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PMRF hosts ceremony to reinter Native Hawaiian remains

BARKING SANDS — The lineal descendants of iwi kupuna discovered on the grounds of the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) were joined by leadership of the facility during the two-day Ka Mauiki‘iki‘i O Ke Kauwela, or celebration of the summer solstice.

The protocol and ceremony wrapped up on June 21 at the crypt at PMRF.

“It is our sacred duty to honor the iwi kupuna, and the connection with the Native Hawaiians who rest on these grounds,” said PMRF Commanding Officer Capt. Brett Stevenson. “PMRF is entrusted with watching over this sanctuary, and ensuring the care of the iwi kupuna. PMRF is honored to be included in the broader ‘ohana of the descendants.”

During Ka Mauiki‘iki‘i O Ke Kauwela, participants honored their ancestors and laid to rest iwi kupuna discovered at PMRF over the past year.

Because PMRF is situated on ancient burial grounds, the climate change, storm and tidal surge conditions have resulted in a shifting landscape that reveal the iwi kupuna.

When remains are discovered, cultural experts at PMRF work in consultation with the lineal descendants in accordance with Native Hawaiian traditions and customs on the most appropriate path forward, whether in reburying the remains or conducting an archaeological process to inter the remains at the crypt.

On the evening of June 20, the descendants gathered for a sunset ceremony where the iwi kupuna were repatriated following the appropriate cultural protocols and entombed into their moe loa, or eternal resting place. The crypt was then resealed for the final time.

Tara del Fierro, the cultural resources manager and archaeologist at PMRF, said a new crypt will be added to the site.

During the solemn ceremony, the descendants, PMRF leadership team and guests placed lei and gently tossed flowers on the crypt. Stevenson added to that lei ho‘okupu with the presentation of a native naupaka plant from Kuaki‘i, or Divers Landing, at PMRF, where major storm surge had revealed iwi kupuna. Stevenson’s ho‘okupu is for the future design of the crypt, and to create a lasting connection to the site.

“Our responsibility in creating this sanctuary will always endure,” Stevenson said. “It is one of my most important responsibilities.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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