Army Closes off Sacred Sites

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 24, 2007 — 1 Comment

In a highly controversial move, the US military has shut off all visitation access to sacred sites within the Makua Valley on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu.

“Long-simmering differences between Native Hawaiians and the military over access to Makua Valley have flared anew, with the Army notifying two prominent groups that they will no longer be allowed access to four sacred sites they’ve visited in the past. Malama Makua and Hui Malama say the Army’s notice, contained in a June 12 letter, may violate a 2001 court order guaranteeing cultural access to many sites in the valley, including the four sites they can no longer enter.”

The military is alternately claiming safety issues (they use the valley for training purposes), objections by unnamed descendants, and (perhaps most ironically) the preservation of the sacred sites. This struggle over access between the military and the Native population is nothing new, in fact it has been going on since World War Two.

“The Makua Valley access debate dates to World War II “when the Army took over the valley in early 1943 and kicked out the residents,” Dodge said. “And there was an agreement that six months after the war was over, the valley would be returned in a condition satisfactory to the state. “And when that didn’t happen, the territory sued and it was in and out of the courts until statehood. It was a condition of statehood that the issue be resolved.” In 1964, for the sum of $1, America’s youngest state leased the lower third of Makua Valley to the Army for 65 years, Dodge said.”

Since these obstructionist tactics seem to violate a 2001 court decision granting Hawaiian Native groups visitation access to sacred sites, the matter will most likely end up in court again.

“Denying access to sacred sites denies Native Hawaiians the ability to honor their ancestral spirits within those locations, Aila said. He said the Native Hawaiian groups will continue to seek access to the restricted areas. If their requests continue to be denied, they’ll let a judge make the decision.”

This is just another example of the total disregard the military, the National Park Service, and other government agencies have for the remaining rights of Native peoples. The courts are often the only resort left to check the land-grabs done in the name of “progress” and “security”, and as seen here, even that isn’t always enough to guarantee justice.

Jason Pitzl-Waters