Foster, waged a “greater evil” defense, in which he argued that she stood in front of a backhoe to prevent greater harm after seeing bones being placed into paper bags and buckets. But Deputy Prosecutor John Murphy argued that the graves were imaginary, the bones she saw were likely pig or dog teeth, and anyway, public restrooms are a greater good.
“He said I was absolutely a criminal who needed to be punished to the full extent of the law,” Kaiulani said. “All I could think of was those little old ladies cooling their heels because they were arrested protesting burial desecration at Kawaiahao Church [on Oahu]. There has been a directive handed down from the state that there is to be no mercy for these kinds of cases.”
While it's unclear just what was being placed in those buckets and bags, the park site is known to contain burials. The Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council earlier agreed to move some iwi after the state rejected suggestions to either use porta-potties or tap into the county's sewer system so as to avoid disturbing the burials for a leach field.
Interestingly, I recently had a talk with Koloa Camp resident John Kruse, a former member of the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council. He expressed dismay that the state had chosen to “put the shitter on top of iwi.”
Kaiulani thinks that's no accident. She recounted how Crazy Horse, when he was finally captured and taunted about the loss of his nation, said wherever my people are buried is my nation. Thus the idea that “wherever people are planted is their place” was introduced into the colonial mindset, she said. “What better way to do the genocide than to have that shitter on our burials? They have other options. Our graves and burials are very much the target.”
But her attorney was not allowed to argue such points, or ask about land title or present evidence of the steps Kaiulani had taken — meetings, phone calls, letters — to try and stop the construction project before she stood in front of the backhoe. Murphy, however, was permitted to maintain that she could have done 100 things other than disrupt work at the site.
“The State of Hawaii really could not allow me to win because it would open the door for everyone who comes after me,” she said. “This is really proof that there is no defense for us [kanaka maoil] and no safety for us within the State of Hawaii.”
She is set for sentencing on April 5, and could face a year in prison, as well as a hefty fine. Kaiulani said she plans to appeal, so it's likely sentencing will be stayed until the appeal is decided. Musician Liko Martin has also drafted a petition calling for a presidential pardon.
In the meantime, though she doesn't plan to curtail her efforts to protect iwi kupuna, Kaiulani holds no illusion that she and others will be able to stop the ongoing desecration of burials in the Islands.
“Hawaiians are used and turned around and stuck in a box they can't escape,” she said. “It's called apartheid. It's very clear to me that until every kanaka that is left becomes very clear this system is not working for us, until we get honest about that, we're headed to be wiped our and our culture will be prostituted forever.
“I've become very pa'a (firm) with the fact that we're not going to stop this machine. They want the Pacific Rim. To me, it's come down to the process and how I relate to people as human beings. We all need to work on building community and taking care of each other.”
Kaiulani will be discussing this issue on her KKCR radio show, “Songs of Sovereignty,” which airs from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday. You can listen live here.