Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Musings: Iwi on Mauna Kea

Native Hawaiian burials have long been a political and cultural hot button in the Islands, where numerous disputes have raged over the discovery and disinternment of iwi kupuna during development.

But the issue has taken a bizarre new twist with the revelation that a Big Island activist intentionally placed bones on an ahu atop Mauna Kea in an effort to derail the Thirty Meter Telescope project.
Mauna Kea sunrise, as seen from Hilo.
According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

Palikapu Dedman, who is facing potential criminal charges, told the Tribune-Herald he placed iwi, or bones, belonging to an ancestor on the stone altar last September and then again earlier this month after realizing the first set of bones went missing.

He declined to provide details for how he got the remains but claimed they belong to relatives and that they are from Ka‘u, his ancestral home. Dedman said he has more.

He said he wanted to show the area is a Hawaiian burial site, a claim made by some opponents of the proposed telescope.

“It’s a traditional process,” said Dedman, an activist involved in geothermal and Native Hawaiian issues. “I had a right to do it.”

His actions were condemned by both telescope proponents and some cultural practitioners, who contend Dedman's use of iwi for political purposes was inappropriate, and thus tantamount to desecration. 

According to a statement issued by Yes2TMT and signed by Amber Imai-Hong, Chris Stark, John Evans, Naea Stevens. Niki Thomas, Thayne Currie and Veronica Ohara:

While protest is a critical component of living within a free democratic society, this disrespectful and culturally inappropriate action is beyond the pale and far outside the bounds of respectful protest or socially conscious civil disobedience.

Our deceased loved ones’ remains should be revered, not used as political pawns. Disinterring a grave to promote a lie about the TMT site does not "protect Mauna Kea". It is not "kapu aloha". It is desecration: any TMT protester who assisted in this heinous act likewise has participated in desecrating Maunakea.

Traditionally, only the bones of chiefs were placed in such high places. It's unclear whether Dedman has royal lineage.

Though the 2010 EIS conducted for the TMT project identified five burials and 24 possible burials within the entire Mauna Kea Science Reserve, none are within a mile of the proposed telescope site, prompting a finding that the TMT would not adversely impact either burials or burial blessing practices.

Nevertheless, as the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports:

Harry Fergerstrom, a participant in the contested case for TMT’s land use permit, recently submitted a “notice of burial claim under the proposed TMT site” as part of the quasi-judicial hearing. He said a relative told him that there are remains of his ancestors near the access road for the project.

Others noted that Dedman's tactics served to undermine the authority of Island Burial Councils, which are charged under state law with approving a burial plan for the relocation of any Hawaiian remains.

What I found especially disturbing was how Dedman's actions give ammunition to those who have criticized burial preservation efforts, claiming that kanaka have been “using” iwi kupuna to slow or stop development.

It also raises an ethical issue that has troubled me about GMO opponents and other activists whose behavior seems to reflect a belief that the ends justify the means.

The Yes2TMT statement also raised that point:

The TMT is a complicated issue for Hawaiians and Hawaii residents. We can respect those who oppose TMT on principled grounds and with honorable actions, even if we strongly disagree. This act, however, is unprincipled and dishonorable, communicating that the ends justify the means and the truth does not matter.

Thus far, TMT protesters have either been silent on this act or, incredibly, have supported it. No doubt, at some point the full truth of what happened will be revealed to all the island’s residents. But for now we call on upon those in opposition to TMT to join us in publicly condemning this desecration and challenge any others who participated in it to come forward and publicly apologize.

Curiously, an article posted on the KAHEA website reports Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the petitioners seeking to stop the TMT through the legal process, as saying:

"We have actual evidence that accounts for archaeological sites and burial grounds. Thirty more burials have been found since the [2011 BLNR] hearing. It is the burial ground and the place of our most sacred ancestors. The whole mountain is a burial site, and they haven’t even done a burial treatment plan.”

If that's the case, then why did Palikapu feel the need to import iwi from Ka'u?

According to Hawaiian scholar and educator Mary Kawena Pukui:

In the pre-Christian creeds of Hawaii, man╩╗s immortality was manifest in his bones. Man's blood, even bright drops shed by the living, was haumia (defiled and defiling). Man's body, when death made flesh corrupt, was an abomination and kapu (taboo). The iwi survived decaying flesh. The bones remained, the cleanly, lasting portion of the man or woman who once lived. The bones of the dead were guarded, respected, treasured, venerated, loved or even deified by relatives; coveted and despoiled by enemies.

With or without ╩╗unihipili [deification] rituals, there was a feeling that the spirit might yet be hovering near the iwi. If the bones were desecrated, the spirit was insulted. Even the living descendants of the profaned dead were shamed and humiliated. So the Hawaiians believed.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Deadman never stated he was doing this for political purposes or at least you failed to quote him saying so. All you quoted Deadman saying was "It's a traditional process" and "I had a right to do it" Deadman's "Political intent" appears to be conjecture by you and the far-from-objective Yes2TMT.

Anonymous said...

Just my two cents:

Culture, (anyone's culture), should never impede science and/or technology which is intended for knowledge and/or the betterment of all man kind.


You can and should be sensitive to culture but not acquiesce to it especially at the expense of science.

Aloha

Joan Conrow said...

@9:08. It's Dedman, not Deadman. Perhaps this paragraph from the article will make his political intent more clear:

A Hilo man says an ahu built at the Thirty Meter Telescope site atop Mauna Kea should be protected after he deposited human remains there.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember a single grave site on either Mauna Loa or Mauna Kea anywhere near the summit or even above forest land. Who the hell would carry a body up there, then dig and hide the grave as custom required.

Anonymous said...

9:30 that's not a quote by dedman either. Thanks for the spelling lesson. I notice you never make typos.

Anonymous said...

Ah c'mon 9:08, it is obvious that he is doing it to stop the telescope. And it doesn't matter anyway, moving bones is hewa. Its desecration, and if you are a pono hawaiian you would agree that what he did is wrong. It is not debatable.

Veronica Ohara said...

"Political intent" is clear when Mr. P. Dedman places iwi on recently constructed ahu to make it appear that TMT is being built on a burial site.

Anonymous said...

why dont they just vote on the issue to either build it or not ? and why arent the pro TMT people countering with a massive gathering to show support of the project ? if the protesters were true to their belief, why would they drive up the mountain instead of using the sacred trail to the sacred ground with the sacred pavilion (lua and a roof) and sacred cigarettes and beer and watever opala they leave behind. if that mountain is sacred, start at the base and walk the rest as their ancestors did. if i was to make a cultural statement as to how sacred the mountain is, i would walk the trail and camp out at the top to "protect the mauna" as a so called warrior. that would be a convincing tribute. but no, drive up the road which desecrates the mountain then hang at the pavilion which desecrates the mountain then move the pohaku to block the road then cakaroach someones family bones thats ok? fukin hypocrites...but the end justifies the means right ?

Anonymous said...

Face it, it's never going to be built. This state is TOAST without uncle Dan around to shovel millions our way. Tourism and the worlds biggest forward operating base are the only reasons there's any money coming into the state at all. After uncle Dan died, all the failures could no longer be papered over with fresh greenbacks - the zoo, rail, tmt, cancer center, supercomputer, pmrf, seed companies, uh. They're all crumbling before our eyes. And no one dares mention the states underfunded pension.

Anonymous said...

Iwi, nail clippings, and hair were always scared to the family of the ancestor. Thay's why they were protected by being hiddened or buried under the living areas of the family.
However, they were also fair game to those seeking power. Be that the power to catch fish, iwi as fish hooks. Or power of the dark arts, casting of spells.
We'll see how much power Dedmens ancestors had. Apparently enough to get themselves moved to location to speak to the living!!!

Anonymous said...

We are returning to the Dark Ages.

Anonymous said...

7:23 We are returning to the Dark Ages.

We are unless we all reduce our carbon footprint including Joan flying hither and yon on commercial jets paid for by Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS) a bunch of scientists, NGOs, journalists and concerned citizens from around the world who have come together to tell Pro-GMO stories to us ignorant hypocrites. (CAS) is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so that is the power behind the throne putting money in Joans pocket, and words in her mouth, and her carbon footprint in our lungs and of course she truly believes everything she says because although she is not a scientist or farmer everything is "facts based" I'm so sure.

Joan Conrow said...

@10:04

Nobody puts words in my mouth.

And yes, I do strive very hard to ensure that what I present is "fact-based." That seems to be the best way to pull the GMO discussion out of the Dark Ages of ignorance.

I'm sorry you're so jealous/angry about my efforts. Have a great Hawaiian day!

Anonymous said...

7:23 We have never left the Dark Ages. USA especially has engaged in more than 200 years of continuous war, genocide, murder, land theft, invasion and occupation. To call this continuous behavior "civilized" is arrogant and ignorant, hubris unrestrained.

Anonymous said...

11:07 Jealous of your carbon footprint? No. Angry? That's more your bailiwick. It's your massive carbon footprint and hypocrisy and your total lack of introspection that makes me sad. Knowing the truth and refusing to alter your behaviour is highly offensive. You blame ignorant others but somehow exempt yourself for all you see wrong with the world. I assume you feel a sense of entitlement because you are on an "educational and scientific mission" but logic predates science, and science is based on logic so "the very first lesson that we have a right to demand that logic shall teach us is, how to make our ideas clear; and a most important one it is, depreciated only by minds who stand in need of it." - Charles Sanders Peirce

Your vitriol for anyone who disagree with you is palpable and your logic is a self-referencing circle-of-delusion. Speaking of delusion your fixation on Gary Hooser is bordering on pathological doxing, the internet version of stalking.

Anonymous said...


I wonder if 11:08 supports rioting and chaos as we watch in Charlotte NC? Cause I am watching would should be legit news folks on the national level justifying chaos, looting, murder, sending a bunch of cops to the hospital! (Kapernick is right-ESPN) To me they sound like pseudo intellectuals creating their own narrative while being afraid of being called racest.

Now this just in--- the white police officer that shot the man dead in Tulsa has just been arrested for killing a man! (and she fucked up big time!!! I have know idea if she was "racest"). Now the black cop that shot a black man in Charlotte that that was about to kill him is not only 100% justified but, in my opinion displayed restraint before he had to what had to be done! And I'm glad that cop is not physically hurt.

What is interesting to me is the good citizens of Tulsa Oklahoma, had reason to be angry yet they didn't burn their own house down!

But you know what 10:04/ 11:08? By saying "USA especially" is the reason that the world has "never left the dark ages" is ignorant at many levels.

Indeed 07:23 "we are RETURNING to the dark ages"!!!

Anonymous said...

@ 10:04am

Just remember you flew on that commercial jet to get here. And I would venture to say that you have flown back and forth more than once.
Your footprintssss wreaks of carbon. Too funny!

Joan Conrow said...

No, 12:29, I meant jealous of my willingness to actually stand up for what I believe. As for the rest of what you wrote, gosh, I sure hope you didn't get any of that projectile vitriol on your shirt.

Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan,

Thank you for sharing the "truth". I appreciate it because there is nowhere else where you can find the truth. There are a lot of "assholes" out there who are sore at you because the "truth" is owie to them. Tell it like it is. Carbon footprints, are you for real? Practice what you preach....Get real, guns kill. It was made for killing. If you carry a gun you will kill someone or get killed yourself. "Don't go into town with a gun, Billy."

Anonymous said...

12:33- Please back up your claim of "ignorance". How many existing countries do you know of, besides the USA, with around 250 years of continuous war, racism, genocide, foreign invasion, etc? Those with an understanding of history know that the USA has been the world leader among countries for the amount of time spent in these obnoxious and immoral pursuits. Maybe time to brush up on American history?

Anonymous said...


That the NFL and football at any level is such a non-pollitical ---- A source for great fan fair for all of us-------every nook and cranny of us love American football.. From Samoa to Nome some frozen Indian reservation on the northern plains or Apaches down in southern Arizona.....oh yea and some big Mexican linebackers from Cali. And "corn fed" farmboys is a true story.

We,, cannot breakdown one of the few things that brings us all together!!!

Example, I lost my love for the niners. And it ain't coming back!!!

Anonymous said...

@3:23- Have you ever heard of the British Empire? Hello.

Anonymous said...


3:23--- YOU just backed up my claim of ignorance!

And that was before you repeated what you said the first time.

What web sight/ thought process is influencing your remarkable claims?

Cause you sure are not a been their done that person?

I don't want to know your name 3:23, I am curious how old you are and what sort of people taught you?

I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours!!!!!

Anonymous said...

12:33 How many existing countries do you know of, besides the USA, with around 250 years of continuous war, racism, genocide, foreign invasion, etc?

Many countries.

How about China from 215 BC Qin's campaign against the Xiongnu through 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War

How about Britain from 1700 (the great Northern War) to 2016 Military intervention against ISIL

How about France? Germany? Get yerself edumicated and brush up in world history.

BTW the USA is only 240 years old in 2016 old so brush up on your American history before you start shooting from the lip?

Anonymous said...

Maybe you need to expand your knowledge of world history before you start bumping your keyboard gums.

Anonymous said...

If I felt the same way 11:08 pretends to feel about America, I would have fled. Non stop war, racism, and genocide? Get off of your make believe pulpit you incredible jackass, and go back to middle school. Or better yet, the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

12:33 What is interesting to me is the good citizens of Tulsa Oklahoma, had reason to be angry yet they didn't burn their own house down!

Members of the Tulsa Oklahoma black community have no need to burn their own houses down because whitey has historically shown they are more than happy to help out the black community. On May 31 and June 1, 1921, members of the white community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, participated in a riot, killing some 300 Black people. The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district, then the wealthiest black community in the nation.

Anonymous said...

"whitey".
you know a haole wrote that

Anonymous said...

6:47 "whitey".
you know a haole wrote that

No a haole prefers to be called sir, luna, or master you ofay mofo

Anonymous said...

We're not the only one, we're not the only one! But seriously, do we need to keep feeding the bloated beast? Can't we use some of that money to educate our kids and fix our roads and bridges?

Anonymous said...


You got that right 6:47 PM!!!

Not only that but a Haole with a guilt complex!!

I wonder if modern man anthropologists have recognized this as a "complex" yet? Sure is some sorry shit either way.

Anonymous said...

The Telescope will be built. Government action has no time limit. Some day, some way, anything the government wants, it will get.
Speaking of government. Get your friends and family to vote.
This election is important to Kauai's future.
We need Council people who care about our citizens and jobs.
Mason, JoAnn and Gary cater to people who do not need jobs. Their voters are here for the weather and beaches. They could give a "bite me" about the island's people.
A Council without Gary, JoAnn and Mason will still have challenges. But-

I will never forget Mason's quote, which Da Hoos and JoAnna accepted, during the time Mason was trying to raise the GET,
Mason said "Uh, Umh, Err.......the average Kauai family makes $100,000 per year".......Yes Mason, yes Gary, yes JoAnn....maybe your friends and family make the 100 thousand, but most Kauai folks are struggling at $60,000. And this number is thru 2 jobs and more.
So if you want to elect people who think that y'all got big bucks - vote for Gary, JoAnn and Mason.
“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”
“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.”
“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire
“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”
― Voltaire



Anonymous said...

List of wars involving the USA since 1775 from Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States
Also another list of US military interventions since 1890- http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/interventions.html
How do these lists compare with those of other countries? Do the research.

Anonymous said...

Aloha this is 6:39 pm and just to set the record straight for 6:47 and 7:41 I am a Mexican women and feel no white guilt but I suspect both post are from the same guero.

Anonymous said...


Your right 3:29 same guero here.

I should have said "American guilt". But sence you are Mexican your feelings are insulting .

Now if you are an American of Mexican decent that just doesn't like the word American, you also show a self-loathing that is odd.

11:22, I don't need Wikipedia to tell me a list of US wars. Maybe that's the problem, we did not actually learn the context of history so we google it and miss the part were the US has literally saved the world as we know it! But that would just get in the way of your Che narrative.

Anonymous said...

6:09 "Your right 3:29 same guero here."

Nuff said this site is full of sock puppets talking to themselves.

Joan Conrow said...

@8:55 Including you.

Joan Conrow said...

To the sock puppet who is collecting screen shots of the comments of his/her I don't post, what in the world gave you the idea that you have some sort of right to have your worthless crap posted on my blog? Get a life. I'm tired of your obsessive trolling.

Anonymous said...

8:59 Joan what are you talking about? I saw no posts or screen shots. What worthless crap? Can you please note the time and date of the post so us readers know what you are talking about? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

What is a screen shot and how do I take them?

Anonymous said...

People cannot stay on the subject matter on here, can they? They are literally all over the place.

Stay out of the cultural dialogue unless you are a trained cultural practitioner.

For me, I see what that guy did as an act of desperation, a knee jerk reaction to the hopelessness of the situation he found himself in. I would have counseled him to seek a proper cultural specialist in this area, such as someone from his ohana that was a kupuna who could have advised him on if that was pono or not. Lacking that, he could have gone to many different kinds of cultural experts, from genealogists, to historians, even Kumu Hula have basic knowledge in this area.

TO restore what was, you have to know what it was not. That is my opinion on the matter. Before you all start reaming me, I am a cultural practitioner. I would not have advised Mr. Dedman to do what he did, but I could have suggested many other ways to go about it, without actually placing "Ohana Remains" there. The Iwi are sacred, as it was so eloquently stated by the Honorable Late Mary Kawena Puku'i, who was by the way, hapa haole.

She tried her best to re-educate Kanaka Maoli in language culture art and history, but too often the Hawaiian Dictionary is used to name the latest restaurant or the newest resident of Hawaii's child, or for that matter to just make up a name for themselves.

If you ask me, that is the bigger desecration.