SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The fires in Maui have taken most of the beloved area of Lahaina and claimed over 80 lives. A family with South Dakota roots was one of the many people who left the island when the fires began.
Clint Waraa, his wife Billie Jo and their two children Jett and Mylo have visited Hawaii many times in past years. One of their favorite places to travel to is Maui.
“Maui is always kind of a special place for us. We’ve gotten there a couple of times. It’s just you know, we really love it there. I can’t explain exactly why but it’s just such a wonderful place,” Waraa said.
Recently the family was there vacationing before school started. While on vacation, the fires began.
“The extent of the damage, you know, I mean, to have a fire is one thing but to have it destroy an entire community is something and especially a place that’s so special,” Waraa said.
Warra and his family lived in South Dakota for many years. He is also a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Waraa says he understands the cultural significance of sacred land being destroyed.
“All of this history, and this reverence for how Hawaii came to be and what it was prior to colonization. Having so many of those remnants lost is really heartbreaking,” Warra said.
Though much of Lahaina is destroyed, Waraa says this can be an opportunity for islanders and natives there to raise awareness for their culure as they rebuild.
“Perhaps it’s a chance to raise awareness, and it’s a chance for people to really look back again and say, Okay, what are what is the significance, you know, it’s more than just a place to go and, and vacation and recreate. It’s a place of cultural significance,” Waraa said.
The family says they will continue visiting the island for years to come.