Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kauaʻi Report: Wailua and Wainiha

Last week, Hoʻopae Pono Peace Project spent time with two important puʻuhonua encampments on the island of Kauaʻi, located in the ahupuaʻa of Wailua and Wainiha.  Our Peace Project's Kupuna Advisor, Liko Martin, has been actively involved in these revitalization efforts for many months, and assisted in the articulation of the stories and issues involved.

These encampments have important common themes.  Some of the most important include:
  • Aloha ʻĀina: There is a common theme of caring for the land and for the relationship of the past and future generations connected to it.  There is extensive cleaning, weed control, care of native species, and return to sustainable organic practices in both areas.
  • Reconnection of ʻohana: In both areas, ʻohana who have been part of those ahupuaʻa, and whose ancestors probably lived, loved and connected to these specific places are being actively reconnected to these places.  These include kupuna who know stories of the area and children who are capable of continuing place-specific practices into the future.  Active cross-generational learning and teaching, community outreach, and ahupuaʻa research and revitalization are strong themes.  Practical application of laau lapaau and other cultural elements are emphasized and shared according to cross-generational traditions.  
  • Ea: Sovereignty is a major theme for the puʻuhonua of both Wailua and Wainiha. Hawaiʻi's status as a neutral country under foreign occupation is asserted strongly.  While the people of both areas are willing to dialogue with and educate those representing the City and State governments, they recognize the continued existence of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi as the legitimate source of authority in Hawaiʻi.  International solutions are emphasized.   
  • Land title assertion: the complex problems associated with the buying and selling of "real estate" in Hawaiʻi are featured in the assertion of claims to active presence and caretakership for these areas.  These issues include cloudy or complicated title histories, boundary complexities, commercial exploitation of land and water, wealthy land-grabbing, government/business collusion or "rubber stamping", under-recognized konohiki rights, and the widespread history of kanaka displacement that has led to houselessness, forced emigration, suicide, imprisonment and many other problems.  The assertion of legitimate titles that have not yet been recognized through mainstream systems has the potential to significantly disrupt the commercialization of land at its core.
  • International accountability: Both encampments emphasize the need for international accountability in the human rights violations, abuse of power as an occupying system, war crimes, genocide, unaddressed historic wrongs, and other major problems in the current system.  It should be noted that kanaka have been actively calling for such accountability at least since a panel of distinguished international experts convened in the 1993 People's International Tribunal held that the United States and its related entities were in fact guilty of the above violations.
  • Kūʻē: The participants of both puʻuhonua are clear in their commitment to remain on the land, even if they encounter resistance, because of their certainty that what they are doing is both necessary and pono.  

"We refuse to die."  In both areas, young kāne are at the forefront.  Faced with what they describe as the prospects of either jail, houselessness/drug addiction, joining a system that goes against their cultural lifestyles, insanity or death, they assert that they are actively building an alternative that aligns with the values of what it means to be young men in a pono sense that actively counters what they describe as the genocidal erasure of their culture.  Women, elders and children are also involved; part of the efforts of these young kāne is to actively build respectful, empowering relationships across multiple generations, genders, and abilities.  Allowing the skills of all participants to shine is a major feature of their work.

About the areas:

Some of the ʻohana revitalizing culture in Wailua

The ʻāina being revitalized in Wailua lies mauka of the old Coco Palms hotel, which was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 (and ironically, featured in a South Park episode that made fun of the tourist takeover on Kauaʻi).  Noa Mau-Espiritu, a young kalo planter who had studied ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi since childhood in Kauaʻi immersion schools, researched his genealogy and the land histories of the area, and found a strong link to the land in the area.  He and a few others cleared the overgrown road by hand, and began to actively care for the burials and native species in the area.  Noa planted a large garden with kalo, lau pele, rare bananas and other cultural plants, and began to monitor and guard native waterbirds and other fragile species.  Kanaka of the ahupuaʻa, many of them formerly houseless, and descendants of Kauaʻi royalty such as the Kamualiʻi and Kapule lines, began to join in his work and caretakership.  They came to live on their respective ancestral lands, cleaned out invasive grasses, hauled away tons of hotel trash and broken furniture, and began to work together as a community.

Noa and Kupuna Liko Martin share
stories while visiting
Ka Lae o ka Manu Heiau.
Noa also began to clean and caretake the nearby heiau complex of  Ka Lae o ka Manu.  He hauled out trash and cleared weeds.  He and the families began to work on the restoration of the waterways, filling old boats with trash from the river.

Not everyone was happy with this new, assertive revitalization of kanaka culture.  Noa has been threatened, and told that his claims were worthless.  While some police and government officials have strived for fairness, there is great pressure from corporate interests involved, such as the Hyatt.  Local business interests -- some lawful and some otherwise -- have also expressed aggression in varying degrees.  The County of Kauaʻi has contemplated the building of a bypass road next to the master auwai, which would pollute and destroy the ancient water flow.  Most recently, Noa was charged with trespass -- on the lands of his kupuna.  Nonetheless, he remains positive, and continues to gather support and to plant and care for the land.

Noa and Uncle Liko.  This road was formerly
overgrown, and needed to be cleared by hand.
A dog, kitten and pig hold a friendly
meeting on the newly-cleared road in Wailua.



A young descendant of one of the families in the Wainiha community
blows a pū while another young neighbor helps Jesse Steele pull weeds
in the loʻi kalo.  Neighborhood families know that their keiki have a safe,
 supervised area to play, learn culture, and be valued as young kanaka.
Truly functional ahupuaʻa -- in which resources are shared, mauka to makai -- are rare in Hawaiʻi today.  For every cultural program talking about the way an ahupuaʻa works, with neighbors helping each other and fishermen, planters, gatherers, hunters, medicine people, woodworkers and hale builders all sharing the work of their collective hands and their collective lands, the last remnants of an actual ahupuaʻa is being destroyed as traditional lifestyles are driven out of the communities in which they have been rooted for countless generations.  The main force of displacement is real estate.  Land prices have risen so high, due largely to speculation and militarization, that few local people -- much less Hawaiians, and much, much less traditional lifestyle adherents -- can afford to live in their own districts.  High-priced vacation rentals and wealthy speculators and non-Hawaiʻi retirees are impossible to compete with.

The idea of driving daily into an urban workplace in order to pay a mortgage on a taro patch is beyond absurd to most people of the land -- if it were even possible, which it is generally not.

Wainiha is one of the few ahupuaʻa that has survived into the millennium at all. Barely.  Its lands are being sold for vacation rentals at an alarming rate, and people are feeling the pressure.  But it still has its traditional fishermen, its farms, its sharing neighbors who support one another.  It still has keiki who carry on the traditions of the area, and grow up to practice culture there.
Kaʻimi and Keʻala place the centerpost
for a new hale for the Puʻuhonua.
Kaʻimi planted this very ʻohe
as a child, with his grandfather.

Kaʻimi Hermosura is one of those homegrown kanaka of the ahupuaʻa.  On one of our visits, we find him and the other Protectors building a hale out of the bamboo Kaʻimi and his grandfather planted on that land -- the same land under dispute -- when he was a child.

Kaʻimi is the recognized konohiki of the area.  He knows the waterways, the land characteristics, the burials, the ancient pohaku features, and the history of this land, where his family has resided since time immemorial.  He is the recognized Tribal Historic Officer for the area under the federal Section 106 mandate.  He can speak federal, county and international terminology fluidly.  He is a professional musician, and (like many of the camp's Protectors) an integral part of the building crew of Kauaʻiʻs voyaging waʻa, Nāmāhoe.

Jesse Steele is also part of that crew.  After a tour of the important stonnework and auwai system of the area, he runs back chasing a pack of neighbor boys.  "What you boys like do," he asks, "you like pull weeds?"  "Yeah!" one of them enthusiastically replies, and they all set about weeding, watering, and practicing their pū blowing (see video here).

In what universe does this happen?  Children living and learning real culture, not in a "cattle herding" one-day program, but in a real garden where they will actually eat the kalo they planted, the bananas they weeded, the sweet potatoes they thinned, under the tutelage of a sturdy, patient uncle who helps them fix their bike by lantern light when they ride home tired enough to really sleep well at the end of the day?

There is one answer: in the universe of kūʻē.  Without resistance, this garden would not be here.  Without resistance, the entire ahupuaʻa would eventually be nothing but vacation rentals and U.S. retiree homes, and these children or others like them would probably be gone.  Statistically speaking, in jail.  On drugs.  Homeless.  Hopeless.  But they are not hopeless, because they are learning something just as important as how to weed and plant and mulch kalo: they are learning how to defend that kalo.

Jesse, Kaʻimi, Noa (who came from Wailua to stand in solidarity) and Kapana Thronas-Kahoonei were all arrested  for standing up for Wainiha.  They were all charged with "disorderly conduct" -- a charge that the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court had just months ago found totally unconstitutional specifically when applied to non-violent activism -- and all were manhandled seriously.  Wainiha neighbors were outraged by the way they were treated.  Police released body cam footage of Noa's arrest in Wainiha -- but edited out the actual arrest -- that is, their own actions.  And left out the fact that they had no basis for the charge whatsoever.

The County of Kauaʻi -- in what was probably meant as a genuine gesture -- offered the Protectors a 5-acre "vacant" parcel as a "place to do (their) culture."  It didn't work.  Ironically, this was the same land that the Haumea family was kicked off in 2010, when their home was bulldozed by the County -- a painful struggle that Kaʻimi and some of the others were actively involved in.   Apparently, after destroying the family's home, the County left the area unused, and then offered this same land as a pacification measure, to  quell other reclamation actions.  Many participants expressed that they do not feel that this is okay.


At their essence, these are struggles that are about setting a wrong to right.  Sure, it may be like setting a broken bone right with no anesthesia -- some people will scream and possibly fight the treatment, but if the bone is broken, what other choice is there?

The process of peace does require ensuring, to the greatest degree possible, that everyone is okay.  Injustice on any side needs to be addressed.  From our assessment, there is a general willingness on the part of everyone we spoke to to work toward a situation that is ultimately good for everyone involved, without compromising the basic principles of survival and cultural integrity required to meet the central objectives for which their work is being done, and for which they are willing to put their bodies on the line against the violent forces that have been coming against them.  Real peace can only happen when genocide and cultural displacement are stopped -- or better yet, turned into something thriving and beautiful.

All of the problems for which there are "no solution", according to the government -- houselessness, despondency, terrible health statistics, youth problems, sustainability, displacement, and so much more -- can be solved by one thing: kūʻē.  Without kūʻē, the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world will certainly displace kanaka from their lands and cultural lifestyles at a rate that would mean the discontinuation of what it means to be everyday kanaka, from the viewpoint of many practitioners of aloha ʻāina. Without kūʻē, there may soon be no future on this planet at all.  But that is not going to happen, because there is a young, peace-focused generation that is ready to fight back and begin the difficult process of true healing.

We refuse to die.

Donations for wailua Ohana contact kamu hepa ...at ...chepdog@gmail.com or 808-635-5577.
Wainiha Ohana contact kaimi ..at kauaiboy202@gmail.com or 808- 278-8979 mahalo

Laulani Teale, MPH is the Coordinator of Hoʻopae Pono Peace Project, an Affilliate of Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples.  She can be reached at laulani@gmail.com.  We would like to thank all who hosted and spoke to us while on Kauaʻi, and who continue the work of aloha ʻāina.  We would also like to thank HAPA for supporting our visit, along with Lehua Designs, KKCR and many others.  Aloha!!

More Reading/viewing:

Pinky Show: Part 3: Hawaii vs. U.S. Imperialism (Hawaiʻiʻs history and situation in a 20-minute nutshell by a cartoon cat)
Unko Liko Martin's Documents Page

Articulating secession: self-determination, decolonization and stateless independence amongst the Kanaka Maoli. Alexander Keller Hirsch Pages 102-116

Mauli Ola: Pathways to Optimal Kanaka 'Ōiwi Health
JK Kaholokula

Aloha Aina: Notes From The Struggle in Hawai’i. Noura Erakat

I am a colonial settler: On the awareness and responsibilities required of settling in Hawaiʻi. Hawaii Independent article by Tyler Greenhill

Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt - New Statesman

MALAMA `AINA:Hawaiian Independence and a Sustainable Future.  Nation of Hawaiʻi Essay.

Honest Government Advert - Visit Hawai'i - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfAiB2ZoRhM  Juice Media spoof commercial about Hawaiʻi.  Warning: lots of swearing.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. Mahalo for your time and efforts to document. I think many are far removed from what is being lost to cultural, physical, genocides. Moving forward I hope you're fully funded and have access to equipment to bring this to wider audience. The key to making people care is about making them aware.


Note: Please speak with aloha and respect for all. Sharing manaʻo is encouraged, but toxic comments and personal dissing (no matter who it is directed at) will be removed. Aloha, everyone!