Wal-Mart makes no bones about its willingness to disturb even the dead to get their stores open. Local media in Hawaii report that construction has resumed this week at Wal-Mart’s planned Keeaumoku Street site in downtown Honolulu, after more human bones were excavated at the building site. The “good citizen” Wal-Mart gave its contractor the thumbs up to continue working at the site, despite the remains found there. The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources began an “investigation”, complaining that Wal-Mart failed to notify them of the remains until two days after they were found. Word must travel slowly when the dead are left to do the communicating. State officials said Wal-Mart removed the bones without permission, but all that’s likely to happen is that Wal-Mart will get a little slap on the wristbone. This makes the second discovery of bones in as many weeks. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Wal-Mart says it is “fully cooperating” with an attorney general’s investigation into the violation of state law regarding the handling of ancient remains. “We are as concerned as everyone else is about this matter,” Wal-Mart sniffed. “As soon as this was brought to our attention, we immediately started looking into what occurred. We have halted construction in that area pending further direction from the State Historic Preservation Division.” But within a few days, the construction was back in full swing. Wal-Mart is going for a Guinness Book of Records on this site, as a total of 44 sets of remains have been unearthed at the Wal-Mart site since construction began in December 2002. Wal-Mart was supposed to notify the State Historic Preservation Division and police department, but failed to do so. The Advertiser explains that according to state law, when iwi kupuna (ancestral bones) are found during construction, developers are supposed to stop work and call the preservation division and police. If the remains are less than 50 years old, police investigate. If they are older, the state must make a final determination on the remains. Wal-Mart could be fined as much as $10,000 for the violation, which represents a few minutes of sales at the Wal-Mart empire. The retailer’s general contractor told the newspaper that because they found the bones on a Saturday, they couldn’t contact state officials. If bones or ancient cultural artifacts are found, specialists in Hawaiian culture are assigned by the state to ensure proper handling and cultural practices. A little late, wouldn’t you say?
I think they should call this store the
“Iwi Kupuna Wal-Mart”, in honor of the many dead residents they have disturbed.
Locals have complained for months about the excavation at this site, saying that it would disturb ancestral bones. But the lure of a bargain proved stronger than bones, and the project has now set a record pace for uncovering the dead, so that the living can shop till they drop. For earlier stories on this controversy, search this database by “Honolulu”.