In April 1993, hunters stumbled upon a burial cave deep inside Waimea Valley several miles above Waimea town.
Within the cave, they uncovered five human skulls, bones and cloth material.
Police were then notified and removed the remains in a plastic bag.
Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Robinson said police needed to remove them to determine if they were the remains of hikers who’d vanished in the Koke‘e area.
He also said police handled them carefully with no intention of desecrating anything.
But, when Aletha Kaohi of Waimea — a historian and preservationist of Hawaiian culture and artifacts whose ancestry extends back six generations to Kaumuali‘i (the last king of Kaua‘i) — learned the details of what had occurred, she protested, insisting the cave had been desecrated.
She said, “The police should have been able to recognize a burial cave and that when it is ancient, it is no longer their responsibility. Hawaiians believe bones have life, and when you put them in a plastic bag, you snuff out the spirit in them.”
She was also personally offended, since the bones were, in fact, those of her ancestors.
She explained that when she was a child, she and her father, William Kapahukaniolonookainoahou Goodwin, often rode horseback into the valley and visited that very same cave — the burial cave of her ancestors.
Kalani Flores, a member of the Kaua‘i Historic Preservation Review Commission, said the police should have first consulted an authority on Hawaiian artifacts, and by improperly disclosing the cave’s location, they’d caused Hawaiian families to worry that people would begin searching for caves to collect or sell the artifacts they’d find.
Edward Ayau, spokesman for the state Historic Preservation Division, also stated that by law, police should have brought an archaeologist to the cave before removing the remains.
Upon examination, the county medical examiner deemed the remains to be ancient and those of a family — an infant, a teenager and two adults – but the fifth skull was unknown.
Aletha Kaohi was unsuccessful in reclaiming the remains before police reburied them at the cave.
Source: The Garden Island