Maunakea in Hawaiian Culture

Management of Cultural Resources on Maunakea

Preserving and Protecting Cultural Resources

The first step in the preservation of any resources is the identification and documentation of those resources. With this in mind, in 2006 OMKM (now the Center for Maunakea Stewardship) embarked on an ambitious multi--year program to inventory all of the cultural and archaeological sites found throughout the 11,288-acre Maunakea Science Reserve.

Significant Findings

Adze Quarry A total of 263 sites were identified in the survey, most of which were shrines. A complex of adze quarries and workshops comprised the next most common sites. Experts speculate that the adze quarry located in the adjacent Maunakea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve, was in use for about 500 to 700 years, and. The Mauna Kea Adze Quarry is a National Historic Landmark and is under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR). DLNR's commissioned archaeological survey of the adze quarry along with OMKM's (now the Center for Maunakea Stewardship) survey provide a view into the past of the various routes and corridors used to and from the quarry. Data supports the theory that the adze makers were from different parts of the island and used different routes to get there.

The survey identified burials or possible burials as well. Most of these are located in remote areas in the Science Reserve. Other sites include markers, memorials, temporary shelters and a camp occupied by the 1926 USGS survey party.

The archaeological survey also included test excavations at two sites to determine the presence or absence of cultural deposits. Radiocarbon dating from a single piece of charcoal in the Pohakuloa Gulch area produced a date of 1420-1480 AD.

The data collected contributes to a greater understanding of the cultural significance of Maunakea. The large number and wide scattering of sites provide evidence of the presence, activities and uses associated with Maunakea.

Protecting, Preserving and Enhancing

The 2006 survey culminated in the development of a Cultural Resources Management Plan (CRMP) that was approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2010.

Among other management programs, the CRMP includes a Burial Protection and Inadvertent Discovery Plan developed in consultation with Kahu Kū Mauna, the native Hawaiian council that advises CMS, and the Hawaiʻi Island Burial Council. The plan, which calls for preserving in place all known burials, was approved by the State of Hawaiʻi Historic Preservation Division (SHPD). Also in accordance with the CRMP, OMKM initiated in 2012 a long term Historic Property Monitoring Program that includes all the archaeological sites found on UH managed lands on Maunakea. The program operates on a five-year cycle with sites close to roads and human activity monitored annually and the more remote sites assessed every three or five years. This program was formalized in 2014 when it was approved by SHPD.

OMKM (now the Center for Maunakea Stewardship) was honored with a Historic Preservation Award from the Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation in 2017, which stated, "the preparation of this plan and implementation of regular, annual monitoring without a statutory requirement demonstrates the Office of Maunakea Management's commitment to stewardship and best practices in cultural resource understanding, protection and preservation. We congratulate you on your exemplary preservation efforts." OMKM was also honored by the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce's Pualu Award for Culture and Heritage in 2016 and 2017 for its long term monitoring plan.

Cultural Resources Policies

The following policies were developed in consultation with Kahu Kū Mauna and approved by the Maunakea Management Board under the auspices of the 2009 Comprehensive Management Plan.

CR–5: Guidelines for the culturally appropriate placement and removal of offerings (PDF file)

CR–6: Develop and adopt guidelines for the visitation and use of ancient shrines (PDF file)

CR-7: Appropriateness of constructing new Hawaiian cultural features (PDF file)

CR-8: Scattering of cremated human remains (PDF file)

CR-9: Management policy on the piling and stacking of rocks. See CR-7 above .

CR-12: Establishing buffers (preservation zones) around known historic sites in the Astronomy Precinct, to protect them from potential future development (PDF file)

Additional CMP Management Actions addressing Native Hawaiian cultural resources have been implemented and are ongoing. For more information, please see our annual reports to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

CMS is still developing a process to collect information on traditional, contemporary, and customary cultural practices. Please contact us at if you have any suggestions or comments.