Disrespectful Treatment of Human Remains In James Campbell High School Football Field A Lesson for Today

Rail construction began in the vacant ewa fields (photo courtesy of Panos Prevedouros PhD)
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Rail construction began in the vacant ewa fields (photo courtesy of Panos Prevedouros PhD)

BY EARL ARAKAKI – All of the recent news regarding buried Iwi or ancient Hawaiian bones, and moving of graves for construction of the Honolulu rail project, brings to mind James Campbell High School’s football field.

James Campbell High School was built about 1960, at the adjacent to the present day Ilima Intermediate School, which back in the day was the original site of James Campbell High and Intermediate School.


Land in Ewa Beach is all coral rock thus dirt was needed to build the football field.  The dirt that was used to build the football field was gotten from an old Waipahu Cemetery on Waikele Road in the vicinity of Waipahu Elementary School.

Story around Ewa Beach was the dirt for the field was from an excavation to prepare a site for a new apartment building on Waikele Road mid-block between Farrington Highway and Waipahu Street (at the time named King Apartments).

The new apartment building was to be built on part of the old cemetery.

Families of those buried at the cemetery were contacted to remove their loved one’s remains.  It was suggested the new Mililani Cemetery be the place for reburial.

Those remains, which were not repatriated, were dug up along with the soil and trucked to the site of the new James Campbell High School football field that was at the time also under construction.

I recall as a teenager seeing the field as it was being constructed.

After the soil was grated level to create the new athletic field, I remember seeing a pile of approximately fifty to seventy grave headstones and wooden cross markers with human bones sticking out bulldozed in a pile of dirt at the far Honolulu side of the new field.

This would be in the area of the present day Honolulu sideline bleachers. Wow! Desecration in the first degree.

And now outrage, no comment from community leaders.

In fact it was the butt of jokes, such as ‘Campbell High School colors orange and black, Halloween colors because of dead bodies in their field’ and ‘that’s why their football team don’t win because of bad luck ’cause bodies in the field.’

Students from the area were warned by teachers and parents to stay away from the area and not tamper with the human remains as no telling what contagious decease the person whose remains were there had died from.

When the school opened student athletes spoke of seeing bones protruding from the ground as the dirt on the new football field settled.


Laws protecting human remains are always in the news.  Back in the day there were no such laws.

Today’s laws protect the remains of families who took the time to give their loved one’s decent burials, and ancient Native Hawaiian Iwi.

Like those families whose remains are now protected by law, those bones in James Campbell High School football field were just as much a part of families who took the time to give their loved one’s decent burials.

Sad, indeed.

Earl Arakaki is a lifelong resident of Ewa Beach