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Review underway into human remains placed on Mauna Kea

HILO » A Hilo man who claims to have placed human remains of an ancestor at the site where a giant telescope could be built atop Mauna Kea says he wants to show the area should be protected.

Palikapu Dedman, who is facing potential criminal charges, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald he placed the remains on a stone altar at the site last September. He said he placed more remains there earlier this month after realizing the first set was missing.

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

Dedman said he plans to seek protective status for the altar as a burial site.

He declined to provide details about how he got the remains but said they belong to relatives from his ancestral home of Kau. State law prohibits the excavation or alteration of a burial site.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has investigated Dedman’s actions and forwarded its findings to the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review.

Opponents of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope proposal, including Dedman, say it will desecrate state land.

Harry Fergerstrom, a participant in the contested case for the telescope’s land use permit, recently submitted a “notice of burial claim” for the site. He said a relative told him there are remains of his ancestors near the access road for the project.

“Burials are another area that needs to be explored,” Fergerstrom said.

The Office of Mauna Kea Management said the mountain has been surveyed for burials and other archaeological features. There are no known burials at the site, located at 13,100 feet above sea level, or other telescope sites, according to the office.

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