Big Island Polls

Big Island Now poll No. 40: Should public lands on Mauna Kea above the 6,500-foot level be listed on the Hawai‘i and federal registers of historic places?

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Two Big Island organizations want a portion of Mauna Kea added to the Hawai‘i and federal registers of historic places.

Maunakea. (File photo courtesy of the University of Hawaiʻi)

Ku‘upua Kiyuna, legal specialist with nonprofit Huliauapa‘a, presented information during a meeting last month of the Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority board about the proposed nomination of public lands above the 6,500-foot level of the mountain, which would include the summit, to be listed as a traditional cultural property and district.

The move is backed by nonprofit KAHEA (The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance) and Hawaiian cultural organization Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

Huliauapa‘a was contracted by the two organizations to research and complete the nomination.

The nonprofit, staffed by resource and information specialists in wahi kūpuna (ancestral sites) stewardship and historic preservation, was founded in 2012. Its main purpose is to educate and empower the people of Hawai‘i about stewardship of wahi kūpuna.


Traditional cultural properties are defined by the National Park Service as places associated with the cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that are rooted in a community’s history and important in maintaining its continued cultural identity.

These properties are by definition historic properties, but not all historic properties are traditional cultural properties.

The listing of mountains considered sacred by indigenous people on the national register is not unprecedented. Kiyuna gave several examples, including Tonaachaw in Chuuk, which was listed in 1970; Kuchamaa, or Tecate Peak, in Tecate, Calif., listed in 1992; and Spirit Mountain in Southern Nevada, which was listed as a traditional cultural property in 1999.

San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Ariz., also has a nomination pending.


“Nominating a mountain that a community considers sacred to the national register as both a historic property and a TCP is not a new concept,” said Kiyuna. “The nomination of Mauna Kea to the Hawai‘i register as a Hawaiian historic property and to the national register as a [traditional cultural property] and district aligns directly with national precedent for the National Register of Historic Places and the listing of sacred mountains and their associated historical landscapes as historic properties and [traditional cultural properties].”

According to information she presented, nominating the mountain to the state and federal registers also is not a new concept for the state of Hawai‘i.

The State Historic Preservation Division in 1999 deemed Mauna Kea’s summit region eligible for inclusion in the national register as a historic district because it encompasses a sufficient concentration of historic properties, such as shrines, burials and culturally significant landscape features.

The same year, the division designated Pu‘u Lilinoe, Lake Waiau and Kūkahau’ula on the mountain as traditional cultural properties.


The Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan also noted in 2009 that the Mauna Kea Summit Region Historic District is eligible to be included on the national register.

William Chapman, vice chairman of the Hawai‘i Historic Places Review Board, said during a March meeting this year that in his mind, the nomination of Maunakea as a traditional cultural property is textbook, to which State Historic Preservation Division Administrator Alan Downer replied: “I certainly agree …”

So what do you think?

Press Here to Take the Poll

Comment here or on social media about why you voted the way you did. Voting ends at midnight Dec. 15. Results will be posted Dec. 17.

Watch for a story later this week to find more information about the proposed nomination and where it stands.

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