comscore Suit accuses Army of blocking visits to Makua sites | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Suit accuses Army of blocking visits to Makua sites


    A Native Hawaiian cultural group is suing the Army over access to Makua Valley. An Army Kiowa helicopter flies over a convoy of soldiers at the Makua Military Reservation.

The Army is violating a court settlement by restricting access to cultural sites in a valley many Native Hawaiians consider sacred, a lawsuit filed Monday 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 preservationists 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 live 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, that 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 was “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.

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  • There will always be a Military versus Civilian conflict, when the Federal Government is involved.

    It has always been, the government response, throughout Hawaiian history.

    The dominant force dictates the laws, rules, and policies. The subordinate force, will always require the will of the people, legislators, judges, jurists, and the executive branch, to change the military might.

    Makua will always be behind the 8 ball.

    • It actually can be done, Navy did it on Kaho’olawe. Hawaiian groups and Navy came together. It has to still be the most dangerous place but Hawaiians go there. Work with retired navy EOD guys who were part of clean up or escort teams.

  • Evidently these posters never lived in Wai`anae and doesn’t realize that Makua was taken illegally and used war preparedness as their reason to adverse possess this valley. An agreement was made to use the valley to make their military war ready and clean up Makua and return the valley to it’s pristine state. When they knew they couldn’t clean it up and keep their agreement made, they plain kept the valley. Sheesh they are the military and they do to the `aina as they please. Ancient significant sites, no problem like Kaho`olawe they just paint targets on it for practice. The fires, the soil erosion problem and now limited access to what community members perceive as valued cultural entities and once again denied the community of their agreed upon rights. If you not from Wai`anae or not aware of the history of Makua Valley, please fight instead for the military to bomb a valley close to you.

    • You are actually right. Once responded to an artillery round that landed in a lady’s backyard. It was not an HE round but had a spotters charge. Came from a 155 piece. Still smoking when we got there.

    • If you open it up it will turn into a giant dumping ground like the rest of Waianae. Sorry, but the only cultural practitioners I ever saw in Waianae were throwing empty beer cans on the beach or refrigerators into drainage canals. Let the military keep it at least it won’t turn into a trash heap.

  • Appears the Army is being a bad neighbor…again. Time to ask what are the cost/benefit return on investment of having so much Army presence here in Hawaii?. Especially since there appears to be limited military strategic value. Also we need to explore the impact of generous housing allowance that allows so many military to buy real estate in one of the most expensive states in the nation.

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