Caretakers are asking the public to respect a culturally significant site in Hawaii’s history.
According to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, vandals recently etched a series of crosses on at least three of the inside walls of what was once King Kamehameha III’s summer palace.
Kaniakapupu, located in the Nuuanu forest, was the first government building built in western style with mortar and plaster. Completed in 1845, it was the “scene of entertainment of foreign celebrities and the feasting of chiefs and commoners. The greatest was a luau attended by 10,000 celebrating Hawaiian Restoration Day in 1847,” according to a plaque erected on-site by the Commission on Historical Sites.
Earlier, it was the site of a notable heiau for Hawaiian royalty.
Since 2002, volunteers from Aha Hui Malama O Kaniakapupu have been working to preserve this historically and culturally significant place.
“We’ve seen some really weird stuff. People got no respect,” said vice chairman Baron Ching. “People climb all over the walls… They take stones and they stack up stuff in front of there. They put all kinds of inappropriate stuff out there.”
A DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officer inspected the site and the vandalism, but unless vandals are actually caught in the act, it’s difficult to identify and subsequently cite them.
Ching asks that people avoid the area, which is closed to visitation and off-limits to anyone without a proper permit.
“Nobody else is supposed to be here,” he said. “It’s not the first time people are coming in, carving all kinds of stuff inside there. They’re carving happy faces. They’re carving all kinds of stupid stuff. This plaster is 180 years old. It was put there by the hands of the kupuna… When you vandalize it or damage it in anyway, there’s no way we can repair that.”
Ching, and an official with DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, also found a family that spread a blanket over the top of a stone structure, preparing for a photo shoot.
Even this seemingly innocuous activity is viewed as culturally disrespectful, Ching said.
Anyone who witnesses or has knowledge of vandalism to any historical or cultural site in Hawaii is encouraged to call the statewide DOCARE Hotline at 643-DLNR (3567).