LAHAINA - When it comes to the question of whether or not to restore Moku'ula, the sacred site that was home of Hawaiian royalty, what is most important to keep in mind are these words: "All sites are wahi pana (sacred), and it is important that while there, we conduct ourselves properly. Reverence, humility and compassion for the place and each other are paramount."
Recorded in Van James' interesting book, "Ancient Sites of Maui, Molokai and Lanai," in an introduction by Kahu Kapiiohookalaani Kapii Lyons Naone, the wisdom from this highly respected cultural practitioner and professor at the University of Hawaii Maui College should get top priority.
Speakers at community meetings have been divided. One said, "if Moku'ula is sacred, then treat it as sacred. Even monk seals get a critical habitat."
Another presented this view: "I want to see the dream come true, mostly for the water to come back."
A third proclaimed that restoration "is the responsible thing to do... to restore this land."
"Machines can't bring back Moku'ula."
"Those who desecrated this should fund this project."
"If you bring it back in the proper manner, we can support it."
"This is a heavy kuleana (responsibility)."
Years ago, and perhaps today, the county's willingness to provide funds appears to have been based on economics, the creation of a new tourist destination.
In this column's view, economic advancement should not trump respect for the culture.
What we do NOT need is a Disneyesque visitor attraction that becomes a must tourist stop. Just maybe, since Maui recently was named the second most popular tourist destination in the nation (behind Las Vegas), we don't need more than what we already have.
"We" took away the Kingdom in 1893. We almost destroyed the culture by banning the Hawaiian language in schools and failing to teach Hawaiian history. It is about time we do what is pono (right) for the Hawaiian people. What that is should only be decided by those with Hawaiian blood.
Restore it? Don't restore it. Just maybe here is a third alternative. Respect the sacredness of the site and the iwi (bones) to be found there by not digging at all.
Grass the entire site over and surround it with a stone wall or hedge similar to what was done at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, where more than 900 ancient Hawaiian burial sites were found. Enter what would be a hugely impressive landscape covered in grass only with permission.
Be practical. Don't wait more decades until governments have the funds. Respect what was there by leaving it alone. Take just a portion of the many millions needed for restoration and build the greatest cultural history center in the Neighbor Islands.
Akoni Akana passed away last year with his dream very far from being fulfilled. Maybe we need to respect that dream. Or maybe we could view his tireless work as a learning experience and move to a different vision.
Above all, for a change, do what is pono, no matter what that is.
(The columnist can be reached at email@example.com.)