DLNR encourages respect after rock throwing incident at culturally sacred site

A recent incident involving a social media post showing large rocks being thrown into a culturally sacred lake on Hawaiʻi Island, drew the attention of both state conservation managers and law enforcement.

DLNR has attempted to contact the woman involved but hasn’t received a response, and department officials say it appears she has removed her social media postings related to the incident.

According to DLNR, the rock-throwing photos were posted earlier this month.

Jordan “Kama” Lee-Loy, a specialist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Natural Area Reserve system said, “She came up here and decided it was a good idea to throw rocks into the lake. There are several obvious reasons this is upsetting, both to the ecological community that lives here and to the Native Hawaiian community. It can be seen as pretty disrespectful tossing large rocks into a place that Hawaiian culture reveres and holds in such high regard.”

Located at the 13,000-foot-level of Mauna Kea, Lake Waiau is culturally significant and in Hawaiian mythology, three deities (goddesses) inhabited the area. 

Signs near the trailhead to the lake clearly identify Waiau as a Hawaiian sacred site. Swimming, use of watercraft, and rock piling are prohibited. One sign explains, “the Natural Area Reserve System was established to protect representative examples of natural history, land, and water areas which support unique Hawaiian ecosystems.” It asks for all visitors to help maintain the reserves in their natural state.

 Lee-Loy says while the woman may not have meant to be disrespectful, he would like her to understand the level of obvious disrespect for the people who visit Lake Waiau culturally, ancestrally, and have ties to the place. “Though she may not have meant any ill will, whenever you visit anyplace and are unfamiliar with the cultural practices, the best idea is to understand the connection to the people and how you can respectfully visit a place without causing a disturbance or disrespectful action,” he said.

Offerings left at the side of Lake Waiau also got Lee-Loy’s attention. “We don’t want to limit traditional and customary practices, but I’m pretty sure an orange left as an offering is not culturally significant. We ask for everyone to be mindful not to inadvertently introduce invasive species like ants or non-native plants by leaving them as offerings.”

Lake Waiau is one of the highest elevation lakes in the US. Its size fluctuates considerably as water levels change, largely dependent on precipitation amounts from snow and rain.   It currently is surrounded by a mantle of snow.

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