Letter to DLNR / Helbert, Haster, and Fee

Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima, June 2014

We the undersigned teachers, students, and families of Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima wish to express our support for the DLNR/HHF (Draft) Kawainu-Hamākua Complex Master Plan because it allows for a permanent Hawaiian cultural presence at four centers of study and stewardship along the Kawainui perimeter – at Wai‘auia in the east, at Kalāheo in the north, at Kapa‘a in the west, and at Ulupō in the south. All four of these centers are proposed by Kailua Hawaiian non-profit organizations, all are led by members of the Kailua Hawaiian community, and all are vital to the healthy restoration of Kawainui and the pono that once existed between the pond and its people.

We have proposed to fund, build, and manage a 501c3 Hawaiian culture center at Wai‘auia, the first of the four centers mentioned above. Hika‘alani, as we hope to call it, is now being characterized by our critics as a for-profit, marsh-polluting tourist destination complete with a drop-off area for visitor industry buses. Despite our repeated efforts to define the center as an enclosed and gated, LEED certified, non-polluting, kauhale-modeled facility for the transmission of traditional knowledge to the people of Kailua and the families of our hālau (not to tourists of any kind on any mode of transportation), the opposition has plucked the phrase “culture center” from our Hika‘alani context, given it a Polynesian Culture Center spin, and raised a hue and cry against our desecration of our own homeland. Nothing could be further from our hearts or more at odds with our almost 40-year record of commitment to Hawaiian culture education in Kailua.

We think that the same “hue and cry” holds true for the proposed Hawaiian centers at Kalāheo (canoe and voyaging), Kapa‘a (culture and environment) and Ulupō (spirituality, agriculture, and food-sovereignty). All are meant as place-based classrooms for the teaching, learning, practicing, and growing of our native culture. But we and our partners are being targeted as co-conspirators (or dupes) in a Master Plan bent on promoting a tourist invasion of our Kailua home. 

We view the Draft Master Plan through an entirely different lens; we see it as allowing for the return of Hawaiian education and stewardship to Kawainui, as providing us with the opportunity to engage with our own ‘āina and manage our own legacy, as crediting us with the ability to steer our own canoe. We would seize that hoe uli, we would put paddles in the water for our long journey home to self-determination. This is “development” of an entirely different sort than that which is now being sensationalized in the usual forums.

We hope that the larger community will actually read the plan and wae pono, distinguish carefully between actual proposals and willful distortions. We ask that you accept our endorsement of this draft master plan; yes, it can be improved upon, but it is absolutely not deserving of rejection.

Me ka ha‘aha‘a,

[417 signatures on record at HMI; contact person: Māpuana de Silva at]