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West Hawaii Today

By Bobby Command

Despite being removed from what he calls his family's ancestral land, Mahealani Pai said he considers Friday's eviction by state and federal law officers to be a "small victory."

Pai, spokesman for the Pai Ohana, said chants, prayers and songs overcame violence when state and federal officials moved the Pai Ohana and their supporters off Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park during the early morning hours of Friday.

"They were forced to comply with our cultural and religious practices," Pai, 39, said. The soft-spoken Native Hawaiian said he would continue his efforts to prove that his family rightfully occupied Aiopio, the southernmost portion of the park, where the Pai Ohana resided until Friday.

"We know that we have found the answer to the root of our problem: simply, the state and federal establishment has no title to our homeland."

On Friday, a team of about 50 agents, complete with Coast Guard patrol boats and a Drug Enforcement Agency helicopter, carried out the eviction. Personnel from the U.S. marshal's office in San Francisco, state Department of Land and Natural Resources, National Parks Service and the Hawaii Police Department took part in various parts of the operation.

The eviction, ordered by U.S. District Judge David Ezra, began before dawn when federal law enforcement officers entered Aiopio by foot and boat and ordered the Pai Ohana to leave the park.

After Pai and his supporters conducted a religious ceremony, they walked the five acres that the Pai Ohana claims as ancestral land and then peacefully left federal property and entered state land near the mouth of Honokohau Harbor.

Pai said an account of the arrest carried in the Honolulu Advertiser which claimed that a marshal and a DLNR agent participated in the ceremony was inaccurate.

"As enforcement agents whose mission was to evict cultural practitioners from their ancestral lands," Pai said, "these government officers did not and could not be true to the sacredness of the prayers we chanted."

Steven Alm, U.S. Attorney, said on Friday that one man repeatedly returned to park land in an attempt to be arrested. Alm said he was arrested and charged with interfering with a federal agency function and violating a lawful order to leave the federal park.

The man, who federal officials said refused to reveal his name, was flown to Honolulu where U.S. Magistrate Francis Yamashita ordered him held without bail pending trial Friday. Pai said the man, "another fellow native," has been incarcerated at Halawa Prison.

While the eviction was taking place, Hawaii County police along with DLNR officers under the orders of Lawrence Terlep, Hawaii Branch Chief of the Conservation and Resources Enforcement Division, sealed off the north side of the harbor, allowing access only to boaters.

Members of the press and Pai Ohana supporters were not allowed to pass and were turned away.

Those who were denied access were given a notice that read, "An eviction process is underway at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park to remove the Pai family and their personal belongings in response to the federal eviction notice handed down on Monday, Feb. 10, 1997, by U.S. District Judge David Ezra."

It further stated that a press conference was to take place at 8 a.m. at the Hawaii Big Game Fishing Club pavilion. The conference did not take place.

After leaving the park and entering state land, Pai and his supporters remained there, speaking to law officers while a number of curious boaters, exiting the harbor, stopped to watched the scene.

Shortly before 10 a.m., and after a number of supporters left voluntarily, DLNR officials arrested Pai and eight other supporters, "without a court order," Pai added.

But before being led away, Pai raised his shackled hands, chanting to about a dozen supporters who had gathered on the south side of the harbor channel.

The chants were answered by the group, many of them crying, as Pai was placed into a state vehicle and taken away.

The group was taken to the Waimea courthouse, where Pai said they were released without being charged or posting bail.

After Pai and his supporters were led away, National Park officials closed Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park until further notice while the Pai Ohana's four plywood living quarters were torn down and their possessions collected and stored.

Park officials said the park would be open to visitors this morning.

Late in the afternoon, the U.S. Attorney's Office held a press conference in Honolulu. U.S. Marshal Anne Kent, who participated in the operation, called the eviction peaceful.

They also tried to refute claims by the Pai Ohana that Aiopio is the family's ancestral land. Tom Helper, assistant U.S. attorney, produced Hawaii Island census records from 1900, 1910 and 1920 indicating that no Pai ancestor lived there during those years.

However, Pai said federal officials are distorting the truth in order to break the family's ties to the land.

Pai quoted Judge Ezra's findings in the federal case, "Pai Ohana v USA" that:"...evidence to be undisputed that Pai Ohana lived at or near Honokohau Beach, in the Ahupua'a of Honokohau, near the Aiopio fish trap, since at least before the turn of the century."

He also said claims by the National Park Service that the Pai Ohana was restricting access to Aiopio were untrue. "We wish here to state clearly, that the ancestral lands that we, the Pai Ohana, have lived on for generations, have always remained open to all and are well documented."

Pai said he would reserve any other comment until Friday, when he will conduct a press conference after the court hearing for the man now in federal custody.

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