Unlike western burials in caskets (where the body is stretched out in the prone position,) native Hawaiians were typically buried wrapped in tapa in the flex position (the legs were drawn taut until the knees touched the chest (Malo.))
In addition to actual burials in and under the earth or land, Hawaiians also used burial caves, disposal pits and caverns to hide the bones of the dead (Kamakau.) The funerals take place in the night, to avoid observation and to maintain secrecy.
There are several special secret burial hiding places for the high chiefs, including the caves in ‘Iao Valley, Maui and Pali Kapu O Keōua, Kealakekua Bay, Hawai‘i.
Many ancient Hawaiians were buried in the beach and sand dunes, in unmarked graves.
Waikīkī has a centuries-old Hawaiian heritage, inhabited by Native Hawaiians for some 2,000-years. Waikīkī was the preferred playground and royal residence of generations of ancestors. (Kāhi Hāli‘a Aloha plaque)
As a result of ongoing excavation and construction in modern Waikīkī, the bones of long-deceased Hawaiians come to light. Lineal descendants worked with governmental agencies to find ways to dignify and honor the final remains of those who preceded them. (Kāhi Hāli‘a Aloha plaque)
A Memorial was proposed and designed by the lineal descendants to accommodate Hawaiian ancestral remains – Kāhi Hāli‘a Aloha (“The Place of Loving Remembrance.”)
Keawe Keohokālole designed the memorial; his lineage includes High Chiefess Ane Keohokālole, biological mother of King Kalākaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani.
The Memorial is the first of its kind to offer permanent and dignified protection to generations of Hawaiian ancestral remains unearthed and/or repatriated from museum collections across the nation.
The burial monument, situated at the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues (fronting the Honolulu Zoo,) now contains about 200 iwi kūpuna (skeletal ancestral remains.) Currently, the remains fill only the west-facing side of the eight-sided memorial.
Approximately 50 sets of skeletal remains, said to be more than 100 years old, were discovered during a Board of Water Supply project along Kalākaua Avenue. In addition, there are 150 skeletal remains that were unearthed during earlier Waikīkī projects (these had been stored for years at Bishop Museum.)
At the time of the blessing, A. Van Horn Diamond, speaking on behalf of the families, said, “This is the affirmation of what happens when families assume their responsibility and the community provides support for it to take place.”
When I was Deputy Managing Director for Hawai‘i County, I remember Lily Kong, a respected Kona kūpuna, had recommended a similar type of arrangement (a burial memorial for the relocation of inadvertent burials) in each of Kona’s ahupua‘a.
(According to State law, inadvertently discovered (finding a burial that was not previously known,) burial remains are to be protected in place (if not immediately threatened with damage from natural or man-made causes.) Final disposition of remains is determined in consultation with DLNR-SHPD and native Hawaiian descendants of the families.)
State rules (HAR §13-300-2) define lineal and cultural descendants:
“Lineal descendant” means with respect to Native Hawaiian skeletal remains, a claimant who has established to the satisfaction of the council, direct or collateral genealogical connections to certain Native Hawaiian skeletal remains …”
“… or with respect to non Native Hawaiian skeletal remains, a claimant who has established to the satisfaction of the department, direct or collateral genealogical connections to certain non Native Hawaiian skeletal remains.
“Cultural descendant” means with respect to non Native Hawaiian skeletal remains, a claimant recognized by the department as being the same ethnicity, or with respect to Native Hawaiian skeletal remains, a claimant recognized by the council after establishing genealogical connections to Native Hawaiian ancestors who once resided or are buried or both, in the same ahupua`a or district in which certain Native Hawaiian skeletal remains are located or originated from.