Paulette Kaleikini and her attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation stopped construction on the city's rail project until the Archeological Surveys are completed
Paulette Kaleikini wants to protect native Hawaiian burials along the planned rail route. Some of the burials may be that of her ancestors.

Archeologists surveying the 20-mile route of the planned Honolulu rail transit line over the weekend discovered what appears to be ancient Hawaiian burial sites in Kakaako.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation web site documents the October 6 find on Halekauwila Street as “Disarticulated human remains from at least two separate individuals” and a “single, intact human burial.”

About three weeks ago on September 12, a single human bone fragment was unearthed near Cooke Street in Kakaako, but later left intact and covered so the archaeological firm could excavating the surrounding area.

The City & County of Honolulu originally began construction on the controversial elevated steel on steel rail project this summer, claiming officials could segment the project into four parts, and complete the archeological surveys one section at a time.

But there were legal challenges against the city, including a state lawsuit that has already been successful in stopping the project, at least temporarily.

The city was forced to cease construction after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on August 24 that all the surveying should have been completed before the city broke ground on the $5.2 billion project.

In a unanimous 82-page opinion in Kaleikini v. Yoshioka, Hawaii Supreme Court justices said the City did not comply with the State’s historic preservation and burial protection laws when it failed to complete the archeological inventory survey.

Paulette Kaleikini, a native Hawaiian with family members buried in Kakaako, possibly in the rail’s path, was represented by Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and attorney David Frankel when she challenged the city’s decision to begin construction in the state’s highest court.

Because of her lawsuit, the city must complete trench work along the entire rail route in areas where construction of rail support columns, stations and related structures are planned.

Kehaunani Abad, PhD, an archeologist specializing in native Hawaiian burials, calls the Kakaako area “burial central.”

Transportation experts have speculated the delays could add as much as 18 months to the project or kill it all together, but HART officials believe the project will be delayed just 5 to 7 months.

In the meantime, there have been some updates to the Hawaii Supreme Court case.

The city lost its motion for reconsideration to the Hawaii Supreme Court.  (See Memo in Opp to Recon Amicus and Memo in Opp to Recon)

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation filed a motion with the court to have the city pay its legal fees, which could be as much as $130,000 for the entire case or $55,000 for the appeal.