Historical abuses of native ancestral remains in Hawaiʻi and on the U.S. continent led to legislative action at the State and Federal level to redress these wrongs and prevent future harm to burials. Despite the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and inclusion of burial protections to State historic preservation laws more than twenty years ago, resting places for iwi kūpuna (native ancestral remains) continue to be disturbed during construction activity. Much of the jurisprudence in this area revolves around the efficacy of archaeological inventory surveys (AIS). The quality of archaeological review is likely affected by the economic motivations of developers and those they contract. Poorly trained, understaffed, and underfunded regulatory agencies such as the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) place iwi kūpuna at risk. This situation can be ameliorated through promoting cross-disciplinary training that integrates the law, anthropology, indigenous and Hawaiian studies.
MALIA AKUTAGAWA is an Assistant Professor of Law with the William S. Richardson School of Law Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law and the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She is part of Hui ʻĀina Momona, a consortium of scholars throughout the university community charged with addressing compelling issues of indigenous Hawaiian knowledge and practices, including the legal regime and Native Hawaiian rights associated with mālama ʻāina, and with focus on cross-disciplinary solutions to natural and cultural resource management. Malia currently teaches Native Hawaiian Rights Clinic, Native Hawaiian Land Issues, and Native Hawaiian Burial and Historic Sites Preservation. Malia was a member of the Native Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council, an advisory body to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She was formerly the Chair of the Molokai Island Burial Council and Chair of the Molokai Planning Commission. She now serves as a member of the State Environmental Council. As a former staff attorney of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, she represented lineal and cultural descendants in a lawsuit against a developer that had destroyed iwi kūpuna in South Kona, Hawaiʻi Island. Malia is a co-author of Hoʻi Hou I Ka Iwikuamoʻo – A Legal Primer for the Protection of Iwi Kūpuna in Hawaiʻi Nei.