HomeAsian AmericansFire destroys Native Hawaiian archive and more important cultural spaces

Fire destroys Native Hawaiian archive and more important cultural spaces

As the death toll continues to rise in Maui, Native Hawaiians are mourning the loss of their loved ones and beloved cultural spaces.

The fire ravaged Lahaina, a region in northwest Maui that is culturally significant to Indigenous people.

“Lahaina holds some of the most historically significant cultural properties and highest-ranking sacred remains of our ancestors,” Carmen Lindsey, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said in a statement, according to PBS.

The fires destroyed Na ‘Aikane o Maui Cultural Center, which had a major archive for Native Hawaiians, Democracy Now! reports. Noelani Ahia, a Kanaka Maoli activist told Democracy Now! it was founded about 20 years ago and sits near a sacred area of Maui called Mokuʻula and Mokuhinia.

The cultural center held artifacts like historical and old maps. It was also home to a collection created by an esteemed elder, named Sam Ka’ai. Ahia said she had to tell Ka’ai that his collection was destroyed.

“It was devastating. This is this man’s life work. And he created all of these things not for himself, but for future generations to understand how brilliant our Kānaka Maoli people are and how ingenious we were, because so much of that history and that culture was lost to us after the overthrow and with the new government and the wave of people that came in and took over lands,” Ahia told Democracy Now!

The fires also destroyed Waiola Church, which Native Hawaiians told NBC News was important to Christian Native Hawaiians. The church celebrated its 200th anniversary earlier this year.

“Many of our chiefs, our Hawaiian monarchs are buried there,” Kūhiō Lewis told NBC News. “The church has significance to our culture, there’s artifacts of the town that’s been standing for over a century. It’s just gone.”  

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