OHA ‘drops the ball’ in protecting cultural sites from Stryker brigade

The Hawaii Independent has published an exclusive article about a formerly secret archaeological and cultural report contracted jointly by the Army and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) for areas affected by the Army’s Stryker Brigade expansion. The article states:

The report, written by independently contracted archaeologist Christopher Monahan, comments on the Army’s numerous shortcomings in its attempts at documenting cultural sites, which, if included on the National Register of Historic Places, offers them various protections from being disturbed.

The report was the end result of a lawsuit OHA filed against the Army in November 2006 alleging violations against the NHPA and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Cultural monitors claimed that numerous sites were being mistreated or were endangered, including Haleauau heiau near Schofield Barracks, whose protective buffers were razed by bulldozers in July of that year.

In October 2008, a settlement was reached where OHA would drop its lawsuit based on its then knowledge of the existing surveys and reports. In return, the Army allowed the independently contracted archaeologist, Monahan, as well as OHA staff, access to Stryker Brigade sites for a total of 50 days in order to draw up an objective second opinion. OHA had the option then to proceed with mediation or litigation based on the new findings.

The article describes some of the findings and conclusions in the archaeologist’s report:

Monahan is critical of the methods used in the previous surveys conducted by the military and its hired firms, recognizing there are issues with the competency of the field personnel involved. It also notes a general lack of subsurface testing, or excavating, to locate such sites. Instead, there are “mere guesses … and based on relatively little scientific data.”

At some locations, Monahan’s findings more than doubled the number of known features the Army had previously reported.

There is also concern regarding numerous earlier reports—ones that evaluated surveys taken of impacted areas—that were not made available to him because they were in draft form. Most problematic was a major report on the Kahuku Training Area, which was completed six years ago but is still not available.

The Army is systematically erasing the history and sacred places in Lihu’e, Kahuku, Pohakuloa and the other areas impacted by its Stryker Brigade expansion. The report by an independent archaeologist blasts the Army for numerous violations and failings and calls for protection of the vast and important cultural site complex in Lihu’e, O’ahu, once the ancient seat of government for O’ahu chiefs. Meanwhile OHA sat on this urgent information.



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