How Not To Visit a Heiau


Chef TedNoted conservationist Sam Ohu Gon III shared a photo on Facebook this morning of a blogger’s photo of himself lying on a stone at MoÊ»okini heiau, saying, “This is what lack of respect looks like.” He posted the following comment:

“You probably did not intend it, but your picture lying on the stone at MoÊ»okini heiau is highly offensive. It demonstrates a complete disregard and lack of respect of Hawaiian history, traditions, and values. It would be rather like posing as a Jew in the gas chambers in Germany, or laying yourself down on the sacrificial altar at the top of the Aztec Temple of the Sun. What were you thinking?”

On one hand, Gon is gracious enough to note that the intent was probably not to offend. Lots of people do dumb things when they don’t know any better. (Justin Bieber’s comments on Anne Frank, anyone?) And many of Hawaii’s remote, sacred sites aren’t exactly annotated with signs and plaques describing why they are significant.

On the other, the blogger — Chef Ted — is more than a tourist just passing through on a island-hopping day trip. His extensive writings are presented this way:

“Chef Ted prepares for his final act on this spinning earth rock. Currently he is on extended retreat in Hawaii, recovering from existential despair. Hopefully, this treatment will involve solutions, meaningful experience, bearing witness and adventure. I will be reporting back the stories that are everywhere.”

Indeed, the entry in question reflects a fair amount of research into the history of the heiau.

“Even before we knew the gory details about Mo’okini Heiau’s history, the place gave us the heebie-jeebies,” he notes. “Used for human sacrifices, the area feels devoid of a soul.”

Surely, the description of the stone should have been enough:

“Here in front of the heiau is the large lava slab with a slight dip in it. In front is this raised stone. It takes little imagination to see that the slab was the holehole stone, where the unfortunate victims were laid while the flesh was stripped from their bones. These bones were then used to make fishhooks and other objects. The number of Hawaiians sacrificed here ran into the tens of thousands.”

Instead, he lay on the stone and played dead in a most cartoonish fashion. Gon’s comparison of this act to “posing as a Jew in the gas chambers in Germany” is apt.

One commenter on Gon’s post said it well:

“People don’t just ‘happen’ upon places such as this. They purposely seek out heiau and Hawaiian sacred sites already knowing that it is just that – a sacred site. Whether there are signs, guides or docents are irrelevant. One should not have to know any details of how or why it is considered a sacred site in order to prompt appropriate behavior.”

I suspect Chef Ted will get a few more comments on this post and photo from January of this year. But if he truly is looking for “meaningful experience,” he’ll hopefully chalk it up to a lapse in judgement and an important lesson.

10 Responses

  1. Vern Lovic says:

    Wow… I’ve been there. I’ve never had any thought to do anything remotely similar. I felt like I was walking on eggshells at the place. I was. I felt like I was in a place that I didn’t belong, to tell you the truth. There was nobody else there that day. I took a few photos and didn’t stay longer that about fifteen minutes. Though I’m not an intuitive person, It just didn’t feel right.

    I thought about all the people that died there… that alone gave me such strong vibes that it became the point of the visit. I went to just one Heiau in Hawaii. I don’t think they should be on the tourist map at all out of respect for the dead.

  2. greg says:

    This picture would not be offensive if it was a Hawaiian laying there. But a caucasian with running shoes and sun hat causes racism to rear its ugly head. It’s not disrespectful if no harm or mocking was meant. I would be curious to lay respectfully in the same spot feeling the vibes of rich personal history. Turning over the stones would be disrespectful.

  3. Nancy Wilson says:

    Don’t mess with anything sacred in Hawaii. If you do you will be haunted! I took lava rock years ago and I could’nt live in my house anymore. We had to sell and relocate. Be careful of what you do in Hawaii!

  4. Kalei says:

    Really Greg? A Hawaiian laying on the rock is a non-issue because it didn’t happen. Anyone, Hawaiian or Caucasian, lying on the rock in the manner Chef did would be culturally insensitive. YOU played the race card, no one else.

  5. antonio says:

    What an asshole this guy is. The “hippiecrites” and trustafarians here on Kauai are just as guilty of this.

    They’ll go up to the Heiau’s in Kalalau Valley and plant Tobacco claiming “its part of Native American culture”.

    First off:

    1) You ain’t Native American. You’re part of the dominant white culture that wants to take everything over

    2) Tobacco is / was part of Native American culture, not Hawaiian culture.

  6. Cookie says:

    this is directed to Greg who seems to think because it was a Caucasian that Hawaiian were more offended, well As a Hawaiian I would feel even more offended if it was a Hawaiian as they should know better, sacred is sacred no matter your color or race!

  7. flow says:

    The Aina is strong with Mana and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ancestors are upset he sick. He should apologize and give offerings. Not a place to be messing with nor is the aina forgiving to.those who give disrespect.

  8. Sadly, respect has become something only shown when it’s convenient. Perhaps Greg thought it was inconvenient at the time and therefore okay for him to be disrespectful. As a Caucasian, I’m ashamed of that photo. If he had the will to seek out the heiau and then post about it, he has shown it wasn’t accidental.

  9. charley erck says:

    I , too was at this place last Friday, oct 24. As vern lovic, above. I felt similarly in awe. So, a haole can have respect too.

  1. September 24, 2014

    […] recently Oahu local Ryan Ozawa brought it to locals attention in his article, “How Not to Visit a Heiau” that another blogger, “Chef Ted,” posted photos of himself laying down on what […]

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