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Sustenance Gathering




Gathering Plants:

“Grandma Rachel was known for gathering,” Lahela recalls. “She also was like a medicinal healer. I learned only a few things from her, because I really at the time wasn’t absorbing it. It was like ‘Okay, we gotta go gather.” My brother Pa‘ula was the one for gathering the more complicated stuff.”

“There is this purple berry, and we called it pōpolo,” Nalani relates. “I know it’s medicinal. It looks like a rubbish tree really, but it’s got these berries on it. And they’re green, they’re little. We used to eat it when we were young, but waiting until it gets purple and then we would eat it. I can’t remember what illness that we would eat that for. We used to fight for it. It tasted good. But it had to be ripe. When it was purple, that meant it was ready, but then it’s like anything else. But fruits that were accessible, it was like the common mangos. You had the mountain apple, we had a lot of guava, the Java plum, the mountain apple, we had all of that accessible.”

“I went and picked up in the mountains and look at all of this,” Guy exclaims. “We did pretty good. And I wasn’t going for that, I was just going to get something to eat and we just hit like four trees. I sent the two little boys up in the trees, and they were grabbing all the ripe ones. And then I got a lot of green ones that I’ll pickle, and I’ll make a pickled mango salad. It’s good to snack on after a hot day out in the sun, to rejuvenate the body. I’m going to go around to the beach and hele. A lot of people can’t make it up in the mountains. And I call this place ‘shaky legs,’ because where it is, your legs will start shaking. A lot of people won’t go there, so that’s why it’s always got fruit. It’s almost like a secret spot.”

Uncle Tom recalls eating Kamani nuts: “The thing’s sweet! but you know, I’d rather eat this one, the nuts. You go pound them, get meat inside. You got to get plenty for eat. If you go pound. Because that thing get meat. The thing is sweet, the real kamani. We used to eat them little bit though, you don’t eat plenty that thing. And we used the flower, yellow kamani flowers, to make lei—nice, small flower, yellow flower.”

With Limahuli Gardens controlling the valleys,” Kawika reports. “gathering has previously been curtailed.One of the things that we’re trying to do is create areas where people can do that. We have an area up there, about two acres of native forest that we restored, and it’s designated as a cultural gathering area. We put lei plants and hardwood trees, and medicinal plants and offering plants and all of that, so that the community has a place to come and gather.

"When I wrote that grant to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, I used the example of maile lei, because everybody loves maile lei, it’s appropriate for every occasion. But the sad reality is almost nobody my age knows how to make a maile lei. But it’s not because I’ve ever heard an elder say “I’m never going to pass that down,”—I’ve heard that about some traditions, but I’ve never heard that about making maile lei—and I’ve never heard a young person say, “I never want to learn how to make a maile lei.” It’s the kind of tradition that people want to teach and want to learn. But if you can’t find the plant....

“The technique and method making that kind of lei is not used with any other species, it’s just with this plant. The gathering is unique but also the technique for making the actual lei, because it’s not a stringing, it’s not a wrapping, it’s not a braiding. So if there’s no substitute, you can’t just go, ‘Okay, I’m going to use plumeria,’ no, it doesn’t work like that. I used that in the grant and said, ‘Maile lei traditions are dying in the community because nobody can find the plant.’ And so we had this place, we planted 6,000 plants, including hundreds of maile and hundreds of various other species. So that is now a place where people can gather.”

“There is actually a funeral coming up on the 20th and somebody asked me the other day if they can come in and gather, I said “Yes, I will put a kapu on the maile for you guys,” so everybody on my side, nobody got their maile right now because it needs to be saved for this funeral that’s coming up. And the person who is going to be doing the gathering, she is a little bit younger than I am, probably late twenties, early thirties, and in one of the Hawaiian families over here. And she’s a young mother. Her son is two, and so it’s really great to see her coming in and practicing her family’s traditions because it’s her Dad, who passed away two or three years ago, was one of the lei makers here.

"But it’s generational. There aren’t many of us now who know how to make maile lei. But the ones who do, and they are still in this community, come in here and get it. And that’s one way that we’re going to maintain that relationship, and we can build from that.”


“There’s a huge hunting culture here on the island,” Kaneakua points out. “People think food comes from the store. I mean, not the local families, but maybe they’re new, I don’t know, but there’s people like, 'Why are you eating wild pig when you buy pork in the store?' and, 'Auntie, you like wild pig?' I’m like, 'Yes! I like wild pig.' I’d rather eat wild pig than what’s being raised and put in the market. Those pigs live in close quarters, I don’t know about the island-raised pigs. The chickens are crammed multi-level, pooping on each other, it’s just bad energy for me to consume these animals that are living in horrific conditions and in these major factories. And that’s what we do. We are what we eat, in a sense.”

“I grew up in hunting in Hā‘ena, Wainiha, Hanalei,” Kelii relates. “We would go up to the Power Line Road—this is with my dad. We would do it on horseback. We hunted pigs on horseback. You could ride from the Hanalei Valley. You could come right around the ridge, come around Hihimanu, and you ride that whole Namolokama Ridge through Hanalei, all the way, you can come out to Waipā. Even from Waipā, you could go over and go down into Lumaha‘i—all on horseback. Now, the trails are probably all run down and all overgrown because no one does it anymore. And of course, hunting has changed, too. Now, they got four-wheelers, they got this, but we still go once in a while.”

“We hunt pigs down Hanakāpī‘ai and all that too. We would ride horse to Hanakāpī‘ai. So they would go in the evening time, and go hunt nighttime. Hunting nighttime is a lot more easier than in daytime because the game, the pig, doesn’t run as much and it’s cooler. It’s easy for the dogs. It’s a totally different hunt from daytime. They usually go in when it’s dark. Sometimes they go in 9:00, 8:00 at night because then that way not tourists on the trail. But in the older days, what we were doing, it was all legal. Nowadays, you are not supposed to do that, but this is part of our gathering. The trail was always there for us to hunt. So we just try to be pono. We go inside and do everything and just respect, and just go. It’s changed from before, the hunting style. Now, it’s a little different.”

“I always say a pule [prayer] before go, and after. ‘Mahalo for everything, keep everybody safe, and excuse us if we went in a bad place that we don’t know. It’s wasn’t something that was planned. Excuse us for any inconvenience that we do.’ And then the journey is on.

“Hunting the areas that you hunt, like you go in Hanakapiai, when you go inside and you hunt, the valleys are short. So the dogs know the area. They know exactly where the pigs hide. The dogs go, they track them and they find them. Either they’re going to grab them and hold them down for you, and then you’re just going to knife them. Or if they come across a good size herd, some will run and go grab what they can grab, and then the person with the gun knows where they’re going to run out from. They run right to the gunmen and they shoot them. But majority of the time, the dogs always grab the pig and you just knife them.”

When I first started, I was using just a dog,” Michael says. “The old guys would sometimes carry a rifle. Sometimes you shoot, sometimes you knife, the dog fights and you knife them. That’s the way it was. With the knife, you go for the heart, through the rib cage, sort of under the armpit.”

Read Michael’s story of becoming a hunter.

“Usually, we take a carbine—.30 caliber.” Kelii adds. “And if the cousin’s coming, we take a 30-30. But that’s mainly the size of gun that we use. You take so much dogs. You don’t take a whole herd of them, just take the good dogs in, four, five, or six. Because there’s a lot of steep places there and that kind of terrain is not too good for the young dogs. You want to take them where it’s safe for them to learn.

“Once they learn and they get good with their legs, and foot, and all that, you’ll see the graduation process as you hunt them. We usually start the new one, we always have a different backup, six months we start hunting, we have a new batch of dogs, start them at 6 months. And then if you’re going to a good place, take one or two with you and hunt them with the old-timers and they’ll learn from them, and then they become the teachers for the other guys here.”

Read about Kelii and Michael’s dog breeds.

“So you don’t want too much dogs, especially in a certain time of the year when the pig is fat. Because when you get too much dogs, they’ll bruise up the pig. You get so much of them, and they know where to grab them. They grab them behind the ear. Some will grab them right in their snout. That’s the dangerous part, because if it’s a boar and they get their tusks, they can get cut up. But majority of the time, we’re lucky. They’ll get a shave or something from the boar, but nothing serious.

“Then you just follow the noise. It’s a beautiful sound to hear. You’ll hear them sometimes, they’ll just short barks.: Yip! Yip! Next thing you know, you’ll hear the pig screaming and they got them. And sometimes, you get sounds that will run a little bit, take them a little longer to get them but they’ll grab them. And again, different areas. Like when you come out and hunt in Hanalei, that’s different now because it’s a big area. That’s where it’s good to have the dog with a little hound in them. If they cannot stop them right away, you can hear them. The hound will always bark and it’s telling you the direction. It depends on the terrain that you go.”

“The pigs can get big!” Michael states. “200 pounds is big—130, 150, pretty much average, but 200 is pretty big. Although, they get bigger than that. Up on the west side, they got bigger pigs up in the canyons, up in Koke‘e.

“Then you gut them, skin them, debone them. We debone the whole thing and just have only the bones. The spine will be there, everything, the ribcages, but the meat be off of them. Like a butcher shop, only it’s hanging, it’s not on the table.”

“We clean them there,” Kelii adds. “If the hunting is done, that’s when we start deboning. We’ll get the hogs together and we’ll hang them up, two guys on this one and two guys on that one, gut them, skin them. After you skin them, then we debone them—we hang them up on a tree or wherever we sit, in the mountain, and then we’ll debone them. My cousin Wendell especially, if he’s around and the pig is fat, he’s going to tell you he’ll take over. He don’t want nobody to ruin because it’s the fat is beautiful. And you waste that, although you’re not supposed to eat that, but that’s the best part. Teamwork—everybody knows what to do already. And then if we get the young ones to come with us, the young boys, we stand on the side and let them take care of everything.

“After we debone them, we hang the carcass up with the bones. We’ll put it up in a tree and leave it in the mountain. Just like the fish, when you clean the guts. Take all the guts and then you throw them back in the ocean, feed whoever. We leave this in the mountain, so whatever is up ther, it’s the kaukau for over there, skin and everything.

“Then we pack them, and if you get the horse, you put them on the horse. If not, it goes on your back in your backpack. Everybody takes it a quarter or whatever, and then we hike them out.”

Sometimes, we carry them home,” Michael points out. The younger guys like to show what they caught, if it’s big. I’ve been there too, so I understand what they’re trying to prove, to show their friends, “Look at this.” They carry everything home sometimes to show, but I understand that. I did that too in my younger years.

“I got older now, I carry all these things out, and then I’m going to throw them away? I’m not going to eat the hair. You hang up on the tree, on the branch really nice, then they’ll dry and it’ll be there for years. My son is doing a lot of deer skin, pig skin. His tanning is really big. He’s part-Indian, Cherokee. My wife’s part-Cherokee, but my son really just got into it.

“The young guys like to save tusks for show, put them on a wall. I have to say, I was brought up different. The old way is you cannot eat the tusk. They’ll tell, “Why are you taking that home? You’re wasting your time.” Bringing the tusk home, it’s beautiful, but the old folks is like, “What you can’t eat, don’t carry out.” All my years, I never had a tusk collection. But my sons do, and my grandson, they like the whole wall filled up. It’s nice ivory. If you can carve them, I think that would be beautiful, somebody that can carve.”

“If we go and there’s maybe four to five guys,” Kelii explains, “if we catch one, the guy that comes with us, if he’s fairly new or hasn’t been hunting, we give him the meat because we can always wait till next time. It’s either that or the group will decide ‘Hey, let’s go smoke them, or make laulau.’ And then if somebody has a party coming up, we’ll give em. ‘Take this for a party. Do what you what you want to do with it.’ A majority of the time, we will smoke them. We always usually catch two. When it comes to that number one, that’s what we do—whoever needs it.

“Sometimes you hunt and it’s close by the truck. We call that ‘Hollywood hunt.’ It’s close to the road, and then you can pack the whole thing off right to the truck, or the truck will come to you. But it’s very rare that happens here. The majority of the time, we will pack it out."

“Some people have no respect for food," Kaneakua says. "They get true hunters that hunt to get food for fill up their freezers, and you get those that disrespect when they hunt. So I got a lot of issues with other people, I cannot control how they treat their food. I know for me, I’m going to treat the food with the most respect before I do anything with it, whether it’s a plant or wild pig.

“There’s a lot of pigs and a lot of feral goats on this island. Nowadays, some people are hunting, and they Instagram a picture of them holding the deer, and I think “That is so mean, that is an animal, that creature should be treated with dignity.”

“We rotate when we hunt,” Kelii points out. “This week, we’ll go here, maybe next week we’ll go there, so you don’t over hunt the place. You’ll always going to get something come back. When the ice bucket’s empty or the freezer gets empty, then we go again. We always get something when we go out. Always. Mahalo ke Akua! It works right in anything. Hunting, fishing—if you do it right, you get rewarded. When you do it wrong, that’s when you got to figure out, ‘Hey, how come? How come I’m not getting good response?’ You got to figure it out. So you take what you need. That’s all you need, right? Take what you need, because you always know when you need some more, then you go back.

Read about cooking in an imu.

Read about smoking the meat.

Read about cooking goat.


The food provided by the land. is just one part of the traditional sustenance. One the next page, we will hear about gathering on the reef.



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