Ka‘iulani Huff, the Kapa‘a resident who has been tent camping for nearly three months on a Wainiha property discovered to be an ancient Hawaiian burial site in protest of planned developments, met with Kaua‘i Police Department officials Friday.
“Essentially, they wanted to warn me that they’re coming to our graveyard on Tuesday, and that — they didn’t say it out loud — but they were warning me that we’re going to get arrested,” Huff said after the meeting.
“We did not ask her to leave, but if the developer decides they want to go in, they’ve provided all the documentation and we will be there to ensure their legal rights are protected, to minimize potential conflict with her (Huff’s) group and make sure nobody gets hurt,” said KPD Assistant Chief Clayton Arinaga.
“We agreed as a department that we needed to meet with Ms. Huff and the rest of the demonstrators to get on the same page and make sure we respect their right to protest, but also to make sure they keep it peaceful,” said KPD Chief Darryl Perry.
Huff claims that the Wainiha subdivision should instead belong to her as it was granted to her family by the Hawaiian crown prior to American intervention.
A Jan. 31 Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruling determined that the state cannot sell any of the 1.2 million acres of ceded lands that once belonged to the Hawaiian monarchy until all claims are settled.
Huff said that “things are conspiring in our history right now” that could lead to her recovering the land. She expects a variety of Hawaiian sovereignty groups to join in her protest.
“We are sympathetic to her side, but we have a duty to perform our jobs,” Arinaga said.
Landowner Joseph Brescia, according to attorney Walton Hong, has been trying to build a home on the land since 2001, but has been delayed by various environmental, legal and community challenges.
The Kaua‘i Island Burial Council determined in April that 30 burials discovered on the property in a December 2007 archaeological survey must be left in place in order for construction to begin.
Groundbreaking was rumored to start earlier this month, but contractor Ted Burkhardt and his crew left without performing any work as some 40 residents were assembled at the site in protest.
Tuesday is now rumored to be the first day of construction.
Brescia said yesterday in a phone interview that he was “considering” building a 2,350-square-foot, three-bedroom home on the property and that he would likely be issuing a formal statement this week.
“I’m not a developer, I’m just a regular guy in a very unfortunate, uncomfortable situation,” he said. “I’ve done everything I can to make this sensitive and respectful, and I don’t know what else can be changed.