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New county archeologist creating cultural layer with detailed historic resources

By Staff | Sep 3, 2020

Dr. Janet Six started work on June 1, 2020.

WAILUKU – With the engagement of Archeologist Dr. Janet Six by the County of Maui, the protection, preservation and discovery of our cultural heritage received a long-awaited, powerhouse boost, launching the community into the 21st century.

Shane Sinenci represents the East Maui residency area on the County Council. He chairs the Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee. He joined the nine-member council in 2019.

“Once I began my council term, I knew we needed to immediately address the ongoing destruction of cultural and burial sites and create a system to protect cultural resources. The best and most comprehensive way to do this was through the creation of a new position of county archeologist right in the county government,” the lawmaker explained.

“Maui County has a responsibility to protect cultural assets,” he continued. “The intent of the archeologist position is to help us to fulfill our commitment to preserve and protect what makes Maui unique and ensure we pass on to future generations a Maui whose history has not been erased by progress.”

Funding was provided during the 2019 budget cycle, and Dr. Six joined the administrative team on June 1, 2020.

“This position was placed in the Managing Director’s Office to serve all county departments, such as Public Works, Planning, Water and Parks and to be a technical resource for all of Maui County in matters relating to cultural resource protection, permit review in consultation with SHPD (State Historic Preservation Division) and OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs),” Sinenci added.

Six has been licensed to practice archeology in Hawaii since 2004. Her education and resume of experience is impressive. She is the principal investigator/owner of Sixth Sense Archeological Consultants. West Siders may remember her lead at the dig at Moku’ula in 2008.

Dr. Six is focused on her new position.

“My number one task is to create a cultural layer,” she told the Lahaina News, using geographic information system (GIS) technology.

“The idea for the cultural layer is to put everything in there,” including historic resources previously compiled from the county archives and the State Historic Preservation Division, Six advised.

This mapping is a monumental undertaking. Hawaiian place names will replace modern monikers. All known island burial sites and complexes will be identified.

“We’re trying to come up with the best tools to be used in different environments,” Six noted, like using Lidar ground-penetrating radar in heavily overgrown areas like Hana.

Heiau, trails, roads, homesteads, historic battle sites, fishponds and designated ahupua’a will be placed on the overlay.

“Everything in all of Maui County, except Kahoolawe,” Six stressed.

It will be the go-to reference for developers.

“When you click on a place name,” the professor continued, “it will give you the definition of that place. We can record oral histories from kupuna; we can have the audio link to a site.”

It’s an encyclopedic 3D rendering. “Eventually,” Six said, “the map will be made public,” without sensitive burial site data identified.

The map is an interactive tool.

“It could be used by someone who’s doing genealogy. It could be used by someone studying history or someone wanting to develop.”

Six was specific: “What we’re trying to do is give people a heads up and inform them that this is an area where you might have a lot of difficulty getting your project done because of finding potential human remains or cultural sites.”

“Look at the Ritz-Carlton,” she said. “The Ritz-Carlton wasn’t where it wanted to be. They had to move it mauka. The idea is to avoid those kind of mistakes and identify these hot spots in advance.”

Noelani Ahia is a community advocate for the protection of ancient burials and sacred sites.

“I have kuleana to my ancestors to the iwi kupuna. I’ve been very active in the past couple of years trying to get better protection for them,” she affirmed.

Ahia is part of a group called Malama Kakanilua.

“We actually worked very closely with Councilmember Shane Sinenci’s office to create the county archeologist position, because up ’til now there has never been anywhere in Hawaii where a county hired an archeologist. This is brand new territory; we’re very excited because we’re hoping that this position can fill in some of the gaps where SHPD is unable to protect and preserve our burials and historic sites.”

“I am beyond happy that Dr. Janet Six accepted the position as our very first county archeologist,” Sinenci said.

“She has expertise,” he added, “the organizational ability to make policies and ordinances, and the relationships needed to make collaborative, long lasting and much-needed changes to how our county handles cultural resources and iwi kupuna.”