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Maui man led efforts to restore ancient site

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A service is scheduled Saturday on Maui for a man who was instrumental in reviving interest in the restoration of the royal residence of King Kamehameha I in Lahaina, the first capital of the Hawaiian kingdom.

The service for Anthony “Akoni” Akana will begin at 9 a.m. at the site of Moku‘ula, across from the 505 Front St. shopping center in Lahaina.

Oahu services will take place at 9 a.m. on April 30 at the Oahu Cemetery Chapel.

Akana, who died March 25 of complications from diabetes, was 54.

Experts said the Kamehameha site, about 14 to 17 acres, is among the most historic sites in the islands.

Akana led the Friends of Moku‘ula in the early 1990s to begin restoring Moku‘ula Island and Mokuhinia Pond, where Kamehameha resided after his unification of the Hawaiian Islands.

“People thought he was crazy when he first explored reviving the island. … They told him it would not be possible,” said Hokulani Holt, a former board member of Friends of Moku‘ula. “Now, it’s more than possible. It’s on its way.”

Holt said much of the site of the Kamehameha pond and island remains under a baseball field, tennis court, basketball park and parking lot.

Under Akana’s leadership, the nonprofit organization supported an archaeological survey by Bishop Museum that confirmed the presence of the pond and island.

The group received a $131,000 federal grant to develop a plan to acquire the land. Friends of Moku‘ula was instrumental in halting the development of a shopping center on part of the site in 2001.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing planning and technical assistance to restore the pond.

Akana, who studied under the late kumu hula George Naope, was also a composer of songs and chants.

The Friends of Moku‘ula is establishing an Akoni Akana Po‘okela Scholarship Fund.

He is survived by his parents, Frances and Kainoa Akana of Honolulu.

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