comscore Lawsuit: Army denies access to Hawaiian cultural sites | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Lawsuit: Army denies access to Hawaiian cultural sites


    In this Dec. 8, 2003 photo, an Army Kiowa helicopter flies over a convoy of U.S. soldiers at the Makua Military Reservation.

The U.S. Army is violating a court settlement by restricting access to cultural sites in a valley many Native Hawaiians consider sacred, a lawsuit filed today alleges.

Attorneys for environmental law organization Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in federal court in Honolulu on behalf of Malama Makua, a Native Hawaiian cultural group. It’s the latest action in a long-running legal dispute over Makua Valley, the site of decades of military training.

A 2001 settlement allows Malama Makua to access sacred sites twice a month, but the Army suddenly imposed a “blanket ban” in 2014 when it claimed it first needed to obtain clearance from historic preservations to cut grass on trails leading to cultural sites so that any unexploded ordnance could be avoided, the lawsuit said.

In September 2015, the Army obtained a grass-cutting agreement but said it then needed to investigate an accident that injured two contractors. The contractors were cutting grass for military training in April 2015 when unexploded ordnance exploded.

The Army partially lifted the ban in November 2015 and allowed access to a few locations including, a paved parking area, a pavilion and ahu, or altars the community erected to celebrate the Makahiki season, said David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney.

While important to cultural practitioners, the areas are not cultural sites, he said, and the Army continues to block access to sites including temples, shrines, burials and petroglyphs.

U.S. Army Hawaii spokesman Dennis Drake says officials won’t comment on pending litigation.

There’s been no live-fire training in the valley since 2004.

“In the … years of access there’s never been anyone on an access who has stubbed their toe, much less been injured by unexploded ordnance,” Henkin said. The contractors were cutting grass for military training, not cultural access, in an area that Malama Makua doesn’t use, he said.

“Every excuse they’ve come up with we’ve been patient. Persistent but patient,” he said.

Malama Makua consists of people who are “Hawaiian by blood and Hawaiian at heart,” mostly from the Waianae Coast, where the valley is located, Henkin said.

The settlement is “meant to be an opportunity for the people of the Waianae Coast and the broader community to reconnect culturally with a valley that’s been cut off by military training and the Army doesn’t like that,” he said.

Comments (19)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • Here we go again with the sacred site claims. I guess my native ancestors forgot to pass on the sacred value of Makua Valley. Perhaps Malama Makua can educate the rest of us about the ancient deities that are worshiped. Perhaps the same deities are regularly worshiped on Mauna Kea by these Hawaiians and Hawaiians-at-heart?

    • Sad to say Earthjustice & Malama Makua are basically “Gold Diggers” who haven’t got a clue how the real world works. Only taking care of #1.

      So what part of eliminating safety hazards do you not understand? Just imagine if someone from Earthjustice or Malama Makua was killed by stepping on unexploded ordinance. All because they demanded instant access to a site they really hardly ever visit.

      Sorry losers you can’t have it both ways. Get a life!

  • The Army being a bad neighbor…again. What is the cost/benefit of some much Army in Hawaii? Tactically and strategically not needed. Boondoggle duty assignments, many seen off more than at work and buying up Hawaii Real Estate like mad.

    • The Federal Government including the military is the second largest economic factor after tourism in the Hawaii economy. Imagine a stool with two-and-a-half legs. It’s a little wobbly but it will stand up. Now take away one of the long legs. That’s our economy without the Federal Government. Some service members buy homes and condos. (Usually officers and senior non-coms) Most who live off-base do not. The service members I know work plenty hard as well as endure the obvious hardships.

  • I almost got killed there in the 70’s by a fellow soldier tripping and firing a shot with his M16 and a round passing so close to my ear I lost my hearing for a week. We sure kept the place clean picking up anything that didn’t belong there before we got there and when we left. Too bad some Hawaiians just trash everything right across the road.

    • Exactly. Remember when the Navy gave Barber’s Point back to the state. Within days locals had trashed it so bad nearby residents asked the Navy to take it back.

      So where was Earthjustice and Malama Makua? No where to be seen as they knew they had failed again. All talk, no action. Their standard. Total losers.

      • Exactly. Remember when the Navy gave Barber’s Point back to the state. Within days locals had trashed it so bad nearby residents asked the Navy to take it back.

        Sad to say wrightj hasn’t got a clue.

        • So where was Earth Justice, Malama Makua, David Henkin, when all this Barber’s point trashing was and still is going on? I’ll tell you. Hiding from the public.

          They all know they haven’t got a clue what to do about this. David Henkin is looking for an ambulance to chase.

          So laughable these baboozes.

    • Then it will be known as Makua Valley Dump Site. Guarantee after the government will have to spend about $10,000,000.00 to clean it up then it’s a free for all 4×4 bring your trash and dump it like they do everywhere else on the Westside.

  • Some of these Hawaiians are litigation happy. They will sue on anything and Earthjustice will represent them. Henkin admits these aren’t cultural sites, but they still claim them as SACRED. Don’t ask the Governor for help. Based on the TMT matter, he will just mess everything up.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up