Bone reburial bill riles Native Hawaiians


HONOLULU — Dug-up bones and unidentified remains of Native Hawaiians might be reburied on an uninhabited island if a proposed law passes.

Hawaii’s Senate is considering a bill that would designate the island of Kahoolawe as the resting place for unknown or “inadvertently discovered” Hawaiian bones when those remains can’t be reburied nearby.

The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, which includes the Historic Preservation Division, supports the bill (SB320). But several Native Hawaiians voiced opposition, saying transplanting bones from the island of their burial is culturally inappropriate.

Alan Downer, administrator of the division, told the Hawaiian Affairs Committee on Friday the law would affect the rare cases of a museum repatriating unidentifiable bones to Hawaii. More commonly, such as when construction projects disturb old graves, remains would be unlikely to leave their home island, he said.

The transfer of bones desecrated by a disinterment would upset the spiritual harmony of Kahoolawe, considered a sacred island, said Davianna McGregor, a spokeswoman for Protect Kahoolawe Ohana, a heritage organization for the island.

“You won’t want to bring that kind of mana (spiritual energy) to the island,” she said. “It’s already borne enough abuse.”

The organization’s testimony to the Senate urged amendments that would compel the state to move human remains as little as possible.

 

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