Kahoolawe, 1

In June of 1994, I was a very busy student at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, earning a master’s degree in anthropology and taking a lot of Hawaiian language classes while working full time at an airline. An opportunity came up to go to Kaho‘olawe with a group from the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO), and I jumped at it. I knew that four days on Kaho‘olawe – where there was no electricity, no houses, no roads – would be very different from the busy life I was living on O‘ahu, and I was curious to meet the island itself. It’s one you cannot visit on your own; you have to be with an authorized group.

Kaho‘olawe, near Maui, is one of the major Hawaiian islands but it has no permanent residents. For decades it was used for live-fire bombing exercises by the Army. Now a dedicated group of people was working to restore the previously heavily bombed and barren island. They occasionally took small groups to the island, both to educate them and to get some help with the work.

Kahoolawe, Hawaii, Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter

From Wikipedia:

Kahoʻolawe (/kəˌh.əˈlɑːw/; Hawaiian: [kəˈhoʔoˈlɐve]) is the smallest of the eight main volcanic islands in theHawaiian Islands. Kahoʻolawe is located about seven miles (11.2 km) southwest of Maui and also southeast of Lanai, and it is 11 miles (18 km) long by 6.0 miles (9.7 km) wide, with a total land area of 44.97 square miles (116.5 km2). The highest point on Kahoʻolawe is the crater of Lua Makika at the summit of Puʻu Moaulanui, which is about 1,477 feet (450 m) above sea level. Kahoʻolawe is relatively dry (average annual rainfall is less than 65 cm or 26 in) because the island’s low elevation fails to generate much orographic precipitation from the northeastern trade winds, and Kahoolawe is located in the rain shadow of eastern Maui’s 10,023 feet (3,055 m) high volcano, Haleakalā. More than one quarter of Kahoʻolawe has been eroded down to saprolitic hardpan soil.

Kahoʻolawe has always been sparsely populated, due to its lack of fresh water. During World War II, Kahoʻolawe was used as a training ground and bombing range by the Armed Forces of the United States. After decades of protests, the U.S. Navy ended live-fire training exercises on Kahoolawe in 1990, and the whole island was transferred to the jurisdiction of the State of Hawaii in 1994. The Hawaii State Legislature established the Kahoolawe Island Reserve to restore and to oversee the island and its surrounding waters. Today Kahoolawe can be used only for native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes.

My friend and I arrived at the Honolulu airport with our duffel bags and looked around for other people equipped like us, with water jugs and their belongings packed in plastic bags (there are no direct flights to Kaho‘olawe, and you have to have some contact with the ocean to get there). It occurred to me that it sure took a lot of planning and packing and stuff to prepare to get away from civilization, at least the way we were doing it. But anything you need on the island, you have to haul in. There are definitely no Safeways or 7-11s on Kaho‘olawe.

We spotted a couple others and together we flew to Maui, where more Kaho‘olawe-bound people had gathered. We all jumped into various pickups and station wagons belonging to Maui members of the PKO. The Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana is the group that forced the end of the bombing of the island – at, it turned out, great personal cost.

In 1976, a group of individuals calling themselves the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana (PKO) filed suit in U.S. Federal Court to stop the Navy’s use of Kahoolawe for bombardment training, to require compliance with a number of new environmental laws and to ensure protection of cultural resources on the island. In 1977, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii allowed the Navy’s use of this island to continue, but the Court directed the Navy to prepare an environmental impact statement and to complete an inventory of historic sites on the island. On March 9, 1977, two PKO leaders, George Helm and Kimo Mitchell, were lost at sea during an attempt to occupy Kahoolawe in symbolic protest. In 1980, the Navy and the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana promulgated a consent decree that allowed continued naval training on the island, monthly access to the island for the PKO, surface clearance of part of the island (10,000 acres), soil conservation, the eradication of feral goats and an archaeological survey. – Wikipedia

They dropped us off at Maui’s Ma‘alaea Boat Harbor, where we stacked our belongings on the dock in front of the Pualele, the boat we would take in the morning. Someone told us, “This is where you’ll be sleeping, and we’ll be back later.” We spread our sleeping bags out along a grassy slope between two roads, right there in the middle of the boat harbor, and I thought 3:30 a.m. would come fast, but it didn’t because I lay awake for a long time. My friend and I saw some tourists come out of a nearby steak house and ogle us; we heard them say, “Look at the homeless people!” That gave us the giggles.

It was a beautiful night. The full moon in the very pale blue-gray sky was making the ocean shimmer with silver. Straight ahead of where I lay on the dock, a tall, majestic-looking mast and a coconut tree waved back and forth in the breeze, the coconut tree making the bright moon peek in and out. I saw a shooting star.

We could tell when it was getting close to 3:30 a.m. because there started being some activity. In the bathroom I put on my bathing suit, shorts, a t-shirt and sweatshirt, we sealed our bags as tightly as we could with duct tape and then we formed a human chain from the line of plastic bags to the boat and passed it all onboard, holding it up out of the ocean. Then we got aboard ourselves.

The early morning boat ride from Ma‘alaea and Maui, which took us along the Alalakeiki Channel, was glorious. We went along the Kihei side of the island and eventually passed the small, beautiful, crescent-shaped islet of Molokini. The air was so clear that I could see the Big Island beyond Makena. As the sun rose, it looked as though it exploded out of the top of the Maui volcano Haleakalā: an intense ball of light in the dawn sky, outlined and glowing.

We watched Kaho‘olawe getting bigger and more defined, and then when we were close, a small Zodiac ferried us and the gear most of the rest of the way, in several trips. When it was my turn, I saw that they took us in close, and then we got out into the waist-deep ocean. Again, we formed a line from the boat to the shore and passed all the plastic-bagged goods, water bottles and food supplies to shore, hand-to-hand. A huge sack of cabbages was passed through the ocean, and I wondered if it would taste salty when we ate it. We stepped onto Kaho‘olawe, and carried all the water and food up the marked stone trail to the well-established outdoor kitchen.

Then we went and found our campsite. We hung the tarp we’d brought above where we would sleep, to protect us from rain, and raked away keawe thorns with a rake from the tool shed there. We put down some of our large plastic garbage bags and spread out our sleeping bags atop them. There were tiny bold mice everywhere on that island, so we hung our snacks in a backpack from a tree.

Every time the Zodiac dropped off some more people from the Pualele, someone sounded a pū summoning us to the beach and again we went into the water to pass their things onto shore. It got easier each time, because all the kitchen stuff had come in on that first boat, and also because there were more people to help each time.

When we’d been approaching the island by sea, all I could see was a small dark rocky beach surrounded by keawe that looked dead and lifeless. But when we went ashore and got busy, I realized there were signs of life everywhere. Vegetation, and tiny but carefully marked cartons of “dry water,” which was time-released water, I learned later, for the reforesting. Carefully laid paths. A nice kitchen area, with coffee, and an old Navy locker set up a smoker. There was fish in there, ulua, that first day.

In 1993, the Hawaiian State Legislature established the Kahoolawe Island Reserve, consisting of “the entire island and its surrounding ocean waters in a two mile (three km) radius from the shore.” By State Law, Kahoolawe and its waters can only be used for Native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes; fishing; environmental restoration; historic preservation; and education. All commercial uses are prohibited.

The Legislature also created the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission to manage the Reserve while it is held in trust for a future Native Hawaiian Sovereignty entity. The restoration of Kahoolawe will require a strategy to control erosion, re-establish vegetation, recharge the water table, and gradually replace alien plants with native species. Plans will include methods for damming gullies and reducing rainwater runoff. In some areas, non-native plants will temporarily stabilize soils before planting of permanent native species. Species used for revegetation include ʻaʻaliʻi (Dodonaea viscosa), ʻāheahea (Chenopodium oahuense),kuluʻī (Nototrichium sandwicense), Achyranthes splendens, ʻūlei (Osteomeles anthyllidifolia), kāmanomano (Cenchrus agrimonioides var. agrimonioides), koaiʻa(Acacia koaia), and alaheʻe (Psydrax odorata). – Wikipedia

When everybody was there, we stood in a circle near the shore and people from the PKO thanked us for coming. They said how important it is for people to see what they are doing there, and what it’s like on the island, and why they keep coming back. We went around the circle and when I introduced myself, Tom, one of the people in charge, said, “We’re very happy to have you here.” I told him, very sincerely, that I was very happy to be there, too.

(to be continued)

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“Gathering Places” Tour a Success!

Our recent Historic Architecture Tour of Hilo went great! It was the second in a series of three tours we give on the Big Island each fall, and this one focused on “Gathering Places.”

These tours, which are offered through Lyman Museum, are so much fun to research and lead.  It was Judith Kirkendall who designed them and she has brought me on to help. Judith is a historian and anthropologist (her dissertation was on the anthropology of food), lived for many years all over the world, and was formerly a University of Hawai‘i dean. She is just a lovely, interesting person. I am so fortunate to be able to work with her. We have so much fun working together.

Judith KirkendallJudith Kirkendall

East Hawai‘i, of course, has so much interesting history, and one of the fun things about our tours is that we can sneak people into places one doesn’t ordinarily get to see. Among many other places, we went into the Kaikodo Building and up into what was formerly its very interesting Masonic Lodge to examine the architecture – even though the Center Stage Dance Studio has recently moved in there. We talked to them in advance and got permission to have a look around even though they had a class in session! It was generous of them.

We heard all about the Koehnens building’s history,  and even went into its basement where we got to peak into a cement channel where the Wailuku River courses underneath the store. You can see the river swooshing by! I mean, you could reach down (not too far) and touch the water! Owner Karyl Franks told us some great stories about the building, how it was built, tsunamis, and how they keep that river from flooding the place.

We ate our bento lunches (included in the tour) at the Wild Ginger Inn in Wainaku, which has quite a history of its own. Its owner showed us around and told us about how it was formerly a hotspot bar/nightclub. One of our tour participants recalled going there in the 1950s when a stripper from Punahou School was performing. It’s much calmer there now.

There were many other stops as well – I’m just telling you some of the highlights – and then we ended up at the Japanese tea house at Lili‘uokalani Gardens, where we talked about Japanese architecture, brought over by Japanese carpenters who immigrated as plantation workers.

Japanese tea ceremony, Liliuokalani Gardens

The women of the tea house put on a tea ceremony demonstration for us, and it was an absolutely perfect way to end our busy tour. I think everything seemed to leave the tea house feeling a bit more calm and centered than when we arrived there.

Our next tour, also a guided van tour that starts at the Lyman Museum and runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., is on Saturday, December 17th. It’s on domestic structures – or another name for it might be “Historic Homes.” Sign up for it by calling Lyman Museum at 935-5021, if you’re interested, and don’t wait ’til the last minute because we fill ’em up.

And stay tuned for news about a brand new tour series, on a new topic, that we’ll be premiering starting in February. It’s going to be neat, and I’ll tell you more about it here soon.

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‘America Writes Home’

mailbox2America Writes Home is a website with a wonderful collection of some existing pre-1920s letters, giving a flavor of that time before iPhones and email.

They are indexed by state, for the most part. Really fun to poke around in. So many stories!

Do you have old letters? Have you thought about how to preserve them so others, now or in the future, can enjoy and learned from them too? There are suggestions at this website.

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Glued To The Screen

p8125460Here is a great reminder of just one of the reasons we should take the time to document, in one way or another, our personal stories – and, especially, those of our elder family members.

It’s personal historian Stanley Dalnekoff describing the first time his client’s family watched the two-hour audiovisual personal history he created about the grandfather:

The first viewing of the production at his home was in front of his wife, children, and two of his grandchildren. The most interesting reaction was that of his grandchildren who sat fascinated. They had heard some of his tales over the years but for the first time they were able to get a true picture of just what an incredibly resilient and fascinating person their grandfather is. They also received a lesson on how one can survive in the most difficult circumstances and indeed find the strength to thrive. Indeed this is the legacy he is handing down to future generations of his family. They, in turn, now have a physical record  to hand down to their offspring. Read the rest

Our histories are so easily lost track of, and what a shame that is every time it happens.

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Wayfinding Through the Storm: A New Perspective on the Controversy at Kamehameha Schools

I just received this press release and am very interested to read this book. What an important story, and what a brilliant idea to put all these people’s accounts of it together in one place. Can’t wait to read it.

Full disclosure: I have written a couple books for Watermark Publishing. But I’d have been interested in this book if it was published on the moon:wayfinding2

Watermark Publishing announces the release of Wayfinding through the Storm: Speaking Truth to Power at Kamehameha Schools 1993 – 1999, offering a new perspective on the Bishop Estate controversy of the 1990s.  Edited by author-historian Gavan Daws in oral history form, this is the story of the ordinary people at the center of the controversy, who looked deep inside themselves and found the moral courage to risk everything, to come together and stand up for what they believed in—to speak truth to power. 
Over 150 voices—young students, respected alumni, movers and shakers, rank-and-file school employees, novice and seasoned teachers, Native Hawaiians, kama‘aina and fresh faces from abroad—share their experiences of the crisis that erupted at Kamehameha Schools and came close to destroying a historic educational community. In the early 1990s, Bishop Estate and Kamehameha Schools were flourishing. Within just a few years, however, a new all-Hawaiian board of trustees found itself embroiled in micro-management and dubious schemes hatched behind closed doors that erupted in public scandal—ethical, moral, sexual, financial, political and legal—and crossed the line into indictable crime.  Introduced by Daws, Wayfinding through the Storm traces these events through interviews with Nä Leo O Kamehameha—the voices of Kamehameha, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends—along with court transcripts. The text is supplemented and augmented graphically by a wealth of historically significant photographs, cartoons and documents.  

Scheduled Book Events:

Friday, May 22
Book Launch Celebration
Kamehameha Schools, Kawaiahao Plaza
567 S. King St., Kaiona Room
(Hale Makai, 1st floor near Courtyard)
5PM – 5:30PM — Program
5:30PM – 7PM — Book Sale & Signing
Free and open to the public
 
Saturday, May 30, 1PM – 2PM
Book Signing with Nä Leo O Kamehameha
Barnes & Noble, Kahala Mall
(808) 737-3323
 
Saturday, June 6, 1PM – 2PM
Book Signing with Nä Leo O Kamehameha 
Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana
(808) 949-7307
 

Saturday, June 13, 2PM – 3PM

Book Signing with Nä Leo O Kamehameha 
Borders, Ward Centre

(808) 591-8995Gavan Daws is the author of 14 previous books, including the best-selling Shoal of TimeHoly Man: Father Damien of Moloka‘i; and Land and Power in Hawai‘i. He is also the recipient of several international awards for his documentary films and has been named a Distinguished Historian by the Hawaiian Historical Society. Wayfinding through the Storm: Speaking Truth to Power at Kamehameha Schools 1993 – 1999 by Gavan Daws and Nä Leo O Kamehameha is priced at $24.95 in softcover (ISBN 978-0-9821698-3-4) at bookstores and other retail outlets, online booksellers, or direct from the publisher at www.bookshawaii.net.  Contact Watermark Publishing, 1088 Bishop St., Suite 310, Honolulu, HI 96813; (808) 587-7766; toll-free (866) 900-BOOK; fax (808) 521-3461; sales@bookshawaii.net. 

 

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Hula at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, and Tears

It’s Merrie Monarch week and it’s absolutely the best week of the year here in Hilo. 

We went down to the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel this afternoon and watched the free hula performance by Puanani Crumb’s Halau Hula O Hilo Hanakahi.

5-yrs-crumb-halau-1

It was wonderful. The music, the hula, the crowd. Hula Legend Uncle George Na‘ope was there, wheelchair-bound now, wearing a green running suit, white Crocs and then of course his hat and his wide gold bracelets running up his arm. 

I just love it all. The tiny kids who dance. The older ones who dance and who are so, so lovely. The crowd, appreciating. The smell of the plumeria lei the dancers are wearing. The emotion. The power of the hula. The stories.

Drew Kekaualua was singing with them, Pua’s nephew, and she told a story about how he and his brothers would back up their mother when she used to dance to the song “U‘ilani.”

She said, “But then I realized they don’t really know the song. And I wanted them to know it, so I taught it to them. And then I taught my alaka‘i to dance it. I’ve never seen anybody dance that song.”

She said she told her nephew (who has a beautiful voice) to sing it the way his mother used to sing it; not the way they all sing now.

So they played U‘ilani, and he sang it the way his mother used to sing it, and her alaka‘i danced. Pua dedicated the song to Drew’s mother, Bobbie Kekaualua, who was in the audience.

It was beautiful. It was beautiful. Bobbie stood watching, rapt, her hands making the moves of the hula, a big smile on her face. She was moved. Afterward, she told me she cried.

I absolutely love Merrie Monarch week, when all the focus is on hula, and stories and beauty and all that culture comes to the forefront.

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Isabella Bird & Other Historical Non-Fiction to Read While Traveling

I have a good friend coming to visit here on the Big Island next week, a history buff like me, and I’ll have to find out if she’s ever read Isabella Bird.

isabellabird

I love reading an interesting book about a place while exploring it, and I highly recommend Isabella Bird’s book if you’re planning to visit (or if you live in) Hawai‘i.

I can remember reading Sarum when visiting Salisbury Cathedral, and Jane Austen in, of course, Bath. And Michener’s Iberia (or parts of it anyway; I remember a great section on gazpacho that sent me seeking the stuff at every turn) while in Portugal. And, oh, The Agony and the Ecstacy while in Rome — that was a wonderful decision.

Isabella Bird was born in England in 1831, and (from Wikipedia), “was a sickly child and spent her entire life struggling with various ailments. Much of her illness may have been psychogenic, for when she was doing exactly what she wanted she was almost never ill. Her real desire was to travel.”

Gotta love that. 

She sure did travel. Among many other adventures (and writings), she was in Hawai‘i in the 1870s, and later wrote the book The Hawaiian Archipelago: Six months among the palm groves, coral reefs, and volcanoes of The Sandwich Islands. She was a thorough, descriptive and upbeat writer and I enjoy reading her accounts. I also admire her for traveling alone as a woman in the 19th century and having so many great adventures.

Here’s a description of Hilo from her book:

What Honolulu attempts to be, Hilo is without effort. Its crescent-shaped bay, said to be the most beautiful in the Pacific, is a semi-circle of about two miles, with its farther extremity formed by Cocoanut Island, a black lava islet on which this palm obtains great perfection, and beyond it again a fringe of cocoanuts marks the deep indentation of the shore. From this island to the north part of the bay, there is a band of golden sand on which the roar of the surf sounded thunderous and drowsy as it mingled with the music of living waters, the Waiakea and the Wailuku, which after lashing the sides of the mountains which give them birth, glide deep and fern-fringed into the ocean. Native houses, half hidden by greenery, line the bay, and stud the heights above the Wailuku, and near the landing some white frame houses and three church spires above the wood denote the foreign element. Hilo is unique.

Hilo still looks pretty much like that! I can picture it. It’s a great book if you’re interested in reading more, and it’s easily available in paperback.

What books have enriched your travels? I’d love to hear.

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