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Officials Evict Pai Ohana, Make Arrests

West Hawaii Today

Bobby Command

"I kumaumau!" came the chant from teary-eyed supporters of the Pai Ohana watching from the southern side of the channel at Honokohau Harbor.

"I kumaumau!" answered Mahealani Pai, standing on the north side of the channel, thrusting his shackled hands into the air.

"It means 'We stand together," said Pai Ohana friend Charles Young as he watched federal and state law enforcement officers lead Pai and about 10 others away from Honokohauiki Friday morning after the Native Hawaiian family was evicted from what it claims as its ancestral lands.

Officers from a number of jurisdictions joined forces at about 6:30 a.m. Friday morning to exercise a federal eviction notice handed down by U.S. District Judge David Ezra to remove the Pai Ohana from the Aiopio area of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park.

A combined effort by officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. marshal's office joined Hawaii County police officers and rangers from the National Park Service to carry out the eviction.

Some officers sealed off the southern portion of the harbor while others carried out the eviction from federal property early in the morning, and then the arrests of Mahealani Pai and his supporters who refused to leave state land at about 10 a.m.

Seven of the men and one woman were charged with obstructing with government operations, according to reports from Honolulu.

They were released pending further investigation.

Another unidentified man, a supporter of the family, was arrested on federal property and charged with interfering with the arrests.

He made his first appearance before a federal magistrate Friday on the petty misdemeanor charge, U.S. Marshal Anne Kent said.

According to Steven Alm, U.S. Attorney, the Pai Ohana assembled shortly after they were ask to leave the park.

Alm said they performed a ceremony before moving onto state land adjacent to the park.

"(The Pai Ohana) has a commitment to what they are doing," said AIm. "But the law officers were instructed to carry out an order, and they did their jobs with dignity and professionalism."

Aim said there was no violence on either side. "It was emotional, but the intent was to carry this out with a minimum of disruption and to avoid harming anyone."

According to Francis Kuailani, Kaloko-Honokohau park superintendent, the park has been closed until further notice while officials remove shacks and pit toilets erected by the Pai Ohana during the past several years.

Pai has consistently argued that the family does not need permission to live at Aiopio because it has an inextinguishable right to be on the five-acre plot.

Federal officials, however, counter that the family is seeking exclusive use of public lands.

"There's got to be something that will bridge our cultures so that it does not have to come to something like this," said Young, pointing across the harbor mouth as tears streamed down his cheeks. "This is very difficult for us to understand."

Young described the scene across the harbor mouth as controlled.

"I guess it was planned this way not to allow the press and supporters in," Young said. "They wanted to keep the fanfare as low as possible."

The Pai Ohana was notified on Jan.27 by Stanley T. Albright, field director for the Department of the Interior, to "immediately" leave Aiopio, southernmost portion of Kaloko-Honokohau National Cultural Park where they now reside.

However, Mahealani Pai maintained all along that the family would not leave the place he says his ancestors have been caretakers of since the 1700s.

On Monday, the Pai Ohana was joined by a number of supporters on the grounds of Iolani Paiace before marching to U.S. District Court, where they were told by Judge Ezra that he could do nothing else for them.

The eviction notice was issued about six weeks after an agreement had seemingly been finalized by the Pai Ohana and state and federal government officials.

The pact had called for the family to be relocated on state land just outside the park boundaries and adjacent to the area where they had been living.

Young, an official with sovereignty group Ka Lahui Hawaii speaking on his own behalf, said his organization played a role in the negotiations between the Pai Ohana and the government representatives.

"There were no covenants in the agreement to provide for the relocation, or for the Pai Ohana to return to Aiopio," Young said.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs said it was disappointed that the dispute could not have been resolved.

"OHA continues to support the Pai Ohana's effort to perpetuate, exemplify and maintain the teachings, beliefs, religious practices, philosophy and traditions of the ancestors in and around their homeland at Honokohauiki."

According to reports from Honolulu, a group of about 15 supporters on Oahu gathered around the Federal Building on Friday afternoon to protest the arrests and to meet with the U.S. Marshal.

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