The state Intermediate Court of Appeals has ordered Kawaiahao Church to stop any work that could lead to the disinterment of more burials.
The decision ends a three-year court battle launched by Dana Naone Hall, whose family members were buried on church grounds. She filed suit in August 2009, when 69 burials had been found during construction of a multipurpose center (MPC). Since then, many more iwi kupuna were removed, prompting numerous protests.
“Finally, after all the pain and protest, they figured out that this church project was not pono,” said activist Andre Perez, who termed the decision “bittersweet” because approximately 700 individuals “already have been dug up, removed and stored in boxes.”
In granting the injunction last Friday, the court found “a substantial likelihood that we will conclude that the SHPD [State Historic Preservation Division] should have required Kawaiahao Church to complete an AIS [archaeological inventory survey] before State approval of the MPC project and that SHPD violated its own rules in failing to require an AIS before permitting the project to go forward.”
The court’s decision reflects a recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that found SHPD erred by not conducting a full AIS of the high-speed rail route before work began and burials were uncovered in Kakaako.