The Cultural Studies Department conducts Cultural Impact Assessments (CIA), Cultural Landscape Studies (CLS), Cultural Resource Management Plans (CRMP), Ethnographic Surveys (ES), Consultations on the Section 106 Process, and sometimes Traditional Cultural Property Studies (TCP Studies). These reports are produced in compliance with state, federal and international guidelines regarding the Hawaiian Islands. Our cultural researchers bring to their work a diversity of knowledge and expertise, with academic training in cultural anthropology, archaeology, ethnobotany, political science, public health, urban planning and library sciences. In addition, we have a personal connection to Hawai‘i nei as kanaka maoli and kama‘āina, as cultural practitioners (e.g., kumu hula, mea hula, ‘ukulele, hoe wa‘a, and more) and community volunteers participating in mālama ‘aina projects involving heiau and native plant restoration, or cultural and environmental education projects, to name a few.


Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA)

Required by the Land Use Commission as part of the Office of Environmental Quality Control requirements, Cultural Impact Assessments are needed for an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (See: Environmental Council, Guidelines for Assessing Cultural Impacts). A CIA report includes background research, with the specific purpose of identifying traditional cultural activities. With Hawaiian culture as the host culture to these islands, CIAs often focus on Hawaiian activities, including gathering and cultivation of plant, animal and other resources, as indicated in the historic record. A review of archaeological studies of the area helps reconstruct traditional land use and identify the cultural resources of the area. Interviews with people knowledgeable of the historic and traditional practices in the project area form the primary content of a report summarizing the information gathered and assessing the impact of the proposed action on the cultural practices and any features identified. Considerable attention is devoted to locating knowledgeable community members, conducting and transcribing interviews, consulting interviewees on accuracy, and summarizing findings.


Cultural Landscape Study (CLS)

A cultural landscape is “a geographic area (including both natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein) associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values. There are four general types of cultural landscapes, not mutually exclusive: historic sites, historic designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes” (National Parks Service). A CLS examines the history and existing conditions of a landscape, analyzes and evaluates what cultural and historic features remain, then offers treatment plans to preserve the primary features of the landscape. A CLS may use field reports and ethnographic interviews to convey the significance and context of the Cultural Landscape. A CLS may also offer a plan for addressing preservation laws applicable to the project area.


Cultural Resource Management Plan (CRMP)

The purpose of a CRMP is to provide an effective mechanism for the management of the project area as a significant cultural resource in the context of general public access and increased usage. Potential impacts could range from inadvertent damage from foot traffic, to damaging plants used in traditional practices, to desecration and looting graves and archaeological sites. Through ethnographic interviews, as well as historical and cultural research, a Cultural Resource Management Plan identifies historic preservation and protection work to be implemented within a given project area. The CRMP also provides governmental compliance advice for the purposes of managing, maintaining and protecting known historic properties and burials. CRMPs include detailed specifications on how to establish, maintain and record, for management purposes, all site and area preservation boundaries. Integral components of CRMP are: field inspections to evaluate the site and preservation boundaries, and reviews of previously conducted historical, archaeological and cultural background research.

Ethnographic Survey (ES)

Contractors, planners, large landowners, and government agencies often request Ethnographic Surveys to establish a cultural context as a foundation for further planning, maintenance, preservation, or development. These studies help address cultural issues that may impact planning, preservation, and engineering concerns. Hawai‘i state law, in HAR Title 13, §13-284-5 (b) (5) (c), stipulates that,


An ethnographic survey may be undertaken when the SHDP concludes that historic properties which may be significant under criterion “e” of paragraph 13-284-6 (b) (5) are present or are likely   to be present within the project area and when the project is known to have been used by members of an ethnic community at least fifty years ago or by preceding generations.


An ES is often conducted in anticipation of a CIA (see above) or other project-specific studies for permitting. Thus, an ES may begin to successfully address issues before they arise in a forthcoming CIA. In some cases, the ES does not anticipate a CIA. The ES alone may offer vital information for the protection of cultural sites and practices. An ES includes historical, cultural, and archaeological research, as well as intensive interviews of individuals knowledgeable of the histories and cultures of the area. An ES often offers greater cultural insight than a CIA report.


Consultation on Section 106 Process

Section 106 of NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act) specifically requires Federal agencies to consider the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i provides assistance to Federal agencies and their consultants in the consultation process (Section 106 Regulations). Participation on Section 106 consultation may be divided into two parts (A and B).


In 36 CFR Part 800 “Protection of Historic Properties,” Section 800.4 (b) (1) requires that Federal agencies:


make a reasonable and good faith effort to carry out appropriate identification efforts, which may include background research, consultation, oral history interviews, sample field investigation, and  field survey. The agency official shall take into account past planning, research and studies, the magnitude and nature of the undertaking and the degree of Federal involvement, the nature and extent of potential effects on historic properties, and the likely nature and location of historic properties within the area of potential effects.


For simplicity, this aspect of Section 106 consultation is referred to as Section 106 Consultation-Part A. Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i will conduct historical and cultural research, field studies, and ethnographic interviews, in preparation for the community consultation to follow (Part B). The focus for Section 106 Consultation-Part A is to offer an understanding of the cultural context and the Hawaiian organizations for the project area.


Section 106 Consultation-Part B, depicted as “consultation with Native Hawaiian organizations,” is described in other portions of the law. Section 800.2 (c)(2)(ii) requires that a Federal agency consult with any “Native Hawaiian organization that attaches religious and cultural significance to historic properties that may be affected by an undertaking.” For Section 106 Consultation-Part B, Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i helps Federal agencies consult with Native Hawaiian organizations, while navigating the section 106 process.


Auli‘i Mitchell, B.A., Cultural Consultant – has over eight years of experience in Hawaiian Archaeology and Cultural Impact Studies.  He possesses an intimate knowledge of the Hawaiian language and is fluent in conversation, translations, and writing.  Has repatriated human remains, associated and unassociated funeral objects, and objects of cultural patrimony under the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). His expertise is in cultural resource management, cultural impact assessments, Native Hawaiian burial practices, Hawaiian traditions, culture, and beliefs.