25 Kumu Hula and 15 Hālau in Support of the Kawainui Master Plan

A letter to OHA’s Ka Wai Ola, June 2014

We are Kini Kailua, a hui of 25 kumu hula with roots in Ko‘olaupoko, ‘Oahu. We are the keepers of the traditions of such respected hula masters as Maiki Aiu Lake, Lani Kalama, Bella Richards, Luka Kaleikī, Darrell Lupenui, and Ellen Castillo. Most of us belong to third and fourth generation Kailua families; some of us, like the Māhoes and Kalamas, have been here forever. Many of us are also second or third generation teachers who carry on the legacy of our parents and grandparents, as in the case of Charnay Kalama-Macomber and Charlani Kalama (granddaughter and daughter of Kekau‘ilani Kalama), Tristin and Adah Enos (granddaughter and daughter of Bella Richards), Lani Girl Kaleikī-Ahlo (daughter of Louise Luka Kaleikī), and Maunalei Love (granddaughter of Ku‘ulei Stibbard). All of our hālau are family organizations; we persist in our work because of ‘ohana, because we cannot turn our backs on the lessons of our kūpuna and the needs of our mo‘opuna. We are actual practitioners of our culture in and around Kailua, yet we are not the people whose names show up when Hawaiian culture is addressed in the Kawainui plans, letters, resolutions, and advisory-board lists proposed by the Kailua Neighborhood Board and its allies. Because we have been regularly misrepresented and ignored there, we speak here for our 15 hālau, our families, and our more than one thousand students; we speak from our years of commitment to our land and culture.

What we would like to say is this: we fear the loss of place in Kailua. Place to teach, share, and practice who we are. We fear for the identity of our great-grandchildren. Will they be shaped by an intimate, hands-on knowledge of their birth sands and kulāiwi? Will they know the stories, songs, and dances that belong to these lands? Will they be fluent in the language that holds these treasures? Will they know the skills of their ancestors, and will they be able to assume the profound responsibility of using these skills as stewards of land, pond, and sea?

Place and identity are bound up in each other. We cannot be who we are if we do not have the place to be who we are. It is for this reason that we have partnered with other Kailua Hawaiian organizations (‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi, the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club, Hika‘alani, and ‘Alele) in an effort to establish four learning centers on the perimeter of Kawainui Marsh: one with an agricultural focus at Ulupō Heiau, one with a culture and environment focus on the peninsula below the City Waste Transfer Station, one with a paddling and voyaging focus below Kalāheo High School, and one with a language/performing/practical arts focus at Wai‘auia (the former ITT site at the entrance to Kailua town).

Most of us grew up in a Kailua where an imu and ‘ūniki in the back yard, or hula classes on the lānai, or a May Day rehearsal at the beach park, or pahu carving on the front steps, or ‘ukulele music in the garage did not incite a storm of complaints to the fire and police departments or the C&C building/zoning inspectors. Our proposed site below the waste transfer station would give us the place to prepare (and teach the preparation of) our traditional and ceremonial foods, to camp overnight in two-person tents, to conduct private ceremonies, to hold larger hō‘ike for our families and community, to plant and maintain the gardens that will supply our own kalo, fibers, dyes, medicines, and lei-making materials – it would give us a place to plant and harvest and cook and carve and kuku and ku‘i and dance and chant and sing and story-tell to our hearts’ content in a setting where these activities would still be welcome, inspiring, and healthy.

Members of our hui have shared this vision in small-group meetings with the planners at Helber Hastert & Fee (HHF) and with the Kailua representatives of DOFAW and DLNR. We have also attended and given testimony at the five large community meetings for Kawainui that were sponsored by HHF, the Castle Foundation, and ‘Ahahui Mālama. We feel that we have been listened to, and that the planning process has been inclusive and transparent. We feel, as well, that our vision for place and identity has its best chance of being realized through the HHF Kawainui Master Plan. The plan does not guarantee our success, but it does give us a fighting chance.

Conversely, the alternate plan adopted last November by the Kailua Neighborhood Board (“Kawainui Marsh Restoration Plan; Priorities, Protocols, and Participation”) does nothing to accommodate our vision. It eliminates entirely our culture center on the transfer station side of Kawainui and offers us, instead, an undersized “marae hula mound” and hut at Wai‘auia “for occasional manao sharing use by visiting halau.” The board’s December 2013 recommendation that the DLNR restart the entire planning process – under the auspices of an advisory board to which we were not named – appears to be part of an ongoing effort to obstruct a legitimately-arrived-at, ‘ōiwi-appropriate plan. In recent letters to the media and at a community forum hosted by the board, our opponents have continued to associate our vision with the development and degradation of Kawainui. They accuse us of commercial rather than cultural interests. They say that we are “tools of the tour industry” intent on “making a second Waikiki here.”

Although most of these critics are recent settlers with no trans-generational history of ties to our land and culture, they would establish themselves as adjudicators of appropriate Hawaiian cultural activity and expression. Despite our frequent arguments to the contrary, they continue to paint our learning centers as entertainment venues, tour bus magnets, and ecological time-bombs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our legacy is that of aloha ‘āina and mālama ‘āina. We have never been the despoilers of Kawainui. We would be, again, its stewards and protectors. Yes, our voices have been misrepresented and then ignored and trivialized. But this has not been the doing of the DLNR-HHF Kawainui Master Plan.

Me ka ‘oia‘i‘o,

Hillary Ka‘anohi Aipa

Wanda Mae Pa‘akea Akiu

C. Lehua Carvalho

Kau‘i Dalire

Kahulu Kaiama De Santos

Kahikina de Silva

Kapalai‘ula de Silva

Māpuana de Silva

Lei-Ann Stender Durant

Adah Enos

Kēhaulani Enos

Tristin Enos

Charlani Kalama

Charnay Kalama-Macomber

Lani Kaleikī-Ahlo

Vanelle Maunalei Love

Kristi Kamaile Lucas

Charlene Ka‘oluokamalanai Luning

Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie

Howell Chinky Māhoe

Darcy Noelani Moniz

Rich Pedrina

Maya Kawailanaokeawaiki Saffery

J. Kūkaho‘omalu Souza

Pattye Kealohalani Wright

Signatures and original document are on file with Hik’alani.