The loss of historic Front Street in Lahaina devastated the island of Maui, and its significance goes back way before jets brought tourists to this slice of paradise.
Lahaina is a sacred place to the Hawaiian people. King Kamehameha designated it the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early 1800s, and it became the home and burial place of the Hawaiian Royal Family.
The chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Carmen "Hulu" Lindsey, said, "Lahaina holds some of the most historically significant cultural properties and highest-ranking sacred remains of our ancestors. There is so much history that will be forever lost, a history that tethers all of us, young and old, not only to Lahaina, but to ourselves and to each other."
The oceanfront town is also a highly desired collection of properties in one of the most expensive states in the United States. It's why there's so much angst about the future of Lahaina and affluent investors moving in.
"It's always been like that in Hawaii, any chance something is moved or gone, they want to move in," a Hawaiian native named Tai told Scripps News. "And it's always like that anywhere in Hawaii, any open piece of land, they're ready whenever they can to snatch it."
"It's just a sad time on Maui," a shop owner in Kihei said. "I just hope they don't push the local people out of there. Because a lot of people lost their homes."
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It's estimated the fire displaced 4,500 people. In a visit to Maui, President Biden addressed the concerns.
"I also want all of you to know the country grieves with you, stands with you and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions when the rebuilding takes place," Biden said in an address from the burn area.
"We've made it very clear to FEMA and others that, you know, we want to be sure that we are very sensitive to the voices of the local people here and that the rebuilding is going to be, as I said, through us listening to their values, rebuilding to reflect our values and our voices," Sen. Mazie Hirono told Scripps News before Air Force One landed on Maui. "That's going to be very important as we go forward."
Gov. Josh Green vowed to work with government officials to prevent any predatory land grabs, telling reporters he directed the Hawaii attorney general to work on a moratorium on the sale of properties damaged by the fire.
This week, survivors shared their fears at the first Maui council meeting since the fires, with an aide to one of the council members speaking out in outrage.
"I was in a lot of meetings in the first few days after this disaster where people were talking about Lahaina folks without them in the room, and it felt really gross," Autumn Ness said. "So I couldn't handle it and have been on the west side almost every day."
And while some look to what's next in rebuilding Lahaina, it's the last thing on many other minds.
"It's an important subject but until the children and the people that are missing are found and put to rest, I think it's highly disrespectful that people are arguing about building over these people, where they're actually still laying there, you know?" Tai said.
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