HILO, Hawaii – Ongoing trouble in regards to a special stone placed on Mauna Kea by one of the original petitioners in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing took center stage on Monday.
Kealoha Pisciotta put herself on the witness stand during the several weeks-long proceeding being held at Crown Room the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.
In her testimony, Pisciotta detailed the “hostile environment” she alleges has been created by the University of Hawaii for contemporary cultural practices. UH holds the Master Lease for Mauna Kea summit lands and has been delegated management authority for the astronomy precinct by the state of Hawaii.
The university is also seeking a conservation district use permit that will allow the $1.5 billion TMT to be built on the mountain. Pisciotta opposes the plan.
In her written direct testimony, Pisciotta describes herself as a practitioner of traditional and customary cultural and religious practices relating to Mauna Kea.
On page 11 of her written direct testimony, Pisciotta told the story of her family pohaku:
from Pisciotta’s WDT
Historically Treatment Of Family ahu
For example, in the case of my family ahu it was one thing to have it destroyed once, but since that time it has continued to be desecrated and destroyed on at least seven separate occasions and I can prove at least three of the incidents directly involved University personnel. In fact, the last ahu we made (that is Ms. Keomailani Von Gogh, Mr. Paul K. Neves and I made together) was not to be found on June 18, 2011. My Auntie’s burial remains were desecrated at this site also, as she requested that she be brought there after her passing. (See Exhibit C-7, a picture of my family stone, with me in the picture for context)
My family area is located on the Natural Area Reserve (NARS) which is under the BLNR, and sits on an outcrop not far from the road that faces south-it is beautiful there. I should note that while I did personally place my family stone there because I needed a place to ask for permission to ascend higher, many people have used the area for prayers and offerings. I considered it a place for all who may wish to worship there.
When I discovered it (my family stone) missing, I never suspected any University people would be involved, let alone suspected that it would be disposed of at the Hilo Dump. I found it at the dump by accident, as I had to go to the back area of the dump because it was crowded that day. I found it at the security guard shack. One of the Security guards did rescue it from being thrown in the dumpster, and reported that the person that brought it there drove a red state truck. But in fact the person that took my family stone to the dump was a University employee who worked in housekeeping and later as a star tour guide at the Visitor Center at Hale Pohaku (HP).
After I found it, I replaced it to its original spot. But a couple of days later, the same persons, took it again, but this time I found him with it in his car at HP, as I realized that University’s Mauna Kea Support Services had a red state truck. When I went to work that evening, I found it gone again, so I called down to HP and asked the cook (Walter Poha) to look in his (Mr. Hugh Grossman, the UH employee) car, he told me it was in the car. I actually called the police for help, and was told by them that if he didn’t return it they would come and help me get it back. He did finally give it back, and I returned it again. This same stone was taken a third time and it has never been recovered.
Of course this stone had sat there for years and no one had ever touched it until Mr. Grossman of the University took it the first time. After hearing of my missing stone, another Kupuna gave me the stone that belonged to Aunty Iolani Luahine (the Hula Master). They gave it to me to keep the prayer going, until I found mine again. This pohaku, too, was taken by another University tour guide and that stone has never been recovered either. Since that time we have erected numerous other smaller ahu, these were made of numerous stones not a single stones. These ahu have been desecrated about five more times, which means the desecration and destruction of this site is on-going!
I want to note that Dr. McLaren did write an apology letter to me on behalf of the University which was very genuine, but after my ahu stone was taken the first time it was taken two more times and has never been recovered. It is clear that University policies were not consistent with Dr. McLaren’s personal feelings. The State Historic Preservation Archeologists, Ms. Holly McEldowney and Mr. Marc Smith, had to write a letter on my behalf to the NARS and DOCARE Office (State Enforcement Office) to assure them that my ahu was not disturbing anything historic. In my discussions with Holly she told me that I had a right to continue my practice and that is why they would write a letter on my behalf. How ironic it is that I was investigated for my practice, rather then University personnel for desecration—there is a law prohibiting it in our state (HRS §711-1107). (See Exhibits C-8 and C-9, Dr. McLaren’s letter regarding the ahu incident and Mr. Marc Smith’s letter regarding my ahu).