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Olowalu petroglyphs restored in wake of paintball vandalism

Nonprofit, students, county join forces to clean up historic site

Assisted by the Maui Fire Department, the nonprofit Kipuka Olowalu and volunteers helped clean Pu‘u Kilea, a historic Olowalu cliff face containing petroglyphs that was vandalized by paintball shots. Because the shots did not hit the petroglyphs, known as ki‘i pohaku, cleaning efforts on July 18 and Aug. 6 did not impact the ancient artwork. Photos courtesy of Ekolu Lindsey

Through community efforts, the historic petroglyphs in Olowalu were salvaged and preserved after a paintball vandalism incident earlier this summer.

Paint was cleaned off the Pu’u Kilea rock face with water and brushes on two occasions — one by nonprofit Kipuka Olowalu and 15 volunteer high school students on July 18 and then a second time a few weeks later on Aug. 6 by the organization, with the help of the Maui County Fire and Public Safety Department.

“We are proud to share that Pu’u Kilea, the traditional name of the hill, has been properly restored,” the nonprofit said in a statement to The Maui News on Wednesday. “The physical and spiritual preservation of this significant site will continue to be an integral commitment of our organization, in collaboration with the ‘ohana and residents of Olowalu.”

State Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesperson Dan Dennison said on Tuesday that “no petroglyphs were hit by paintballs, so none of the artwork was impacted by cleaning.”

The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement was notified June 29 of the vandalism at Pu’u Kilea, a basalt cliff containing about 100 petroglyphs, known as ki’i pohaku, some of which are estimated to be more than 300 years old.

Kipuka Olowalu and volunteers work to clean up and restore Pu‘u Kilea in the wake of vandalism that was reported June 29.

There are about 100 petroglyphs spread across the face of the basalt cliff in the Olowalu Valley.

The Pu’u Kilea rock art includes human and animal figures, canoes and sails, according to the DLNR. The site has been vandalized in the past with graffiti.

DOCARE officers were asking for help to try and identify the person or persons who damaged the cultural site, but Dennison said that “no one has been apprehended and the investigation is continuing.”

While Pu’u Kilea area has been restored, Kipuka Olowalu said that the nonprofit continues to seek volunteers to help with their mission, which is to “perpetuate traditional and customary practices of kanaka maoli and regain spiritual connection of hanai ‘aina within Olowalu.”

Through native plantings, invasive species removal, lo’i redevelopment, and reestablishment of proper cultural protocols, organizers hope to “foster an intuitive comprehension of cultural and environmental connectivity through educational practices that honor Hawaii’s heritage and strengthen our community for generations to come.”

School groups, Hawaii residents and visitors of all ages are welcome to learn about the significance of Olowalu and Native Hawaiian land, culture and traditions by “getting their hands dirty” during the next volunteer day.

To volunteer, sign up online at kipukaolowalu.com or email KipukaOlowalu@gmail.com.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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