WAILUA — A group of people clearing state land at a bellstone site in Wailua are wondering where the bellstone is.
During the cleanup, Megeso-William-Alan Denis said they couldn’t find the bellstone, which would be more than a century old. A missing bellstone would be considered a significant cultural loss, but one person could probably not carry it away.
“We came here to do our cultural and religious practices to clean up the hale because the state has failed in its fiduciary responsibility to the people, not only to the public, but to the Kanaka Maoli,” Denis said.
The site, he said, is one of the most sacred parts of the hale for the Kanaka Maoli. The bellstone was rung to announce the birth of a child or to warn citizens of a pending danger, such as an attack or a tsunami.
According to historical records, the Kauai bellstone near ‘Opaeka’a Falls is a rock formation that was built by the natives long ago to honor a historical or significant event. The rocks were placed so that a certain sound would be made once they were struck.
Bellstones can be found on all the main Hawaiian Islands. A bellstone in Kauai is reported to be located just off of Highway 580 in the Wailua area. The two boulders of bellstone are supposed to be located about 100 feet past a guardrail, but the group said the bellstone isn’t there.
A visitor to Kauai last year searched for the bellstone and posted this comment:
“On a previous trip to Kauai I was able to walk to what I think was the bellstone, and on to an overlook with a primitive metal pipe fence around it overlooking the Wailua River.
“I just got back from another trip there, but it looks like tons of lava rock has been dumped along the route and has been overgrown, making it impossible to walk or find the location. Am I just misremembering, or has the path been purposely blocked to hide the bellstone from tourists?”
The group also found large boulders and sand they say were dumped at the site.
“This is all one big hale. This is a continuous hale all the way down to the birthing rock. We cannot get to the birthing rock from this location any longer. So to block that access was to block again, the spiritual rights of the Kanaka Maoli people,” Denis said.
He wants to know what the federal government is going to do about any violations and who would be held accountable for them.
In the meantime, he said, they’ll continue cleaning the area.
“But we’re limited with equipment so it will take us a long time. The bellstone needs to be returned to the rightful spot, the whole area needs to be redone, cleaned over, because it is their fiduciary responsibility,” he said.
There are believed to be more bellstone sites on Kauai.
The group’s expectation is for the site to be fully restored.
In a statement to TGI, Hawaii Department of Land &Natural Resources Senior Communications Manager Dan Dennison said, “This matter is under investigation and we don’t comment on matters that are under active law enforcement investigation. Once the investigation is complete we may have something to release.”