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State’s removal of canoe prompts complaints

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KAILUA-KONA » State officials have removed a partially built Hawaiian canoe from Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, leading to complaints that the government is violating cultural rights.

But despite the project’s cultural value, the 34-foot double-hull koa canoe was taken away Thursday for being built illegally on state park land, said Curt Cottrell, assistant administrator of state parks for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Use of park land requires permits and written authorization.

Others, like project leader Derek "Mac" McGuire, contend Hawaiian cultural practices should be protected.

"State law provides for these cultural practices," said McGuire, a master canoe builder with 20 years of experience constructing nine canoes from scratch. "I just want to live in peace and build canoes. It’s my time to pass on the knowledge."

McGuire, 51, said he was sent by akua — God — to build a traditional Hawaiian canoe at the state park. He has been building the canoe since November after gathering fallen koa trees from Kapapala in Volcano.

"This is part of our cultural rights and beliefs," said Peter Alu, a Kealakekua Bay-area resident who has helped build the canoe. "We’re building this canoe because historically there have been 2,500 canoes on this beach. And now that we’re trying to restore that, they’re saying we can’t even have one."

The state alleges McGuire did not obtain permission from the Board of Land and Natural Resources and a special use permit needed to construct a canoe and live full time at the park.

Cottrell said McGuire has illegally camped, burned fires and run a portable generator at the park since at least December.

McGuire was notified July 28 in writing of the department’s plan to remove his possession, and another notice ordered him to vacate the premises by Wednesday.

When the state took action Thursday, McGuire left the canoe in the park to get a point across.

"Let them take it," he said. State law "reaffirms and will protect the rights of the native Hawaiians to practice their cultural, traditional, religious and customary practices."

 

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