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Vandals damage historic Hawaiian sites


    Etched into the moss-covered walls of the crumbling interior of the summer palace of King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama in Nuuanu was a series of crosses.

Within the past month vandals have desecrated two historic Hawaiian sites — the summer palace of King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama in Nuuanu — and the mile-long walls beneath the fence surrounding Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is seeking witnesses or anyone who has knowledge of vandalism to any historical or cultural site in Hawaii to call the statewide DOCARE Hotline at 643-DLNR.

Dan Dennison, spokesman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the vandalism at Kaniakapupu in the watershed area of Nuuanu was discovered within the past two weeks.

Etched into the moss-covered walls of the crumbling interior of the building was a series of crosses.

Dennison said the Nuuanu site is not checked regularly by state officials.

Within the past month, vandals also etched marks on the walls underneath the newly restored fence surrounding Iolani Palace.

Land Board Chairwoman Suzanne Case said, in a written statement: “It’s hard to understand how anyone thinks it is okay or pono to draw or etch graffiti on any of Hawaii’s historical or cultural treasures. They need to understand that their actions not only potentially destroy the cultural integrity of these sites and structures, but also show tremendous disrespect toward our host culture and to the countless volunteers and staff who work hard to preserve these places for future generations.”

Baron Ching, vice chairman for the volunteers from Aha Hui Malama O Kaniakapupu, which works to protect Kaniakapupu, said the structure was the first government building built in western style with mortar and plaster with a grass roof. It was erected in 1835.

Ching, in the land board’s news release, said: “Leave it alone. Don’t scratch it, don’t do anything to it, come with respect. Criminy sakes, I don’t know where you’re coming from, but this is not a graffiti palette to do your thing. This is important to a lot of people. This is important to the Hawaiian nation, yea. It’s just utter disrespect, utter disrespect. How does it make me feel? It makes me feel awful.”

He added, “Come with respect. There is history going back to the beginning of time in this area. Modern Hawaii was forged in this place … inside these walls every single monarch, every single high chief or chiefess were inside these walls … and it’s entirely inappropriate to put graffiti on the walls, to move the stones around. It’s entirely inappropriate to be climbing around this place.”

“It’s not the first time they’ve carved all kinds of stuff in there. They’re carving happy faces, all kinds of stupid stuff. This plaster is 180 years old; was put here by the hands of the kupuna. It was the first government building built by the government of Hawaii. When you vandalize it or damage it in anyway, there’s no way we can repair that.”

In May, the state completed a yearlong, $1.5 million project to renovate and repair the more than a century-old ironwork fence and plastered wall that bounds the four sides of the Iolani Palace grounds.

Gates at the ground’s multiple entrances were also included in the renovation project, as were the ironwork fence and brick wall enclosing the Royal Tomb Site on the palace grounds.

The renovation work involved stripping all rust and paint from the more than half-mile-long fence and gates and incrementally removing them to an off-site location where the individual segments received a hot-dip galvanizing treatment and repainting that should protect them more thoroughly and for much longer, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources reported.

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    • Vandalism is terrible, especially at a historic place. Some forms of vandalism are done by kids who like to “tag” walls with their name or their mark. I’m old enough to remember the phrase “Kilroy was here” scrawled by American soldiers and tourists all over Europe and America.

      Some forms of vandalism are done for a political purpose. Like the Taliban destroying thousand-year-old statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in Afghanistan. Like the sovereignty activists who desecrated the sacred grounds of Iolani Palace by erecting a rockpile there on January 17, 1993, which they called an “ahu” (altar). Like the activists who built a rockpile next to Bachman Hall at UH a few years ago to protest UH getting patents for genetically modified taro. Yes, 3-dimensional tagging is a form of vandalism.

      There’s no evidence that the tagging of the Palace fence supporting wall, or the Kaniakapupu house, was done for a political purpose; because such political tagging of historic places would be especially bad and should be criminally punished.

      • You can call the erection of ahu “vandalism” if it makes you feel haole-pono, but unlike this latest vandalism, no harm was done either at Iolani Palace or Bachman Hall. (And certainly nobody would consider the latter a “sacred site”!)

        And your comment about the vandalism at Kaniakapupu (poorly described as “tagging” both in the article and by you) is misleading — perhaps deliberately so. There may be no clear evidence that it was done “for a political purpose”. But religious fundamentalism is the obvious motivator (though we can never rule out a political angle with these folks either). Do you not think that’s equally reprehensible and should be equally punished? I do.

  • This is terrible news. Just like what the mainland transplants did to Kaule o Nanahoa on Molokai with their ghetto LA tags carved in. There are a lot of mainland transplant chronics who sleep around the palace – its a shame that the guards do not just kick them off the property and sidewalks.

  • No surprises here. Church windows are shattered, the homeless defecate inside temples, altars are vandalized, memorials are tagged and damaged. We have cultivated a society of miscreants, those that feel they are entitled or otherwise privileged, and allow an interpretation of what “freedom” means and entails to overwhelm accepted societal rules and mores.

  • Perhaps it is not graffiti as much as a statement. Most people, Polynesian and otherwise, were Christians in the old Kingdom.

    Ching said, “This is important to the Hawaiian nation, yea.”


    • Ching added, “There is history going back to the beginning of time in this area.”
      Apparently, time started for Ching in 1879 ( Iolani’s build date). Or was it when the Polynesian invaded the islands in 1250 A.D.?

        • When anyone comes into a land area unwelcomed, overwhelms the existing population, and takes over it is most certainly an invasion. This occurred in the islands according to the University of Hawaii, and Terry Hunt’s, work around 1250 AD.

        • Search: “East Polynesia colonized faster and more recently than previously thought”.

          I can only lead you out of ignorance. I cannot make you follow.

        • Stick to the topic. I have stated nothing but the truth. The truth is not hatred. It is simply fact, so deal with it, and don’t make false attacks on me.

        • “Most people were Christian in the old Kingdom”.

          Not until the missionaries showed up, pal.

        • Huh? I love all people including Hawaiians. I don’t agree with wild accusations of sovereignty advocates but, frankly, nobody takes them seriously anymore anyway. They are self-discrediting. But it is their ill-advised ideas I disagree with. Not their race. As a Native American, I have been very well welcomed by Hawaiians.

  • This just hurts the heart. So hurtful. So unnecessary. And SO disrespectful. One would hope we are ALL doing our part in teaching our children how NOT to be like this.

    • The New England missionaries sent doctors and teachers.

      They set up schools for the Hawaiians and created a written form of the Hawaiian language.

      When they departed in the late 19th century they left behind the third most literate group of people in the world (after Scotland and New England).

      They had a vital role in saving the Hawaiian people from extinction.

  • Kaniakapupu (Luakaha) has been neglected for much too long. The existing structure should be stabilized against further deterioration, a replica of the palace should be constructed as a visitor’s center and a caretaker’s cottage should be constructed on the grounds to insure against further vandalism (similar to the one at Mauna’ Ala). Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) was the longest serving Hawaiian monarch and the most far-seeing one. This is the only existing site associated with his reign. His legacy of armoring his people to survive in a hostile world should be shared by all who reside in Hawaii, not just persons of Hawaiian heritage

  • Revision of Kapu and strict laws to modern civilized laws have allowed crimes with no punishment or accountability. If you have nothing to lose or values to speak of you can do anything you like. IF you get caught you say sorry in court and get a light sentence. Criminals of all levels laugh and walk away with the present day ainokea attitude.

  • So what’s new! It has being happening for a long time, especially some that feel disfranchised and abandoned. Have nots way paying back for their miserableness.

  • I’m troubled when I see media depictions of such vandalism. While I totally support freedom of information, such widely published images also reward the perpetrators and embolden the copycats. Perhaps a middle ground is to publish these images smaller?

  • No more ticket or click it’s and dui road blocks until we can get back the neighborhoods. Kealoha’s should resign so we can get a Chief that can book and a PA who can convict. No more family member abuse, rapes, brutality, thefts, .

  • While certainly not condoning this act, this “vandalism” appears only to be that the moss was scraped from the rock. Intentional yes, but not like it was spray painted or actually chipped away. If someone just scrapes away the rest of the moss, the original façade would be exposed and nobody would know better. Eventually the moss will grow back and nothing will appear out of place.

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