KNB, Pala ka Mai‘a

A Hawaiian Response to the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s “Kawainui Marsh Restoration Plan: Priorities, Protocols, and Participation”

We have serious reservations about the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s Kawainui Marsh Restoration Plan.  Although it purports to express the vision of the Hawaiian community and to honor the wisdom of our kūpuna, it strikes us as more of a cut-and-paste white paper than a coherent, Hawaiian-generated plan.  It relies on a distorted view of Kailua history and doctored-up Hawaiian cultural concepts to advance a proposal whose effect will be to forestall rather than promote a thriving Hawaiian cultural presence at Kawainui.  It claims to speak with the voice of Kailua’s Hawaiians, but it quietly discredits our current leadership, capacity, and integrity.  It attempts to impose a newcomer’s sense of place on the descendants of those who came long before. It is, for these reasons, unacceptable. We cannot endorse it.  

“There is none of these old folks living”

The Kailua Neighborhood Board (KNB) plan opens with a pair of then-and-now images: a map of Kawainui in 1917 and an aerial photo of Kawainui in 2013.  Its first paragraph then describes the degradation by which the “free flowing center of Hawaiian community enrichment and sustainability” of 150 years ago (1863) has become the “stagnant watershed drainage feature” of today.  If we forgive the inconsistency of the two “thens” – does 1917 or 1863 represent the KNB ideal? – we are still left with bad history.  The KNB document ignores the fact that the Hawaiian community in Kailua had been decimated by disease, despair, and diaspora to the point that only 749 of us were left in 1846.1  It ignores the fact that the most poignant of our mid-19th century chants describes Kawainui Pond as clogged with limu, its kalo terraces as overgrown with ‘ōpala ‘ai (edible rubbish, rice), its beneficent guardian as long since departed, and its remaining people as estranged from mo‘o and land:

‘O ‘oe nō paha ia, e ka lau o ke aloha

‘O ia nō paha ia ke kau mai nei ka hali‘a

Ke hāli‘ali‘a mai nei ka maka

Mana‘o hiki mai nō paha auane‘i

Hiki mai nō la ia, na wai e uē aku?

Ua pau kāu lā, kāu ‘ike iāia.

Ka manawa ‘oi e ‘ai ka mana‘o i loko

Ua lu‘u iho nei au i ke kai nui

Nui ka ukiuki paio o ka na‘au

‘A‘ohe kanaka ‘eha ‘ole i ke aloha

A wahine ‘ē ‘oe, kanaka ‘ē au

He mau alualu kā ha‘i e lawe

‘Ike aku i ke kula i‘a o Kawainui

Nui ka ‘ōpala ‘ai o Mokulana

Lana ka limu pae hewa o Maka‘uwahine

‘O ka wahine nō ‘oe, ʻo ke kāne nō ia

Hiki mai nō lā ia, na wai e uē aku?

Ho‘i mai nō la ia, aia wai e uē aku?

Might this be you, O leaf of love?

She for whom these memories are suddenly stirring

The eyes remember with great affection

Thinking she might soon appear

But if she were to return, who would cry out?

Your day is over, gone is your knowing her.

The feeling is intense, desire gnaws within

I have just plunged into the great ocean

Great is the conflict and turmoil of my heart

No man goes unhurt by love

You are the absent woman, I the estranged man

We are but husks for others to bear

Look at the fish-container of Kawainui

Rubbish-food abounds at Mokulana

Maka‘uwahine is afloat with limu pae hewa

You are the woman, I the man

If Hauwahine were to appear, who would cry out?

If she were to return, who would know enough to greet her?2 

The KNB plan fails, as well, to take into account the Kailua Hawaiian testimonies of the 1895 Water Commission hearings in which the kūpuna of that day described their intimate, hands-on relationship with the land, mourned the loss of pond and lo‘i, stubbornly opposed the diverting of Maunawili spring and stream water to the cane fields of Waimānalo, and steeled themselves to the soul-crushing future that lay ahead:

Kinney:  Can you give us the name of a living soul that ever planted taro [here]?

Hikaalani:  No there is none of these old folks living.

Kinney:  You are the sole witness of the days when that land was ever planted by a living human soul?

Hikaalani:  They are all dead excepting myself and my foster mother the person who took care of me, she is so old now she can’t walk, she has to crawl.

Kinney:  Are there any children living of those who planted [here]?

Hikaalani:  The biggest portion of them have died off and some of them are gone here and there and all around, and at present I don’t know where they are.3

The word marsh appears 20 times in the KNB document; the word pond does not appear at all.  The Hawaiian words for marsh are: ‘unelunelu, nenelu, lepo pohā, ‘alē, and naele. But the Hawaiian name for the now-wetlands at Kailua’s center is not Ka-‘unelunelu-nui or any other Ka-marsh-nui variation.  It is Ka-wai-nui, “the great/expansive fresh water” and refers to the fishpond that preceded the marsh and that, from our perspective, represents an ideal of active Hawaiian presence, land stewardship, and pono relationships.  The marsh, from our perspective, represents a falling away from that ideal; the marsh resulted from neglect of the pond; it is the consequence of our death and displacement, of the absence of lima hana, of failed balance, of the departure of Hauwahine.

We are in complete support of all carefully considered efforts to restore Kawainui to at least something of its former fishpond glory, and we are equally convinced that this cannot be accomplished without the active stewardship and permanent, ongoing presence there of Kailua’s Hawaiian community.  But we cannot support a plan for the restoration of Kawainui to the KNB’s marsh-like ideal since that ideal is date-and-history confused and predicated on the absence of native agriculture, native aquaculture, and native people fully engaged in practicing their culture.

“I mahi‘ai, i lawai‘a, i kūkulu hale”

After its shaky introduction, the KNB document attempts to define and promote “Kawaiola Thinking” as the founding principle of its proposed restoration of the marsh: “Hawaiian cultural management of the environment and of human behavior is centered on the flow of water...and the relationship of that flow of water to the sustainability of life.  The comprehensive understanding of that flow becomes the Organizing Principle, the Water of Life – perception, analysis, respect, governance, and action – that must guide the Kawainui effort.”

There is no mention, in this rush of words or in the equally effusive science-plus-culture paragraphs that follow, of the god from whom Kawaiola Thinking purportedly issues – of Kāne himself – or of his gifts and manifestations, or of the life-bringing activities that he inspires in his kānaka children.  In our stories, Kāne is a do-er, a water finder, cultivator, and ‘awa drinker; he constructs fishponds; he brings ‘ama‘ama from Kahiki; he takes the form of the hidden, floating island of Kānehunamoku where his pool, Kawaiola, has the power to “keep people young and heal all number of diseases.”4   In our traditional worship, Kāne is named “life-giver,” the god whose gifts include fresh water, sunlight, and kalo.  He is invoked by chiefs and commoners alike.  We ask that he allow our food plants to grow, that he respond to our prayers for the increase of  ‘o‘opu in our streams, and that he bring us success in farming, fishing, canoe making, and house building.  One of these prayers, accompanied by an offering of kalo and ‘awa, conveys an essential Hawaiian belief in the dynamic interaction between this god, his people, and their land:

... E Kane, e Kaneikawaiola;

Eia ka luau, ka lau awa mua o ka ai a kakou;

E hoi e ai ke akua;

E ai hoi ko‘u ohana,

E ai ka puaa,

E ai ka ilio.

E ola hoi au i ko pulapula,

I mahiai, i lawaia, i kukulu hale,

A kanikoo, haumakaiole, a palalauhala,

A kau i ka puaaneane;

O kau ola ka hoi ia.

           Amama, ua noa; lele wale aku la hoi.

... O Kāne, O Kāne-in-the-water-of-life;

Here is the taro leaf, the ‘awa leaf offered before our eating;

Return to eat, O god;

That my family may also eat,

That the pigs may eat,

That the dogs may eat.

Grant success to me, your offspring,

In farming, in fishing, in house-building,

Until I am bent with age, bleary-eyed as a rat, yellow as a hala leaf,

And reach advanced old age;

This is the life that is yours to grant

‘Amama, the kapu is freed; the prayer has gone on its way5

Kāne is “he miki / he mikioi,”6 an active one, a skillful one, an expert at his work.  He provides us with resources, example, and inspiration; life comes to us when we, his pulapula (his sprouts, his descendants), do our own skillful work.  He cannot be reduced, as the KNB plan would have it, to a Hawaiian embodiment of the precipitation cycle by which “water generated, coalesced, and flowed from the atmosphere to the Ko‘olaupoko mountain ranges into the lowlands and then into Kawainui marsh.”

The KNB use of “Kawaiola” without reference to Kāne and his dynamic – indeed, without reference of any kind – gives us cause to question the authenticity of “Kawaiola Thinking” as an informed expression of traditional Hawaiian belief.  We question the KNB plan’s redirection of our call for a thriving Hawaiian cultural presence at Kawainui into a plan for the careful study of the flow of water; we question the board’s de-emphasis of the kānaka’s traditional, highly interactive relationship with Kāneikawaiola; and we wonder if the board has not, in fact, excised Kāne from Kawaiola and reinterpreted what is left to advance its own vision of a well plumbed, mostly hands-off marsh where a few of Kailua’s Hawaiians will enjoy part-time practitioner and mana‘o-sharer status at a few “softscape” sites that are mostly hidden away from “the reasonable view plane” of the Hawaiian community itself.

“O ka makapō wale nō ka mea hāpapa i ka pōuli”

The subsequent  “Water Balance,” “Starting Out,” and “Points of Agreement” sections of the KNB plan do little to allay our concerns.  “Water Balance” proposes a grand-sounding but unformulated “Kawainui-centric educational overlay...infused by Kawaiola thinking” at “the regional schools, at the elementary, scholastic, and academic, and graduate levels” whose “central rallying educational theme” – ‘Kawainui and its Future’ – will produce a “continuous generation of students growing and evolving with knowledge and capabilities into citizens and leaders.”

This ignores completely the work of Kailua’s Hawaiian community – of our twelve hālau hula and eight hui wa‘a; of the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club, ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi, Aloha ‘Āina Health Center, Kapalai Farms, Kailua Kau a Ho‘oilo, Hale Mua o Kūali‘i, Ho‘olauna Ko‘olaupoko, and Hale Kealoha ‘Ai Pono – to educate our own people and generate our own leadership. “Water Balance” does nothing to endorse or empower these ongoing, Hawaiian-led efforts; instead, it threatens to send us back to square one on an all-too-familiar game board.  It proposes that we surrender our own canoe and steering paddle to a nebulous plan of instruction that will rely – not on native institutions, pedagogy, and instruction – but on the very school system in which Hawaiians have had so little success.

“Starting Out” demonizes other [Kawainui] planning efforts as “inconsistent with Kawaiola Thinking” – as “exploitive and divisive,” “fractioned,” “agenda driven,” and “leading to undesirable potential outcomes, unsustainable and dangerous landscape designs, [and] inappropriate and counterproductive structures.”  We assume that this attack is directed at the Helber Hastert & Fee (HHF) Master Plan for Kawainui, and we wonder why the KNB plan neither identifies this agency by name nor offers any careful exposition of HHF’s apparently insidious product.  Our own reading of that plan raises no such phobias.  On the contrary, it offers us hope for an actual practicing, teaching, thriving Hawaiian cultural presence at Kawainui, and it gives evidence of considerable trust in our Hawaiian community’s ability to shape and implement this vision in this generation.

The KNB’s “Starting Out,” on the other hand, demonstrates little faith in our ability.  It ignores, again, the wealth of cultural knowledge and leadership in the current community of Kailua Hawaiians and argues that the emergence of true insight and leadership is at least one generation away: “It took 150 years to punish Kawainui into the state of disrespect she has fallen; it is perfectly OK to take 15 to 20 years to recover her…[by means of] a Kawainui-centered educational program [that] can produce trained, insightful Kawaiola thinkers…who can lead us to the best future for Kawainui.”  One need only engage with the leaders of the Hawaiian organizations listed above (and perhaps read the recently published Kailua – In the Wisps of the Malanai, the O‘ahu Burial Council Minutes for the 151 Hekili, FHB, and KTC III burial preserves7, and the websites of ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi, and Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima), to understand the insights and accomplishments of today’s Kailua Hawaiians and our capacity for creating, in this generation, a “highly self-generated, self-operated” program of physical restoration and cultural excellence at Kawainui.

The “Points of Agreement” section of the KNB plan advances the egregious claim that the Hawaiian community endorses the board’s assessment of our own diminished capacity – that we believe ourselves currently incapable of planning, educating, and acting in our culture’s best interest without the benign guidance of the board, its document, and its Kawaiola Thinking.  The language of  “Points of Agreement” is couched in phrases cherry-picked from our own deeply held beliefs – “the flow of Sacred Waters,” “cycle of sustainability…moon and season, planting and harvesting, land and water stewardship,” “principles of ahupua‘a stewardship, mauka and makai” “traditional planting [and] harvesting.”  It is sprinkled with mostly good-sense caveats that are by no means exclusive to the KNB plan: “whatever is done must be consistent with Hawaiian practices, safe, enforceable, and controllable, must be non-conducive to elements of crime, must be sustainable; and must be capable of being funded.”  But it attempts to attach the purported Hawaiian value of  “slow evolution,” “slow-start,” “start slowly,” and “start slowly” (yet again) to its litany of beliefs and cautions, and it comes to the conclusion that a few softscaped features and non-permanent structures are all that we currently feel ourselves capable of generating and operating.

What our kūpuna actually tell us about planning and acting is “‘O ke kahua ma mua, ma hope ke kūkulu” – the foundation first, the building afterwards.  We contend that the Hawaiian community of Kailua has spent the last two generations establishing a more than solid foundation of native knowledge and leadership; we contend that it is time for us to build on that foundation.  Carefully, yes.  With deep thought, yes.  With abiding concern for the ‘āina, yes.  But with our own steering paddle in the water, and without KNB putting words in our mouths.  The KNB plan tells us that we agree to start slow, go slow, and wait for 10 to 20 years before we have the leadership capable of proposing anything significant to cultural restoration and renaissance.  To this we offer four kūpuna proverbs about the dangers of inaction: “Ua hala ka Pu‘ulena, aia i Hilo” (the Pu‘ulena wind – opportunity – has left; it is now in Hilo), “Na ka ‘eleu mikimiki, nāna e ka lawe lilo” (it is the alert/prompt one who will get what he desires), “Mai kali a pau nā niho” (don’t wait until you have lost your teeth to old age), and “‘O ka makapō wale nō ka mea hāpapa i ka pōuli” (only the blind grope about in the darkness).  The KNB plan would have us think of ourselves as less than competent and less than prepared.  It would put us on a proverbial Hawaiian Homes waiting list: keep us standing in line long enough, and we will eventually go away.  We take offense.

“The joy and dedication that this community has to mālama honua”

Had the KNB attended the four-day Hōkūle‘a celebration hosted by the Kailua Hawaiian community in mid-October, it would have had ample evidence of our competence and vitality.  The event was overseen by Maya Saffery, one of the lead protocol and logistics coordinators of the Hōkūle‘a’s worldwide voyage; Maya is a native Hawaiian Kailua resident, a kumu hula, a PhD candidate in education, a Hawaiian language curriculum specialist at UH Mānoa, a co-author of Kailua – In the Wisps of the Malanai, and a frequent speaker at lectures sponsored by the Kailua Historical Society.  She was assisted by Kahikina de Silva a native Hawaiian Kailua resident who is a second-generation Kailua kumu hula, a PhD candidate in Political Science, a thirteen-year Hawaiian language instructor at UH Mānoa, a co-author of Kailua – In the Wisps of the Malanai, and the composer and choreographer of Merrie Monarch-winning mele for and about Kailua.

Among the Worldwide Voyage crew members aboard the Hōkūle‘a on its arrival in Kailua Bay on Wednesday 10/16 were Kaleo Wong and Brad Wong, two native Hawaiian Kailua residents who are Hōkūle‘a spokesmen and educators, the one a native plant conservationist and resource management coordinator with the O‘ahu Army Natural Resources Program in the Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau Ranges, the other a marine biologist, former wetland restoration coordinator at Māhuahua ‘Ai o Hoi, and current  Papahanau-mokuakea Program Specialist at OHA.  Their honorary crew included: the native Hawaiian Kailua-raised Charles “Doc” Pe‘ape‘a Makawalu Kekuewa Burrows, Ed.D, who needs no resume; the native Hawaiian Kailua resident Charles Lehuakona Isaacs, Jr., a project engineer and LEED Accredited Professional with Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., the former deputy director and operations manager for the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission, the current president of ‘Ahahui Mālama, and the design consultant for Hui Kānaka ‘Ōiwi, the group interested in establishing a native Hawaiian cultural and environmental complex on the western perimeter of Kawainui; the native Hawaiian Kailua resident Kapalai‘ula de Silva, a second generation kumu hula, a Music and Hawaiian Language graduate of UH Mānoa, and a Hawaiian culture/education specialist with the Ho‘okahua Division of the Kamehameha Schools; the native Hawaiian Kailua resident Rebecca ‘Ilima Luning, a PhD in education at UH Mānoa and current Educational and Cultural Specialist in the College of Education, Educational Psychology Department, where she is the Project Coordinator for the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE); the native Hawaiian Kailua resident Makanani Akiona, a hula instructor and graduate ‘ōlapa at Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima, a Hawaiian Studies graduate of UH Mānoa, and a conservationist with the O‘ahu Army Natural Resources Program in the Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau Ranges; and the native Hawaiian Kailua resident Jordan Wong, a UH Mānoa graduate in marketing and a Kailua Canoe Club board member and coach.

All were ferried to shore aboard canoes belonging to and crewed by members of the various Kailua canoe clubs and coordinated by Kailua Canoe Club members Kēhau Meyer (a native Kailua Hawaiian and Community Development Specialist at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement) and the above-mentioned Brad Wong.  All were greeted with chant and gifted with lei given by seven of Kailua’s kumu hula: Adah Richards Enos (the daughter of Kailua’s first honorary mayor, kumu hula Bella Richards), Charlani Kalama (the daughter of Kailua kumu hula Kekau‘ilani Kalama), Ka‘olu Luning (a Māpuana de Silva graduate and mother of the above-listed ‘Ilima Luning), Pattye Wright (a graduate of Kekau‘ilani Kalama) and her own kumu hula graduate Sandii Suzuki, the above-listed Maya Saffery (a Māpuana de Silva graduate), and the above-listed Kahikina de Silva and her mother Māpuana.  All were witness to an exchange of Hawaiian-language-only, aloha ‘āina based oratory between Kaleo Wong and Kahikina de Silva, the likes of which has not been heard in public, in Kailua, for over a century. All were escorted to a cordoned-off section of lawn where the Kailua-based Hale Mua o Kūali‘i conducted a formal ʻawa ceremony for crew and guests, where native Hawaiian Kailua resident Corbett Kamohaikiokalani Kalama (a former FHB vice president and KS trustee, the current VP of real estate investment and community affairs with the Weinberg Foundation, and a son of Kekau‘ilani Kalama) delivered a welcoming address filled with Kailua history and hospitality, and where the Kalama and de Silva hālau brought the ceremonies to a close with hula and protocol appropriate to the occasion.

The crew members spent the second and third days of their visit in the company of ʻAhahui Mālama and the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club, planting four niu trees at Nā Pōhaku o Hauwahine, planting kalo in a newly cleared section of land below Ulupō Heiau, and learning something of the legends, oli, and history of these two storied places. In the words of Brad Wong:

A couple of us on the trip were amazed at the progress the area has made since our time at Kamehameha Schools where Doc Burrows, a former teacher, had us do volunteer work in the area…This was a special day paying tribute to two locations along Kawainui which was one of the main food sources…with Kawainui itself being a large fishpond and many loʻi kalo covering its banks.  The crew learned a lot about this place and shared in the joy and dedication that this community has to mālama honua [care for the earth, the theme of the Hōkūle‘a world voyage].8

The crew and almost 80 members of the Hawaiian community from Waimānalo to Hakipu‘u gathered again on Friday evening for a talk story session, a Hawaiian food buffet, live Hawaiian music by Kaiao, and hula by Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima – all at Hale Kealoha ‘Ai Pono, Kailua’s new Hawaiian food restaurant run by the Smith and Hoe family of Ko‘olaupoko.  The event, “Kau ka Pe‘a,” was hosted by Kailua’s Nāoneala‘a (soon to be re-named Hika‘alani), the 501c3 Hawaiian educational organization whose specific vision is to establish a center for cultural excellence at the old Mackay Radio / ITT property at Waiauia.

The Saturday morning send-off of the Hōkūle‘a was attended by eleven kumu hula – ten from Kailua (Charlani Kalama, Darcey Moniz, Pattye Wright, Sandii Suzuki, Kapilialoha MacKenzie, Kahulu Ka‘iama De Santos, Ka‘olu Luning, Maya Saffery, Kahikina de Silva, and Māpuana de Silva) and one from Waimānalo-Kailua (Kūkaho‘omalu Souza).  Moniz is the native Hawaiian second-generation kumu hula of the hālau founded more than 50 years ago in Waimānalo and Kailua by her Aunty Ellen Castillo.  MacKenzie is a Kailua-born native Hawaiian, an associate professor of law and director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Native Hawaiian Excellence in Law at UH Mānoa.  De Santos is a Kailua-born native Hawaiian, the Director of Hawaiian Culture at Disney’s ‘Aulani, and a board member – with MacKenzie and Luning – of the above mentioned Nāoneala‘a/Hika‘alani.  Souza is a Waimānalo-born native Hawaiian, a former Hawaiian language teacher at Kailua High School (he is now at Kamehameha), and the leader of Kaiao, the Hawaiian trio that recently won the 29th Annual Ka Hīmeni ‘Ana unamplified music competition.

These kumu and their hālau offered explanations, chants, and hula to the assembled crew in a ceremony that featured the combined performance of almost 100 keiki.  Kahu Ryan Kalama, president of the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club and member of Kailua’s prolific Kalama family then offered a farewell address to which four of the Hōkūleʻa captains responded: Bruce Blankenfield, Chad Baybayan, Billy Richards (son of Aunty Bella and brother of Adah Enos), and Nainoa Thompson.  Thompson closed the ʻaha in extraordinarily humble and humbling fashion.  He sat on the grass before the assembled kumu hula and said, “Kailua, do not thank the Hōkūle‘a; the Hōkūle‘a thanks you.” He spoke about vision, leadership, and capacity, about what gets us as a people to where we need to go.  And he concluded by honoring the Kailua Hawaiian community for exactly these qualities. “Because of you, Kailua is like no other place we visit. The common assumption is that we inspire you; the reality is that you inspire us.”9  Māpuana de Silva, Charlani Kalama, Kūkaho‘omalu Souza, and Mihana Aluli Souza (native Hawaiian Kailua resident, singer-songwriter, and daughter of Kailua’s Aunty Irmgard Farden Aluli) then led a tearful procession of hosts and crew members to the beach fronting Ka‘elepulu Stream, singing songs of sovereignty and aloha ‘āina as our canoe clubs ferried the crew to the waiting “Mama” of our cultural renaissance.

As the crew prepared to leave on a windless morning, the malanai breeze picked up just enough as they were ready to depart, and the canoe was able to sail out of the bay. Those four days that Hōkūleʻa was in Kailua were probably the four most perfect days I had ever seen in Kailua… There are a few of us crew members who have lived in Kailua all if not most of our lives, and the experience was definitely very surreal and special, one we will always remember.10

We provide this lengthy description of the people and events of October 16-19, 2013, because it speaks of a Kailua Hawaiian community that the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s plan has chosen to pre-empt.  Our community is more than capable of enlightened self-expression and self-determination; its roll call of leaders, young and old, includes deeply-rooted cultural practitioners and accomplished professionals in the very fields – science, education, conservation, planning, construction, governance, finance – that the KNB has deemed us lacking.  But ours is also a community whose cultural activities have been relegated to temporarily cordoned-off sections of beach park, to rented studios and meeting places, to backyards, garages, and Pier One parking lots, and to a pittance of limited-area, limited-access, limited-activity sites along the Kawainui perimeter.  We are a community in need of permanent place and facility, and we view the KNB’s proposal for the restoration of Kawainui – the board’s self-professed “soul of Kailua” – as sadly deficient because it fails to accommodate Kailua’s native people and culture in any significant way.

“Predictably myopic and manini”

For all of its words about the free-flowing bounty of Kawaiola, the most important section of the KNB document, “Specific Plan Recommendations,” dispenses an only occasional drop of actual, life-giving water to the community it purports to represent.  It completely eliminates, without explanation, the Helber Hastert & Fee master plan provision for a Hawaiian cultural complex on the now impassable, weed-choked peninsula ma kai of the Kapa‘a waste transfer station.  As envisioned by Hui Kānaka ‘Ōiwi (a native planning group consisting of representatives of Kailua’s hula schools, ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi, and the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club), this complex would allow our kumu hula, mahi‘ai, and conservationists to teach and practice, side-by-side, in mutually beneficial partnership “to assure that our knowledge and skills continue beyond tomorrow and deep into the future.”11

The Hui Kānaka ‘Ōiwi’s vision for the five-acre parcel includes: a hale hālāwai for large-group gatherings, meetings, and instruction; an imu and kitchen-classroom for the preparation (and instruction in the preparation) of traditional foods; a hale for smaller-group gatherings and “dry” instruction; a water-storage and wet-work hale for “messy” workshops and activities; an open lawn and natural stage for performances and presentations; a smaller, secluded hula mound and pā for private ritual and ceremony; gardens for the cultivation of traditional food, lei, dye, fiber, and medicinal plants; a camping area (two-person tents only) for over-night activities; an administration/information hale; an equipment storage and caretaker’s hale; ADA restroom facilities; and permeable parking for 20 cars with an adjacent pervious area for drop-off and pick-up.12

We assume that the KNB plan has rejected the HHF Culture Complex because it includes permanent and hardscaped features, and perhaps because the KNB views it as commercially “exploitive” and meant to bring more tourists to Kailua and – somehow – more money to Kāne‘ohe Ranch.13  We contend, on the first count, that permanence and hardscape are not in themselves dangerous, inappropriate, or counterproductive.  The design envisioned for this complex by Hui Kānaka ‘Ōiwi, is LEED compliant, minimal in footprint, and traditional in appearance.  We would expect no less of Lehuakona Isaacs, our LEED-certified, native-Hawaiian, Kailua-born designer and project engineer.  As for our possible “exploitive” agendas, we argue that this Hawaiian culture complex, as we envision it, is not to be confused in scope or operation, with either the Polynesian Cultural Center in Lā‘ie or the City operated Hanauma Bay Park.14  We intend that this complex be funded and built by a Kailua community non-profit educational organization, that it be governed by a council of hālau, civic club, and ‘Ahahui members, and that it be used exclusively for non-profit, Kailua- and Ko‘olaupoko-based Hawaiian cultural activities.  In other words: no tourist hordes and no commercial enterprises.  The HHF master plan accommodates our vision and affords us the opportunity to pursue it.  The KNB plan accommodates nothing and demonstrates, as we have said, a serious lack of confidence in our own ability to act in pono fashion.

The KNB plan does include a one-line recommendation for “Canoe storage and launch, on Oneawa end, convenient to Kalāheo School.”  This description, however, is so minimal that it fails to recognize the site’s potential as a place of education for our canoe-building, -repairing, -paddling, and –sailing community.  The HHF master plan, on the other hand, allows for an expanded site and facility more consistent with security and access requirements and more cognizant of the wa‘a and voyaging legacy of Kailua; it provides for native plant restoration, an educational pavilion and educational exhibits, an observation deck, a hālau wa‘a and launch, a hale for storage, parking for 42 cars (with loading area), and a gated entry with posted hours.  The KNB proposal – offered in the larger context of nothing permanent, nothing hardscape – suggests little more than a non-secure and unimaginative spot for Kalāheo H.S. to use during paddling season.  Again, the difference here between master plan and white paper, between vision and dogma, is considerable.

The KNB then takes a carefully integrated HHF plan for a culture center at Waiauia (the “ITT site”15) and chops it into an aggregate of disjointed parts.  The HHF plan includes a compound of three hale fronted by a lawn and hula mound, flanked by a burial preserve, and bordered by gardens of native plants.  Three organizations – Kailua Kau a Ho‘oilo (the hui of multi-generational Kailua native Hawaiians who have taken responsibility for the iwi kūpuna of our ahupua‘a), Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima, and Nāoneala‘a/Hika‘alani – have  envisioned the center as a place for the pursuit of cultural excellence.  One of the hale would be dedicated to the highest level of master-apprentice instruction in Hawaiian applied arts; the second would be dedicated to an equally high level of instruction in Hawaiian performing and literary arts; and the third would contain an office, library, kitchenette, caretaker room, bathroom, and temporary iwi curation room.  The already-funded burial preserve, already designed by Kailua Kau a Ho‘oilo to be consistent with its other pā ilina in Kailua, would be maintained by this same organization, as would the small, temporary curation room in the third hale.  We propose that the three-hale compound (and hula mound) be funded, built, and run by the Naoneala‘a/Hika‘alani non-profit and serve the Kailua and Ko‘olaupoko community with the intent of returning Kailua to its prominence of four and five centuries ago as a nexus of cultural excellence in our islands.  This would be a center for instruction and study – not for tour buses, tourists, or commercial activity.  The regular presence of staff and students at Waiauia would provide a measure of security for the burial preserve as well as for the shared 14-stall permeable parking lot (with drop-off and pick-up), trail, and public overlook that HHF has planned for the same area. Plans for our proposed center of excellence also include culture-instruction partnerships with Kailua schools and programs designed with DOFAW to educate our community about the adjacent native water-bird habitat.  The staff and students of Hika‘alani center would thus become the caretakers of Waiauia, exercising the very principles of stewardship that the KNB’s plan would deny.

The KNB’s revision of the HHF site plan is predictably myopic and manini: it provides for a concealed burial vault, an undersized hula mound, and an equally undersized and impractical thatched structure.  The concept of “concealed vault” is inconsistent with the already extant burial preserves in Kailua and conducive to the very security and abuse problems that good Kawaiola thinking is supposed to prevent.  Kailua Kau a Ho‘oilo was never consulted in this matter; the culturally unqualified KNB planners simply went ahead and made an uninformed and unsanctioned decision about our iwi kūpuna. 

The KNB plan’s 10 x 20 “marae hula mound” is only capable of holding five adult dancers – nine in a squeeze – and therefore preempts anything other than small performances and limited involvement.  The 15x 20 gravel-based, open-sided hale (placed “away from the road” and landscaped with native plants to create “a sense of place”) is only capable of accommodating (in daylight and good weather) 15-20 comfortably seated adults, if “comfortable” is possible on a gravel floor.  This again preempts anything other than small, temporary gatherings and activities. Indeed, the KNB plan is quite specific about the use for which its mound and hale are intended: “for occasional mana‘o sharing use by visiting halau.”  We are only afforded transient, small group, visit-share-and-go-home status. Kailua’s hula community was not consulted in this matter, and the KNB again puts itself in the untenable position of knowing better about cultural needs and facilities than the practitioners themselves.  We would argue that the absence at Waiauia of a permanent cultural presence in a permanent, appropriately-sized and -integrated facility will brand the KNB’s mini-mound, thatched hut, and “sense-of-place landscaping” as Hawaiian novelties and will strip Waiauia of the significance and sacredness that we hope to restore. The unsupervised, non-secure KNB site is likely to attract tourists by day and the homeless by night – two of the very problems that good Kawaiola thinking is meant to deter.

We assume that the KNB plan has downsized the HHF plan for Waiauia for reasons similar to those for which the board completely rejected the HHF culture center plan on the ma uka side of Kawainui: permanent structures, hardscape, and an exploitive agenda.  To this we offer the same response: permanence and hardscape are not in themselves dangerous, inappropriate, or counterproductive – particularly on a site that is already topped with a significant layer of construction and hillside fill and that previously housed a radio-telegraph station and tower.  Our envisioned Hika‘alani center for excellence is green in design and traditional in appearance.  It will not be a tourist attraction or commercial enterprise.  It will not be a State “handout”; we propose that it be leased, funded, built, and staffed by our Kailua non-profit educational organization, governed by this organization’s board of directors, and used for Kailua and Ko‘olaupoko based, Hawaiian cultural and educational activities.16  The HHF master plan accommodates this vision and affords us the opportunity to pursue it.  The KNB plan accommodates little and demonstrates, as we have said, a serious and unwarranted lack of trust in our motives and abilities.

Our final point of concern in this review of the “Recommendations” section of the KNB plan is the short shrift given to Ulupō Heiau and the significant work there of two Kailua Hawaiian community organizations: ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi and the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club.  The KNB plan calls for a tiny, almost gazebo sized hale (10x15) and parking for five to ten cars.  Although not objectionable in itself, this meager recommendation does little to enhance or empower the ‘Ahahui and KHCC vision of creating a supervised educational site at Ulupō and re-opening the agricultural lands, ‘auwai, and open-water over which the heiau māpele once presided.  The HHF plan is more accommodating of this vision; it provides for cultural landscaping, a hālau and gathering area, a plant nursery, interpretive signage, and parking for 22 cars – but this, too, would be short shrift in the absence of the Kawainui cultural and environmental complex to which the KNB is opposed.  The HHF sites at Ulupō and the ma uka peninsula would serve complementary purposes; Ulupō, alone, would limp along with inadequate meeting, study, staging, camping, food-preparation, and storage support.

The KNB plan might paint pictures of “sacred water…passing through cultivated lo‘i and canals,” it might woo us with slogans of native stewardship, but at the proverbial end of the day, it does little to provide Kailua’s native people with actual stewardship opportunities.  In five years, when the Hōkūle‘a returns to Kailua from its voyage around the world, we would like to seat its crew in our hālau hula at Waiauia on fine lauhala mats made at Waiauia; we would like to serve the crew ‘awa and kalo harvested and prepared at Ulupō, show them the (hard and soft) walls going up at our culture complex on the ma uka peninsula, and finalize with them our plans for a canoe and voyaging center at Kawainui Canal.  ʻO ka wā kūpono kēia, mai kali a pau nā niho o hala ē ka Pu‘ulena.

“Marae…pu‘uhonua, kīpuka, piko”

The single most painful word in the KNB Kawainui Restoration Plan, even more so than Kawaiola, is marae.  The word appears twice: first in the Recommendations section as “marae hula mound,” and then on the Plan Map as the KNB name for the Waiauia property: “Marae.”  A marae is no more the equivalent of a hula mound than a man is the equivalent of his severed foot; nor can the board’s grab bag collection of burial vault, hula mound, and thatched mana‘o-hut at Waiauia – three severed body parts – be called a marae. 

Marae, as we understand it, refers to a sacred enclosure that consists of an open, ceremonial space (marae ākea) and a cluster of hale that serve the cultural needs of the kānaka honua (native people) of that place.  The largest hale at a marae is meant to gather its people in the embrace of their ancestors; it is, in fact, a physical manifestation of those ancestors.  The smaller, auxiliary spaces (sometimes attached to the hale nui, sometimes free-standing) include cooking, instructional, caretaker, and restroom facilities.  Often, but not always – a marae is also home to an urupā, a burial ground.

A marae, as we understand it, is defined by place and presence.  A marae is a place designed by its people to bind its people to who they are.  It is a place of refuge, continuity, and regeneration for these people.  It is a place where they are most uncompromisingly present.  Their marae is central to their cultural identity, especially when their identity is threatened by those who would discredit and marginalize them.  It cannot be a marae if it is defined for them by others.  Nor can it be a marae if its use is regulated for them by others.

Marae is a Maori word.  Its specific Hawaiian language equivalent is malae (a cleared space), but its more accurate connotative equivalents include pu‘uhonua (place of refuge), kīpuka (oasis of continuity in a landscape of change), and piko (center, nexus, connection point).  We envision each of the Kawainui sites discussed above – the culture complex at the peninsula, the canoe facility below Kalāheo, the center for excellence at Waiauia, and the ‘āina reclamation center at Ulupō – as marae, pu‘uhonua, kīpuka, and piko, each with its own cluster of open and enclosed, hard and soft spaces, each facing and serving the largest and most inspiring of our marae ākea: Kawainui itself.  Together these places of regeneration embrace us, and we them, and allow for the fullest expression and transmission of who we are.

The KNB plan misuses the word marae and refuses to grant us responsibility for creating the spaces that the word actually implies.  Although the KNB plan professes to represent the voice and will of Kailua’s Hawaiian people, it gives no evidence of broad-based Hawaiian support and little evidence of coherent, Hawaiian-based thinking.  In fact, the KNB plan rather sneakily discredits our current leadership, vision, and motivation, and it distorts Hawaiian history and cultural concepts to advance its own agenda of restoring Kawainui Marsh – not Kawainui fishpond and taro lands – to a supposedly ideal time when Kailua’s Hawaiians were mostly dead or dying.


In contrast, the Helber Hastert & Fee Master Plan – though not a complete expression of our desire for a permanent and thriving Hawaiian cultural presence at Kawainui – was indeed produced with Hawaiian community input, does accommodate our vision of a “permanent, thriving presence,” does credit us with leadership and integrity, and definitely gives us the opportunity to pursue our vision in this generation.

We and the undersigned leaders of the Kailua Hawaiian community do not support the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s Kawainui Marsh Restoration Plan; it does not speak with our voice.  We do support Helber Hastert & Fee’s Kawainui-Hāmākua Master Plan in its current, but still-preliminary form, and we look forward to further dialog and review with the HHF planners.

Ke Aloha ‘Āina,

Kīhei and Māpuana de Silva,

Director and Kumu Hula of Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima

Founding members of Kailua Kau a Ho‘oilo

We have lived in Kailua for 53 years (Kīhei) and 62 years (Māpuana).  The ashes of our parents rest in Kailua and its ocean, and we are descendants, through Kīhei’s father and Māpuana’s mother, of the Kailua chiefs Kākuhihewa and Kūali‘i.

Kapalai‘ula de Silva

Kumu Hula

Alani Apio

Cultural Specialist / Practitioner

Charles P. M. K. Burrows

Second Vice President, Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club

  1. C.Lehuakona Isaacs, Jr.

President, ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi

Adah Enos

Kumu Hula

Donna Sylvester

Kumu Hula

Pattye Kealohalani Wright

Kumu Hula (non-Hawaiian)

Mina H. Elison

Interim President, Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club

Kalani L. Kaanaana

Po‘o Nui, ‘Ālele

Head Coach, Kailua High School Paddling Team

Kahikina de Silva

Kumu Hula

Hawaiian Language Instructor, UH Mānoa

Kauka H. de Silva

Professor of Fine Arts, Kapi‘olani Community College

Kehau Meyer

Paddler, Kailua Canoe Club; Head Coach, Kamehameha Schools Girls Canoe Team

Program Manager, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

Brad Kaaleleo Wong

Kailua Canoe Club Board Member and Coach

Papahānaumokuākea Program Specialist, OHA

Jordan Palikūkilakila Wong

Kailua Canoe Club Board Member and Coach

Crystal K. Rose

Attorney, Bays Lung Rose Holma

Daughter of Charles L. Rose, Jr., past-president of the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club and curator of Ulupō Heiau

Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie (in my personal capacity)

Associate Professor of Law, Wm. S. Richardson School of Law, UH Mānoa

Director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, UH Mānoa

Kumu Hula

Charlene Ka‘oluokamalanai Luning

Kumu Hula (non-Hawaiian)

Maya L. Kawailanaokeawaiki Saffery

Curriculum Specialist, Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, UH Mānoa

Kumu Hula

Bert Kaleo Wong

Polynesian Voyaging Society / Hōkūle‘a crew member and Protocol Committee member

O‘ahu Army Natural Resource Program Coordinator

Aaron J. Salā

Board Member, HTA

Professor of Hawaiian Music and Ethnomusicology, UH Mānoa

Oswald K. Stender

Trustee, Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Lei-Ann Stender Durant

Kumu Hula

Ikaika Anderson

Honolulu City Council member

Rebecca Luning, PhD

Educational and Cultural Specialist, UH Mānoa

Debbie Nakanelua Richards

‘Ōlohe Lua; Hula ‘Ōlapa

William “Billy” K. Richards, Jr.

‘Ōlohe Lua; Hōkūle‘a Captain

Communications Director

Tanya Pi‘ilani Alston

President, Nāoneala‘a/Hika‘alani


Nainoa Thompson

Hōkūle‘a Captain; President, Polynesian Voyaging Society


Bruce Blankenfeld

Hōkūle‘a Captain; Vice-President, Polynesian Voyaging Society


Whitney Anderson

Past President, Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club, State Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs

Former State Representative and Senate Minority Leader

Hannie Anderson

Founder and Director, Nā Wāhine O Ke Kai

Race Commissioner and Past President, OHCRA

Howell Chinky Mahoe

Kumu Hula

C. Lehua Carvalho

Kumu Hula

Darcey Noelani Moniz

Kumu Hula

J. Kūkaho‘omalu Souza

Kumu Hula

Charlani Kalama

Kumu Hula

Tristin Enos

Kumu Hula

Wanda Mae Pa‘akea Akiu

Kumu Hula

Makanani Akiona

Hula Instructor

Conservationist, O‘ahu Army Natural Resources Program

Kahulu Ka‘iama De Santos

Cultural Advisor, ‘Aulani at Disney Resort

Kumu Hula

(signatures and original document are on file at Hika‘alani)

End notes:

1. The kingdom’s tax assessment of the ahupua‘a – prepared on December 11, 1846, by Ioela Kuaana – provides us with the following picture:

  1. there were only 749 people living in all of the once-thriving district,

  2. the center of population density was in the ‘ili of Ka‘elepulu where 100 individuals were counted,

  3. in Maunawili Valley, 43 people were counted in the ‘ili of Pālāwai (below what is now Maunawili Community Park) and only 20 more were tallied in the ‘ili of Maunawili,

  4. only 100 of Kailua’s 356 plots were still in cultivation; 256 lay fallow with no one left to tend them.

(Carol Silva, “Kailua in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” in Kailua – In the Wisps of the Malanai, 9-10.)

  1. 2. “‘O ‘Oe nō Paha Ia e ka Lau o ke Aloha.” Author unknown. Date of composition: c. 1860s. Text: Nathaniel Emerson, Unwritten Literature of Hawai‘i, 82-84. Orthographic editing and translation: Kīhei de Silva.

3. “Testimony of Hikaalani before the Commissioner of Private Ways and Water Rights for the District of Koolaupoko, Island of Oahu,” Wong Leong et al. vs. W.G. Irwin, June 10, 1895, 47-48 and 54-55. Hika‘alani testified in Hawaiian; we only have the commission’s English translation of her words. She remembers when Maunawili was covered in lo‘i kalo. Bananas and cane were planted on the banks of each patch, and bulrushes and ‘uki grew on the fringes of a well-watered Kawainui. She remembers Pālāwai (the lowland on the Olomana side of what is now Maunawili Community Park) as “the place where kalo was planted most and that was the kalo that supplied the chiefs when the called for hookupus…” She then tries to make the point that the lo‘i kalo of the few remaining native farmers of 1895 would soon suffer from the water shortage that Irwin’s ditch to Waimānalo had already begun to cause. But under the often-demeaning cross-examination of Irwin’s attorney, W.A. Kinney, she falls apart, loses her train of thought, and retreats into stubborn confusion.

4. Martha Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, “Mythical Lands of the Gods,” 68. Unless otherwise noted, the Kāne descriptions in this section are from Beckwith’s chapters “The Kane Worship,” and “Kane and Kanaloa” in HM.

5. ”E kulia, e ikumaumaua e ke akua,” Samuel Kamakau, Ka Po‘e Kahiko, 35. Translation: Kīhei de Silva.

  1. 6. David Malo, “O kuwa o kalani,” a canoe-consecration prayer, Hawaiian Antiquities, 130-1. We offer two possible transcriptions here ( “he miki oe Kane” and “he mikioi Kane”); both have similar meanings of activity, skill, and expertise.

  1. 7. See, for example,, “Council Actions, Item B” of the June 12, 2008, OIBC Minutes.

  1. 8. Polynesian Voyaging Society website, “Crew Blog: Nā Pōhaku O Hauwahine, Ulupō Heiau And Kailua,” posted On October 30, 2013.

  1. 9. The event is also described in the current (November) issue of Ka Wai Ola, the OHA newspaper, “Hōkūle‘a Gets Warm Kailua Welcome,” p. 8.

  1. 10.Ibid.

11.  We are completely aware – here and in the canoe, Waiauia, and Ulupō sections that follow – of the RFP process that the State must implement in order to select the actual organizations allowed to develop and use these sites for cultural practices. What we describe here are our envisioned centers; what we propose to do if our future RFPs are accepted. Our point, and we make it repeatedly in these sections, is that the HHF plan allows us to pursue both vision and process. The KNB plan does not.

12. The HHF Master Plan also includes an adjacent, 4-acre parcel with hale, open-lawn, and permeable parking. We understand that the Kailua-based Hale Mua o Kūali‘i may have its own vision for the parcel, but because this traditional Hawaiian educational group keeps a very low and private profile, we think it inappropriate to speak here on its behalf.

13. See comments by Chuck Prentiss, Roy Johnson, and Derrick Fenske in the KNB meeting minutes of September 5, 2013. “Chair Prentiss asked why the Castle Foundation is working so hard to prepare the plan for Kawainui Marsh.” “[Community member] Johnson suspected that Kaneohe Ranch stands to benefit from the proposed construction.” “[Community member] Fenske noted that the proposed development would do little to benefit the Kailua community, but would instead benefit visitors to Kailua including tourists.”

14. “…it looks like DLNR might favor a visitor destination modeled after Haunama [sic] Bay or Polynesian Cultural Center because they believe that development and tourism will attract funding.” Leigh Prentiss, wife of KNB chairman Chuck Prentiss, representing the Outdoor Circle in “TOC Predicts Overkill On Marsh Plan,” Midweek, Oct 16, 2013, an article expressing what we consider to be mostly alarmist and unfounded concerns over the HHF Master Plan for Kawainui.

15. Waiauia has considerable cultural significance to the Hawaiians of Kailua as explained in the legends of the Mākālei and Kamaakamahiai and as touched on by “Old Solo” Mahoe, John Bell, and Mrs. Charles Aiona in Sites of Oahu, 230-231. The KNB proposal does not recognize this old name and its resonance, tagging the wahi pana instead with the 20th century realtor’s label: “ITT Site.”

16.  KNB member Lisa Marten has expressed the opinion that “the [Hawaiian] groups see this as an opportunity to get a free site for their activities, and [she] argued that cultural groups do not need structures for their activities”; she also expressed concern about our capacity for sustained effort, noting, with regard to the cultural centers that “any sort of building may eventually be used for a purpose that was not originally intended, including tourist-related activities” (KNB meeting minutes, Sept, 3, 2013).