Man makes home out of cave near protesters’ camp

  • "Pikachu" is helping to build a “Kingdom of Hawaii Post Office” out of sticks and tea leaves not far from the base of the Maunakea Access Road. (MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY/Tribune-Herald)
  • A man who calls himself Maunakewa standing in front of a cave in which he has made a makeshift home near the Maunakea Access Road. (MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY/Tribune-Herald)

While the borders of the Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu are ever-changing, they do not extend to one of the more curious developments near the Maunakea Access Road: a partially-collapsed lava tube where one man has made a home.

The man, who calls himself Maunakewa — and is referred to by camp residents as “Uncle Maunakewa,” “Uncle Post Office” or “Cave Guy” — said he found the cave on July 18, the day after police arrested more than 30 kupuna on the access road.

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Maunakewa said he was picking up rubbish along the sides of Daniel K. Inouye Highway when he saw the cave.

“I thought, ‘Oh, wow,’” he said. “‘I think I’ll live in there.’”

Since then, the cave and the surrounding area have become more developed. Maunakewa built fences with hinged gates on both ends of the cave and ringed a substantial area above the cave with a makeshift fence. Within that fence is a small windmill generating power for a short-range radio station and a couple of tents. Meanwhile, an associate of Maunakewa — a man who called himself “Pikachu,” based on a mask depicting the Japanese cartoon character he wore Thursday — is assisting Maunakewa in constructing the “Kingdom of Hawaii Post Office” out of sticks and tea leaves.

Maunakewa said his goal is the reestablishment of the Hawaiian Kingdom and that his dwelling is the first homestead of said kingdom since the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1894. That said, he also hopes to show buildings like the post office to schools around the island, to teach students how to build as their ancestors did.

“My message is mostly for our own people,” Maunakewa said. “Our past is in our future.”

Maunakewa does not live in the cave full-time, he said, and leaves the mountain at least once a week to gather more supplies and visit his home. His cave is deceptively large, is lit with electric lights, filters rainwater and is well-cleaned — human waste is disposed of properly, he said.

Maunakewa and Pikachu said they have ambitious plans for the land, including a marketplace with bungalows for vendors, among other things. It is unclear, however, how far these plans can progress — although the state has turned a blind eye to their activities so far, state police already dismantled one unpermitted structure within the camp in September.

“We’ll see what happens,” Maunakewa said simply.

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Protest leader Noe Noe Wong-Wilson said Maunakewa’s cave is outside the boundaries of the Pu‘uhonua, and that she knows little of his activities.

However, she said Maunakewa is as free to avail himself of camp resources as anyone else.

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