Our filming in Hawai`i took us to many special places beyond Kaho`olawe. Listening to stories about the amazing, profound impact that the extended family known as the Protect Kaho`olawe `Ohana had throughout the islands, offered a textbook lesson in resistance and social change. Honokahua, on the western end of Maui, is but one example.
When beachside construction began on Ritz Carlton’s Kapalua Resort in 1987 bulldozers began churning up human remains from the sand dunes. This was pre-NAGPRA, so there was no legal recourse to stop the desecration of ancestral burials. At least 1,100 human skeletons (iwi is Hawaiian for “the bones”) were disturbed and word spread quickly. The people who responded were seasoned activists midway through their fight with the U.S. Navy over the sacred island of Kaho`olawe, a bombing target that is visible to the south of Kapalua. People on Maui regularly watched red dust clouds soar into the blue sky and then heard the sickening time-delayed thuds of modern war floating across the ocean. Anger over tourism and resort construction on prime oceanfront fishing grounds—and ancestral burials—was about to boil over.
Clifford Nae`ole is now Cultural Advisor and Public Relations Manager at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort, and he graciously showed us the historic site and told the story in an interview. It’s a success story, and you will have to watch the video to find out how the dramatic victory played out.
Footnote: This is one of those sweet stories that just didn’t find a place in the 25-minute Kaho`olawe segment we edited as the concluding story in our Standing on Sacred Ground series. We edited it as a DVD extra and we are happy to post it online.