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Land Today



Taro plants dance in the Hui lo‘i.

“In the mid-sixties, the State condemned the land,” Carlos reminds us, “evicted all the families who owned land and live there. Though they acquired it for a park, the agencies then did basically nothing for many years. The government has a process—they call it 'public domain' and condemnation. I'm sure the people who lived there were paid some money, but the people had to leave, they had no choice in the matter. So the motivation for some people was that they’d been evicted from this area—what is now a State Park—and it all got overgrown.

“This (Hui) is a community that wanted to step forward and do stuff, but because of the system we live under—the rules and regulations of the Department of Land and Natural Resources [DLNR]—people couldn’t do things. We couldn’t cut a tree down without getting into trouble. So that was a strong push to try to find a way where communities could be involved in some sort of partnership.

“The State Park, because it is a State park, doesn’t have any private ownership within its boundaries anymore. The State Park purchased the land, using federal funds which were earmarked for recreation. They were mandated for a park that fit within the constraints of what was considered ‘recreation.’ The people who run the State Parks, they tend to be trained on continental models, so they created a park that has bicycle paths, and similar kinds of things you would see in a recreational park that would satisfy mainstream American views of recreation. But in doing so, they largely ignored most of the cultural assets that are part of this area.

“The community got together and said ‘Hey, we don't like that (the bicyle path/tennis court model), we (the Hui) feel you should recognize and utilize, and restore, and make the park be something that highlights or at least features the cultural assets and features that are part of this area.’ However, the State Government at that time did not have the personnel or the funds to run this park properly. What was happening within the park land is it was just being overgrown by a jungle of primarily invasives. And yet we still got a constantly growing flood of visitors here all the time, with the number of users is growing every year. So people were needed down here to keep an eye on the place, to help them restore it, to help them prepare the park for the growing number of users.

“There were some that were just wanted to get back and plant taro. Uncle Tom was the last person who actually grew taro here back in the 1960s, and he pretty much led the charge for clearing the invasives and restoring the lo‘i. But there were others who were tired of the government not taking care of the place, and at the same time not allowing anybody else to come and take care of it. And so there was a strong sort of community, I guess in today’s lingo, it’s a community co-partnership.

How is "community" defined by the Hui?

“DLNR needed to survey the area because there was an archeological site,” Carlos tells. “So we helped, and we helped, and we helped—all for free, all voluntarily. And then we developed enough of a relationship with the DLNR people who hold the official keys to this place. And like many governmental agencies, they’re strapped for funds, they don’t have the personnel, and that’s the main reason for not being able to keep the park in the condition it should be in."

“I used to be the volunteer supervisor for the state,” Uncle Tom says, “the first time we came and cleared this place. We came in here to clear this thing in 1997. But the plan was on in 1992 when we worked with that, and then they ran away from us and then the State picked us up again. This is in ’92. It was a lot of years. In ’99 we had taro in there already, we planted the taro already.

“So we said we’ll do the work,” Carlos continues. “They have this thing called a curatorship agreement where we are now officially recognized. But it can only happen with 501(c)3 [federally recognized non-profit corporation]. It cannot happen with individuals. In order to be able to come in here we had to adapt and form a 501(c)3, the mission of which was to work in the park and improve the park, and help take care of the park and all of that.

The result was the creation of an organization now known as the Hui Maka‘āinana o Makana. Uncle Tom recalls, “When the organization first started, it was Ho‘omalu i ka ‘Āina. My grandma had given the organization that name. And the only one to use that Ho‘omalu i ka ‘Āina is Makaala. She always used that name, but Grandma is the one that gave her the name so I don’t know, but the name maka‘āinana matches this place, Maka‘āinana o Makana, because this is Makana right here. And maka‘āinana was the people.”

“You know, this whole dominance thing,” Carlos adds, “We live in a society where everybody wants to be the boss. Nobody wants to do the work, we just want to be the boss. There a lot of royal societies including the Order of Kamehameha—all these chiefs but no workers. So we chose the name Hui Maka‘āinana because we want it to be the people that were on the land and doing the work.”

“At the time of forming the Hui we had three priorities,” Makaala explains. “One was to reconnect the families with the place in a way that was wholesome and proper and good and could go somewhere. Not just for the dance. And two was begin the structure of true non-profit, because of the history of Hā‘ena Hui having actually owned the land, it deserved a true structure. And the third purpose was to have the families at some point produce out of that place again. The kalo, but also the fish ponds. And to hopefully at least manage, or more than manage, that which is now called a State Park.

Carlos discusses the concept of mālama ‘āina

“The structure of Hui Maka‘āinana o Makana as it was designed was that there would be the membership, then there would be a Board of Directors, but above the Board of Directors was the ‘Ohana council. This is a traditional native structure and approach, and we liked it very much. We wanted that to be the way it stayed. It is not that way now because the members of the Hui couldn’t make that work yet. At some point maybe they will, but they couldn’t quite get that whole family thing over a Board.”

“First of all, it’s a hard concept to get, because they are westernized enough now that they understand how a Board is supposed to function. Nobody tells the Board what to do. The structure had the ‘Ohana council over that. And the ‘Ohana didn’t step up to that. It’s interesting: I was going to say it’s foreign, but it’s not foreign, it’s native. But it’s foreign to our native people because they haven’t practiced it in a while. I hope someday that structure returns because that’s the correct way that it should be.

“But you have to have families who are confident and sure and stuck to their place. We say ma‘a [intimate] or pa‘a [fixed]to their place. And we’re getting there, but it’s very, very slow. The old guys are still there and the young guys kind of come when they can. It’s a generational thing, and some of our kūpuna are now in their seventies. My nephew Noah says, ‘I know we’ve got to take over Auntie, but there’s just so much for us to learn.’ I said, ‘Well you know what? You’ve gotta show up. If you show up, there’s no end to my talking—I’ll talk.’ It’s hard, they’re working two or three jobs and just trying to stay home because the economy is so difficult here.”

“Around 1999 my father-in-law approached me,” Kelii relates, “and told me that they could see the changes in what was happening to our place. It didn’t dawn on me at that time. And then one day, it finally hit me and I told my wife, I said ‘You know what? Dad is calling for help, he’s calling for help.’ I know he sees something, because he came back to me again and approached me. And so I finally sat down and I thought about it, and I said, ‘Yeah look at who’s around this place. Who cares about the place?’ We don’t have the people that will step up to the plate to do something.

“The people back in that time, all the old kūpuna, they never step and go fight the issues or whatever need to do. And I know some had a bad taste with the State, from trying to work with the State. But for me, getting involved with the hui was number one. I thought about my family, my keikis, my mo‘opuna—what they going to have after we leave? It’s going to be their place now, to take care from mauka to makai. And that was a big picture for me.

“So I told my father-in-law, ‘I going get involved.’ I started off being as the ‘Ohana chair. And they had a Board of Directors already and wasn’t doing too good, those that were running the Board. so I would say like we cleaned up all the kukai that was going on, and brought it back to how it’s supposed to be.”

“All of this had to happen—the lo‘i, all the clearing and maintenance that’s been going on—with change of leadership,” Carlos adds. “The Hui has gone through several changes mostly in learning how to govern itself. It has survived the changes but more challenges arise as in any endeavor. Now the leadership is older, more mature. Kelii is the vice president, Presley is the president. The again, there are a whole lot of people who think we’re too old and we don’t know what we’re doing. But you don’t see them on the work day, so....

“The Hui Maka‘āinana o Makana is good. There are still all the problems that are inherent in people working together—people are often messy. There’s all the personal stuff and then there’s the group stuff and all that. But it’s still better than anything else around that I’ve been involved in.”

Limahuli Gardens has provided a document with information on the Hui Maka‘āinana o Makana. You can download it here (pdf file).

The main work of the Hui was been to re-open the taro lands and put them back into production. “When we came in here in 1997,” Uncle Tom explains, “we got the State to draw whatever they could find in this property. That, all the paepae [house platforms], all the stone paepae like that, they brought in two archaeologists and drew all that. And the first time when we started, we couldn’t come in there with the machines, because the machines would ruin everything. So you got to hand clean, that’s all we did.

“The lo‘i were there. Did it all by hand, Because at that time we didn’t have any machine. It was nice because for that work, I say, ‘You got to work without a machine, so that you don’t damage the ground.’ Everything going to be in place, just like here. That’s why you see everything in place here. The walls are good, and we work on that around the trees.”

“It was not new ground,” Samson adds, “it was where people farmed before. So whatever was, they took them out, so we only get whatever left and if you want to improve them, it’s okay. So that’s where we come in because, it’s duck soup—easier than what it was. So that’s the difference about planting taro here and in Hanalei: Hanalei has no stone. Can use machinery no problem. Over here, machinery—tractor for till and plow—you hit a big boulder and it’s going to break, unless you get sheer pin, it’s so much tension, it breaks.”

“That kalo is used for home purposes, or any parties,” Kelii explains. “Like we have some friends or organizations that have something to share with the community. And not to be sold, not to be sold, because it’s part of our curatorship, the agreement we have with the State. Nothing can be sold. This is nice. If you want to trade, we trade, but no cash purchases, no cash deals. The main thing is for home use, or share with the community. If you wanted taro, we go down there pick up and you take home taro, that’s how it is. And that’s the nice part about it, when you can do that.”

“It all goes out to being sustainable,” Kelii agrees, “that’s the bottom where we’re thinking about. We can sustain ourselves throughout our whole life. If anything happen, we don’t need worry. Hey, we did it! Before we never get all these stores we get, we had only two stores. We never get Foodland, Safeway—we never need all that. We raise our own beef, we raise our own poultry, and we raise our own pork. We get our poi, we have our fish in the ocean. We get our limu in the ocean. So, simple life man, simple life.

“That’s why I said, I am so glad. It’s hard to get the away from hui, from that area, because it’s in me. For me to let that go, whoever is going to take over after everything gotta be pono for me, before going go, okay. I’m not just going to go. We never work hard, we never do all what we did to get our place loving and nourished. It’s just bulging up now, just so happy, and it’s going back to us and telling us ‘Thank you, thank you for taking care of me, the ‘āina.’ You know what I mean? I feel that. When I go holoholo, I don’t care what kind of tide can be, so long as I can go. I will come back and fish for everybody. Ke Akua is always with me, And whoever is out in the ocean, the old kūpuna, they watch me.”


Of course, the land is only half of the picture. The Hui has also been instrumental in the implementation of new rules protecting use of the sea at Hā‘ena.



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