Reflection: Hōkūle‘a & Hikianalia on Kaho‘olawe (July 1-3)

Honokanai‘a (K. Ku‘ulei Birnie)

‘Ane hiki mai
‘Ane hiki mai
‘Oukou lehua lanalana o Kanaloa
E pae, e pae
Eia lā ka leo, ‘ae

The crews of Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia were welcomed to the island of Kaho‘olawe on July 1 by members of the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO), staff of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), and volunteers from Hawai‘i Youth Conservation Corps/KUPU Hawai‘i who happened to be engaged in mālama ‘āina activities that week.

Hōkūle‘a at Honokanai‘a

Hōkūle‘a at Honokanai‘a. Photo: ʻŌiwi TV.

Hōkūle‘a is not new to Honokanai‘a. She was here in approx. 1985 with Kamehameha Schools students who hiked all over the island and spent the night at Moa‘ulaiki with PVS crew.  She was here in June 2001 co-celebrating the 25th anniversaries of both PVS and the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana.  She and representatives from other wa‘a kaulua Hawai‘i returned with Papa Mau Piailug in October 2004 to dedicate the new platform, Kahua Kuhike‘e, at Kealaikahiki, to the training of traditional Hawaiian wayfinding.

Star compass at Kealaikahiki

Star compass at Kealaikahiki Photo: ʻŌiwi TV.

There were many firsts this week.  Sister canoe Hikianalia visited, mooring in Honokanai‘a.  And it was the maiden visit for several crewmembers, most particularly Pwo navigator Shorty Bertelmann.

Kawai and Shorty

Kawai and Shorty Photo: ʻŌiwi TV.

One of the original names of this island is Kanaloa (Tangaroa, to the Maori), for the Hawaiian god of voyaging, the deep ocean, and the creatures within.  At the pu‘u called Moa‘ulaiki, there is a platform that was used for a navigational school and a house site for the kahuna.  From the high point, where on most days students have a panorama to four other islands, one can easily observe the cloud patterns, several channels and their currents, and, at night, the movement of the stars.  Moa‘ulaiki was a place to study the heavens early in the training of celestial navigation.

At the top of Moa‘ulaiki with Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i, and Maui in the distance

At the top of Moa‘ulaiki with Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i, and Maui in the distance. Photo: ʻŌiwi TV.

Lae o Kealaikahiki, or Pathway-to-Tahiti, is the westernmost point of the island used later in the training of student wayfinders as both due north and south can be seen on the horizon from sea level.  The place name reinforces the tradition as a landmark for voyagers as they leave Hawai‘i for Tahiti.  In October 2011, the Pacific Voyagers waka Faafaite was directed to depart from Kaho‘olawe, the first time a Tahitian canoe had returned to Tahiti from Kealaikahiki in more than 750 years.

Faafaite, with Naiʻa (Dolphins), off Kahoʻolawe. Photo by Danee Hazama

Faafaite, with Naiʻa (Dolphins), off Kahoʻolawe. Photo: Danee Hazama

Another ancient name for Kaho‘olawe is Kohe-mālamalama-o-Kanaloa, the shining birth canal of Kanaloa; again, a directional aid for wayfinders as they embark on deep sea voyages to the south.

But as we rode in the back of pick-up trucks over old military roads past places with remnant names like LZ-1 and Seagull, expecting to see bombs on the side of the road, we were reminded of the more recent history of this island and how important it is to the vision of Mālama Honua.  Kaho‘olawe is a cautionary tale of intentional destruction without consideration for sacred space, human impact and pristine environment.  Fifty years of live munitions assault from land, air and sea has created a barren landscape and devastating loss of the water table, damage that can never be completely repaired. The corrupted reefs adjoining traditional fishing grounds are littered with ordnance, some unexploded, that will never be cleaned up.

Nevertheless, a lot of good work is being done.  There are extraordinary efforts to capture soil and water so native plant restoration can continue.  The island is also maintained as a cultural reserve, a place where Hawaiian traditions and religion can be practiced freely and consistently.

Those who have worked to stop the bombing and protect the island’s natural and cultural resources learned lessons from other places around the world, such as the Caribbean island of Culebra.  We hope that as we sail around the world we can share the story of Kaho‘olawe, as we learn how others’ wise practices have succeeded in protecting their homelands.

Aloha ‘Āina, Malama ‘Āina, Mālama Hawai‘i, Mālama Honua

Blogger Kim Ku‘ulei Birnie at Moaʻulaiki

Blogger Kim Ku‘ulei Birnie at Moaʻulaiki Photo: ʻŌiwi TV.

For a gallery of photos, see Photos: Kahoʻolawe July 1-3, 2013.

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