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DLNR Reminds Public to Respect Lake Waiau

December 28, 2021, 2:00 PM HST
* Updated December 28, 12:29 PM
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State officials remind the public to respect the surroundings of Lake Waiau after photos surfaced on social media of a woman throwing large rocks into the body of water, located in the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve.

It currently is surrounded by a mantle of snow. The rock-throwing photos were posted earlier this month. Located at the 13,000-foot-level of Mauna Kea, Lake Waiau is culturally significant and in Hawaiian mythology, three deities (goddesses) inhabited the area.

The photos appear to have been removed.

“She came up here and decided it was a good idea to throw rocks into the lake,” said Jordan “Kama” Lee-Loy, a specialist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Natural Area Reserve system. “There are several obvious reasons this is upsetting, both to the ecological community that lives here and to the Native Hawaiian community. It can be seen as pretty disrespectful tossing large rocks into a place that Hawaiian culture reveres and holds in such high regard.”

Lee-Loy said while the woman may not have meant to be disrespectful, he would like her to understand the level of obvious disrespect for the people who visit Lake Waiau culturally, ancestrally, and have ties to the place.

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“Though she may not have meant any ill will, whenever you visit anyplace and are unfamiliar with the cultural practices, the best idea is to understand the connection to the people and how you can respectfully visit a place without causing a disturbance or disrespectful action,” Lee-Loy added.

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Signs near the trailhead to the lake clearly identify Waiau as a Hawaiian sacred site. Swimming, use of watercraft, and rock piling are prohibited. One sign explains, “the Natural Area Reserve System was established to protect representative examples of natural history, land, and water areas which support unique Hawaiian ecosystems.” It asks for all visitors to help maintain the reserves in their natural state. DLNR has attempted to contact the woman involved but hasn’t received a response.

Offerings left at the side of Lake Waiau also got Lee-Loy’s attention.

“We don’t want to limit traditional and customary practices, but I’m pretty sure an orange left as an offering is not culturally significant,” Lee-Loy said. “We ask for everyone to be mindful not to inadvertently introduce invasive species like ants or non-native plants by leaving them as offerings.

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Lake Waiau is one of the highest elevation lakes in the U.S. Its size fluctuates considerably as water levels change, largely dependent on precipitation amounts from snow and rain.

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