Friday, September 30, 2016

Ke Welina Mai Kakou! Welcome to the Living Library of Kahoʻolawe!

Two years ago, the KIRC received a Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program (NHMS) grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help us initiate the KIRC Virtual Museum Pilot Program. This was an enormous honor for our staff and commission, especially amidst a very trying legislative session implying access hindrances to the Reserve.

Click for details 
Based on your feedback, we have properly archived and digitized hundreds of items from the KIRC archive collection - now available for public, online use through the Kahoʻolawe Living Library.

As we move into 2017, we will be releasing a mobile app that will transform the Living Library from a content management system (database) into an accessible multimedia user experience. Presenting a fully functioning map of Kaho‘olawe that enables the user to virtually explore the Reserve and to discover the archived collection piece by piece and story by story, the app will also include "oral history" video segments with stories told by key Kahoʽolawe participants.

Click for details
MAHALO to IMLS and additional Kahoʻolawe virtual museum partners: Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities and Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s Kūkulu Ola Living Hawaiian Culture Program.

Our work relies on the ability to educate as many as possible about the resources offered by and through Kahoʻolawe. With your help, we will see the continued preservation and restoration of this vital symbol of the Hawaiian culture and strengthen understanding of and connection to Kahoʻolawe for generations to come.

Enjoy the Kahoʻolawe Living Library today at
Click for details

Thursday, August 25, 2016

KANU Kahoʻolawe: Replanting, Rebirth

The KIRC is proud to partner with visionary artists Jan Becket and Carl Pau to introduce "KANU Kahoʻolawe: Replanting, Rebirth,” an exhibition of paintings and black and white photographs to be premiered at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress 2016 (Sept 1-10, 2016 | Honolulu, HI).

A collection of artwork inspired by Kahoʻolawe’s history, culture and community impact, “KANU Kahoʻolawe” celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first landing to protest the island’s control and use by the U.S. Navy as a bombing range. It is also a tribute to those who have made a lifetime commitment of Kahoʻolawe. (Right: Kiʻi Pohaku, Carl Pao)

“Of course this includes George Helm, Kimo Mitchell, the original PKO members of 40 years ago,” remarks artist Jan Becket, “In addition, it includes all of those who work for the State of Hawaiʻi and have taken on the restoration of Kahoʻolawe Island as a life project and challenge. The on-the-ground practical knowledge they have accumulated — what works and what doesn‘t — is of immense value.”

The smallest of the 8 main islands in the Hawaiian Archipelago, Kaho‘olawe is 11 miles long, 7 miles wide and comprised of approximately 28,800 acres. Decimated of its natural environment through years of over-foraging and military bombing, an estimated 1.9 million tons of soil is lost annually on Kaho‘olawe to erosion. Severely eroded landscapes cover one-third of the island, with runoff choking the Reserve’s pristine reefs and significantly impacting the ocean ecosystem. Its inventory of 3,000 historic sites and features - all part of the National Register of Historic Places - are in constant need of protection from these damaging circumstances. Despite an extensive, 10-year cleanup by the U.S. Navy, unexploded ordnance (UXO) litters one-third of the island plus all surrounding waters, leaving areas off-limits and life-threatening. (Below: Puʻu O Moaʻula Iki, Jan Becket)

The Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) was established by the Hawai‘i State Legislature in 1993 to manage the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve while held in trust for a future Native Hawaiian sovereign entity. Its mission is to implement the vision for Kaho‘olawe Island in which the kino (body) of Kaho‘olawe is restored and na po‘e o Hawai‘i (the people of Hawai‘i) care for the land.

A treasured resource for all of Hawaii’s people, Kahoʻolawe is of tremendous significance to the Native Hawaiian people and to the hundreds of students, researchers, conservationists and community members who volunteer on and for the Reserve each year.  Together with dozens of grant partners, 10,000-plus community volunteers to date and stewardship partners Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO), the KIRC works to restore, protect, preserve and provide access to Kaho‘olawe. (Right: Lele, Carl Pao)

Please join us in celebrating this thoughtful exhibition at one or more of the following:

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress 2016 (Sept 1-10, 2016 | Honolulu, HI)
  • Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (Oct 15, 2016 - May 6, 2017 | Seattle, WA)
  • Dawson Art Project Gallery (Summer, 2017 | Honolulu, HI)
  • Hawaiʻi State Capitol building (Jan. 15 - Feb. 15, 2017 | Honolulu, HI)

Learn more:

Friday, July 15, 2016

KIRC Receives Federal Funding for Museum Project

The KIRC is honored to announce that it has been selected as one of 21 organizations nationwide to receive funding for a FY2016 Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services award.

A federal grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, this outstanding opportunity is geared to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

The $49,976 grant award ($50K award cap) will support the developing Kaho‘olawe "Living Library," a virtual museum offering a new means of access to Kaho‘olawe.

With focus on two major activities: 1) expansion of our digitized pilot project collection of archived Kaho‘olawe materials, as directed by public demand and core program consultants; and 2) the design of an interactive application (or "app") for mobile use; a fully functioning map of Kaho‘olawe that enables the user to virtually explore the Reserve and discover the archived collection, the project seeks to advance access to Kaho‘olawe.

"To the people of Hawai‘i, especially Native Hawaiians, Kaho‘olawe is a symbol of resilience and an opportunity to rebuild a cultural heritage," says KIRC Executive Director Mike Nāho‘opi, "as the only major island in the Pacific that has been archaeologically surveyed from coast to coast, with the entire island listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve’s current inventory contains 3,000+ historic sites and features- encompassing an intact and unique record of Hawaiian history & culture."

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research helps libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.

"By creating access to these resources, we further our mission of providing access to Kaho‘olawe," remarks Public Information Specialist Kelly McHugh, "the benefits offered through the history, culture and ecology of Kahoʻolawe are boundless. This is just one way that we can share and enhance those benefits for and with our community."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When Can I Go to Kahoʽolawe?

This past weekend, the KIRC had the privilege of participating in the 24th annual Celebration of the Arts at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, an event curated by Uncle Cliff Nae'ole. The presentations, panels and cultural experiences were rich, important and thought-provoking - it was a phenomenal event.

A common theme that stood out while representing Kahoʽolawe was "when can I go?" vs. "I've already been." While it was fascinating to meet the people on either end of the spectrum, it was also somewhat discouraging to see that this was the priority subject for those that we met. Is "going" to Kahoʽolawe the end of the conversation, or is there room to learn from, believe in and be provoked by this special place and its history?

It is important to relay that the KIRC is not an ecotourism organization; our mission is focused on restoring Kahoʽolawe. Ideally, that work is done in collaboration with volunteer groups - people that we are incredibly fortunate to work alongside - yet we remain extremely limited in our ability to train, manage and ensure safety in large numbers. The reality is that our volunteer accesses have been cut by two-thirds due to severe budget cuts. This has deeply impacted every aspect of our work - from base camp operations and staffing to outreach and communications. Everyone here has shifted their responsibilities to accommodate complete overhauls in maintaining the restoration of Kahoʽolawe and in participating in educational programs that bring Kahoʽolawe to the people. (As a point of reference, we engaged 791 volunteers on-island last fiscal year and 4,796 off-island. The current fiscal year projects 1/3 of those numbers due to staff and budget cuts).

When funds become available, we look forward to hosting all of those with heartfelt passion for this Island. Until that time, volunteer trips are limited to 12 groups per year, arranged 1-year in advance. Our hope is to better understand the motivation or intention that you have to physically accessing the Reserve so that we can best work together to ensure that (safe) opportunity still exists from legislative session to legislative session - for all of us. Without strong operations, safety and management programs, we cannot continue public access to Kahoʽolawe in any capacity. But, by getting to know you and your needs better, we can engage a larger community in "why" this place is important. To this end, we look to the 200 individuals that have accessed Kahoʽolawe this fiscal year. What knowledge and understanding were you able to bring back home with you that others can gain from - right now? How can others feel included? Can Kahoʽolawe be important to those that have not touched its shores?

Your thoughts are welcomed.

(Note: We have 10 ways to get involved listed at for those interested).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Message from the KIRC's Executive Director

In the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission’s 22-year history, it has led the restoration of the island of Kaho‘olawe on behalf of both the State and the people of Hawai‘i, oversaw the Navy’s decade-long unexploded ordnance cleanup project in order to ensure meaningful and reasonably safe areas for future inhabitants, and developed long-term plans for the best use and management of Reserve lands and waters.

Since the 2004 departure of the U.S. Navy and concurrent transfer of the Reserve’s access management from Federal to State hands, the KIRC has focused on healing centuries of environmental damage. Subjected to 200 years of uncontrolled goat and sheep grazing that ultimately brought the island to the brink of ecological collapse, followed by 50 years as a military weapons test range that caused unremitting environmental damage, the risks and difficulties associated with the recovery of Kaho‘olawe could not have been imagined.

Through innovative programs designed to overcome A) the inherent complications of working on a remote, isolated island with minimal infrastructure, and B) the residual risks associated with remnant munitions that are still present on land and in the water surrounding the island, the KIRC has seen great success in its work. Intensive out plantings and strategically placed erosion control projects have prompted the healing of a scarred landscape that has progressively allowed a native Hawaiian ecosystem to once again flourish. As these restored areas flourish, so too does the culture.

Through vital collaborations with partners in the field and volunteer groups like the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Americorps, Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana and a concentrated student involvement, we have replanted 600+ acres of the hardpan, reintroduced traditional cultural practices, protected and preserved significant cultural resources and iwi of our kūpuna and developed strategic plans to oversee the future vision for Kaho‘olawe as a culturally significant homeland for the people of Hawai‘i. The work to restore Kaho‘olawe has generated its own restorative powers to heal and energize the people that have touched its shores. These supporters have not only helped to heal the island, but also our society as a whole — sending a signal to participant communities that this work has real value.

A critical component of KIRC’s successes has been the Federal appropriation that established the Kaho‘olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund. Through this Fund, the KIRC has been able to establish an integrated culture and natural resource management system unique within the State of Hawai‘i; develop and implement innovative restoration projects; set up an effective unexploded ordnance safety program that allows for meaningful access to the Reserve. Unless we, as voters, convince our legislature that Kaho‘olawe is an important resource to the people of Hawai‘i, funds to continue access and restoration will be exhausted. This legislative session is critical to the KIRC’s continuation of work on and for Kaho‘olawe. We will be championing a legislative package that will present short and long-term funding solutions, but we need your help to ensure its passage. Please visit to learn about how you can help get our proposed bills passed this session, maintaining access to the Reserve and continuing our kuleana as citizens.

Michael K. Nāho‘opi‘i
Executive Director, Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kahoʻolawe Mural Art Program

Some of the mural art program's youth participants
Earlier this year, the KIRC formed a collaboration with Kihei Charter School and Maui artists geared to engage the next generation in restoring, protecting and preserving Kahoʽolawe while also prompting a community dialogue about the importance of doing this work.

Student presents her ideas for the mural
Over the course of just two weeks, a group of 50+ participants aged 12 & 13 excitedly exchanged word associations, visual concepts and ideas taken from their Mālama Kahoʻolawe curriculum (available at in order to create a public mural to help teach others about Kahoʻolawe. Led by KIRC staff and artists Valentin Miró-Quesada + Jennifer Brown, main themes began to emerge as the students sharpened their messages about Kahoʻolawe into a mural blueprint. Together, and through many versions of their cohesive concept, (via drawings and individual oral presentations), a final image materialized. Within 3 days, the image was transferred to a 40-foot storage container being repurposed as part of a native plant nursery at the KIRC's Kihei Boat House property.

Prepping the container for student participation
"For the seventh and eighth graders at Kihei Charter School, this is an opportunity to work with real scientists, historians, and preservationists in the field, getting their hands dirty, and making meaningful connections between the things they learn in class and the world around them," states former school director Jen Fordyce, "For some of our kids, it is the best part of coming to school (and the kind of experience that will hopefully keep them from dropping out in the future)."

By learning to work together, contributing ideas and gradually incorporating parts of everyone's perception, participating youth significantly impacted the space, the community and the way those passing by the mural might consider Kahoʻolawe.

Students collaborate on mural vision
Today, just past the Kihei Boat Ramp, you can see their work of art which illustrates Kahoʻolawe volunteers requesting permission to serve Kanaloa (personified by the kino lau, or body form, of the heʻe, or octopus), with hoʻokupu of native plants - just as bid by protocol. 

The mural was unveiled at the KIRC's inaugural Mahinaʻai Night in May of 2015, an important part of the mural making process offering time for reflection. This Thursday, November 19, we invite you and your ʻohana to join us at our culminating Mahinaʻai Night event; the last in a series of 2015 events sponsored by the Maui County Product Enrichment Program (CPEP), to celebrate the Kahoʻolawe Mural Art Program. Together, let's ponder those same questions explored by these extraordinary young artists and make plans for continuing to share the spirit of Aloha Kahoʻolawe with our Maui community & beyond.

  • What do you see? How does it relate to Kahoʻolawe?
  • What effects can murals have on their environment and the people who see them?
  • How does the mural make you feel when you look at each part?
  • How does working together as a group instead of independently change the outcome?
  • What can you "say" with art and murals?
  • Where else do you find symbols that have a message to tell you?

Mahinaʻai Night is here! Please help us celebrate:
Thursday, November 19, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 PM | FREE
RSVP's Requested here or at 808.243.5020

NOTES: Park at the Kihei Boat Ramp and follow signs for the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) - just a short walk to the boat house site (2780 South Kihei Road). Flash lights and closed-toe footwear are strongly recommended as you will be walking on a mulch-lined path amongst kiawe. Because there are no ATM's on site, please bring cash or checks if you plan to purchase food, beverages or to make a contribution to the Kaho'olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund.
Sample mural concepts
Mural concept
Revised mural concept
And revised again
Student vision
Student vision
Student vision
Day 1 of 3 days of mural install

Day 3 of mural install

Friday, November 13, 2015

KIRC Collaborates with UH Maui's Institute of Hawaiian Music for its Final Mahina‘ai Night

The KIRC is proud to collaborate with UH Maui's Institute of Hawaiian Music (IHM) for its (final) Mahina‘ai event on Thursday, November 19, 2015 from 5:30-7:30 PM.

An exemplary program that mentors and trains aspiring musicians in performing, singing, composition, repertoire development, recording techniques, and marketing of Hawaiian music, IHM comes to us through the leadership of Dr. Keola Donaghy. Here, we learn a bit more about Keola and IHM's involvement with Kaho‘olawe.

Why are you volunteering your time for Mahina‘ai?
I grew up in Kama‘ole myself, in the 1970s, when the bombing was still going on, and first visited Kaho‘olawe in 1993. Today's generation and those who have moved here need to be reminded of the history of the island, the damage that was inflicted not only to the island but the Hawaiian people because of its abuse.

We have drastically scaled down access and operations on Kaho'olawe due to the results of this year's legislative session. How do you think these Mahina‘ai events can help garner more support for the 2016 session?
I think that events like these are crucial to raising awareness of the dire situation of KIRC, and the pressing need for ongoing financial support in its effort to rehabilitate the island. People cannot see the damage that was inflicted on the island from our vantage point on Maui, so they do need to be reminded that there is an incredible amount of work remaining to be done.
KIRC staff and IHM student Kui Gapero

Why is it important to gather community in recognition of this cause? How can music play a part in that process?
Music played a huge role in the Hawaiian Renaissance, documenting what was going on and being a voice for social and political change. It still does, and I try to instill in my students the importance of using their talents to support their community and to contribute to social causes such as this.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Regarding the Institute of Hawaiian Music, people should know that we are always looking for new students. We have students from late teens to their sixites, some who have recorded CDs and others that know just a few chords and songs. Hawaiian or not, long-time residents, or malihini. Whether they speak Hawaiian or not now, they will learn. We invest a lot of effort into our students and simply ask that they invest as much in them selves, their studies, rehearsals and performances. The next semester is less than two months away, so anyone interested can contact me. Feel free to share my email and phone number 808-769-8133.

Ocean talk at Mahina'ai night
Keola is a prolific haku mele (composer of Hawaiian poetry), whose compositions have been recorded by Keali‘i Reichel, Kenneth Makuakāne, Kainani Kahaunaele, Amy Hānaiali‘i, The Pandanus Club, The De Lima ‘Ohana, O’Brian Eselu, Patrick Landeza, and Steven Espaniola. He has received numerous nominations for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards as a composer, producer, and liner note annotator. Keola is the Faculty Coordinator of the Institute of Hawaiian Music, coordinates music studies at UH-MC, and teaches Hawaiian and world music, music theory and applied music. He holds a B.A. in Hawaiian Studies and M.A. in Hawaiian Language and Literature from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, a Graduate Certificate in Telecommunications and Information Resource Managmement (TIRM) from UH-Mānoa, and a Ph.D. in Music (ethnomusicology focus) from the University of Otago in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Additionally, he is a  voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (“Grammy Awards”) a former member of the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (“Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards”), an active member of The Recording Academy, Society of Ethnomusicology, International Council of Traditional Music, the British Forum for Ethnomusicology - and - currently serves on the Board of Governors of PBS Hawai‘i.

Part of a series of full moon events geared to raise awareness of and access to Kaho‘olawe, Mahina‘ai nights offer a guided tour of the KIRC's new walking trail on its 8-acre Kihei, Maui property, live Hawaiian music, food vendors, an opportunity to talk story with experts in Kaho‘olawe history, restoration and culture and more. Through this program, we have met hundreds of individuals that may not be able to commit to the physical, time or financial commitments incurred by an on-island volunteer work trip, but are eager to be involved with Kaho'olawe. We see this as an important step in ensuring that the people of Hawai'i have access to Kaho'olawe, and in involving the broader community in developing the forthcoming Kaho'olawe Education and Operations Center.

Join us!
Thursday, November 19, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 PM | FREE
RSVP's Requested here or at 808.243.5020 

NOTES: Park at the Kihei Boat Ramp and follow signs for the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) - just a short walk to the boat house site (2780 South Kihei Road). Flash lights and closed-toe footwear are strongly recommended as you will be walking on a mulch-lined path amongst kiawe. Because there are no ATM's on site, please bring cash or checks if you plan to purchase food, beverages or to make a contribution to the Kaho'olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund.


This program is made possible by a grant through the Maui County Product Enrichment Program (CPEP). Visit for more.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Clearing the Air: FAQ about the KIRC

Who is responsible for the management of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve?
The Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) was established in 1993 by the Hawai‘i State Legislature to manage the Reserve. Composed of seven commission members, the KIRC relies on an exemplary staff with expertise in Native Hawaiian culture, ocean management, environmental restoration, planning, policy development, education and ordnance safety to fulfill this responsibility. 

KIRC staff

What is being done to restore the Reserve?
The KIRC has active grant projects on land and sea, including re-vegetation, erosion control, data collection & analysis, monitoring, removal of invasive species, irrigation development and more. We continually appeal to the State for funding to sustain and develop these projects, and have just begun to see success at the Legislature.

Ocean staff & volunteers conduct native fish surveys
How can I access Kaho‘olawe?
The KIRC leads limited volunteer work accesses to Kaho‘olawe in order to help fulfill its mission. Because access to the Reserve (the island and the 2 miles of ocean surrounding it) is largely restricted due to both the continued danger of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and to the financial demands associated with transportation, lodging, staff and safety, it is permitted only with authorization of the KIRC for specific restoration, education, and cultural purposes. A limited number of volunteer groups are escorted to island each year in order to collaborate on cultural and restoration projects with the KIRC and/ or accesses led by the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO). You can add your name (or your entire group) to the KIRC's wait list here

Volunteers learn about key preservation & restoration techniques on Kaho'olawe

Is Kaho‘olawe safe?
Only escorted access that is approved and authorized by the KIRC is safe. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) hazards remain throughout the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve, even in the Navy-cleared areas, as well as in the uncleared areas and surrounding waters. Due to this and other hazards, including rough terrain and harsh environmental elements, no unauthorized persons are allowed into the Reserve and protective measures have been adopted to maximize safety for those persons with permission to access the Reserve. An Access and Risk Management Plan was developed specifically for this purpose.

UXO (unexploded ordnance) | Photo: 2015

How does the KIRC care for Kaho‘olawe’s cultural resources?
The KIRC works closely with the State Historic Preservation Division to ensure cultural resources are protected in accordance with Federal and State laws. Cultural protocols are carefully followed and cultural practitioners routinely participate in planning and conducting cultural activities. Restoration work is continuously carried out in archaeological and cultural sites throughout the island.

Cultural integration is a focus within all restoration efforts

Is fishing or boating allowed in the Reserve?
Trolling is permitted on two scheduled weekends each month in waters deeper than 30 fathoms (180 feet). No other fishing, ocean recreation or activities are allowed within the Reserve. Bottom fishing or use of anchors is prohibited due to the hazard of unexploded ordnance and risk of damage to coral and other areas of the marine ecosystem. Click to download a Trolling Right of Entry Registration Packet.

Catch reports are one tool that helps us to protect the Reserve for future generations

Are there special rules that apply?
Yes. Hawai‘i administrative rules Chapter 13-261 are specifically applicable to the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve. The Reserve is divided into two zones: A and B. Zone A includes all the submerged lands and waters between Kaho‘olawe’s shoreline and the waters under 30 fathoms. Unauthorized entry into Zone A is prohibited at all times. Zone B includes all waters and submerged lands between a depth of 180 feet and two nautical miles from the shoreline of the island. Unauthorized entry into Zone B is prohibited at all times, except for trolling on the days stipulated at Trollers must remain underway at all times while in Zone B. 

Who enforces the rules?
The rules governing use of the submerged lands and waters within two nautical miles of the shoreline of Kaho‘olawe are enforced by the State of Hawai‘i, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), the KIRC and the U.S. Coast Guard. Any person violating these rules is guilty of a petty misdemeanor and shall be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned up to 30 days. The KIRC may also assess administrative fines of up to $10,000 per offense. 

What is planned for Kaho‘olawe?
Current initiatives include:
  • Assessing and stabilizing cultural sites, and providing for appropriate access and cultural practices.
  • Systematically restoring the native environment.
  • Developing a significant volunteer base for the purposes of cultural and natural resource restoration.
  • Installing and maintaining appropriate and sustainable infrastructure, including on-island improvements.
  • Improving and establishing new energy, communications and water resources, as well as a Kihei information center.
  • Developing an enforcement network spanning the community and government to protect Kaho‘olawe and its waters from illegal, inappropriate and unsafe uses.
  • Maintaining a significant on-island presence for the purposes of managing and protecting the Reserve.
  • Creating and distributing educational programs and materials to further the public’s understanding of the cultural, historical and spiritual significance of Kaho‘olawe.

Can someone from the KIRC come to my school or organization to talk about Kaho‘olawe?
Yes, the KIRC provides speakers and materials to educate students and community groups about Kaho‘olawe. Please call the KIRC office at (808) 243-5020 for more information. 

How can I help Kaho‘olawe?
Simply by sharing our resources, volunteering or donating, you can make a huge impact to our efforts on Kaho‘olawe.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Kevin Gavagan

Kukui, Terri & Kevin Gavagan on Kahoʻolawe
Kevin Gavagan can’t sit still. A runner, bicyclist, surfer and basically every-other-endurance-sport-devotee, he is unwavering in his generosity, energy and service to Kahoʻolawe.

Growing up on a farm in Kula, Maui, he went on to study horticulture at UH Manoa before launching a career in landscape management with Starwood, Marriott, and, beginning in 2001, Four Seasons Resort Maui.

For years, Kevin has offered himself in any capacity to help Kahoʻolawe. From supporting his wife, Terri (KIRC Commission Coordinator), with art & artifacts, to performing with his daughter, Kukui, at Mahinaʻai Nights, to putting in some major sweat equity at the Kihei Boat House site, Kevin consistently brings humor, grace and spirit to the job site.

Why did you initially volunteer for the KIRC?
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, my company (Four Seasons Resort Maui) made a commitment to plant ten million trees around the world; our portion being 10,000. My staff identified Kahoʻolawe as a perfect partner and off I went. I felt like the KIRC’s mission was a great thing to be a part of and that our donation of plants, time and energy could make a real contribution. And of course, the obvious fact that we serve the same moku: Honuaʻula.

Why do you continue to volunteer?
Because I respect that island, I respect it’s potential, and I hope - just like everyone else - for its best outcomes.

Why is it important to volunteer for this cause?
Anywhere you go  in Hawaiʻi, there is some adulteration of the culture and of the land. And yes, Kahoʻolawe has a history of destruction through goats and bombs, but more than anywhere else in the State it is untouched. It’s the real deal. I haven’t been to another place where you can physically see the remnants of kūpuna making tools. It makes you feel closer to your kūpuna when you are near that kind of place that is a sanctuary, a wahi pana, to see what it looks like if we leave it alone. Just watch how nature recovers, how the reef recovers, how much vitality there is in the water and how much vitality there might be on land.

What has been one of your favorite Kahoʻolawe memories?
One night I had asked Lopaka if we could go up to Moaʻulaiki at 0 dark 30 to see the stars, and he obliged us — that was very memorable. I have never seen the pattern of the stars progress across the sky; a pattern talked about, sung about in songs, poetry and oli, but I never really could understand, appreciate or see it until I went to Kahoʻolawe. This was the first time I had seen this characteristic in nature: the zenith of the sun that spirals up into the sky - a piko of where it will rise - and the constellations that we had seen the night before. In the morning we saw where they had moved to. They talk about the Southern Cross spinning. Hoku paʻa does not spin, but the stars around it spiral around Nahiku and Pleiades. It was a very profound moment.

Anything else you would like to share?
I have always said to people who tell moʻolelo (stories) of Honuaʻula that it is important to connect us to our kūpuna;  to keep their wisdom in our lives. Those stories of the area are pertinent. I have always considered myself a student of that moku. I endeavor to learn more. The more I learn, the more I feel an affinity to that place. A sense of place is important. Kahoʻolawe has become integral to that energy there. I find myself feeling offended when I hear of Wailea referred to as the Gold Coast - it’s a trite, insensitive phrase. If people knew the history of that moku they would regard that place with more respect and more aloha.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

KIRC Membership Program: Exhibit Your Support of Kaho`olawe!

Download HERE

In order to help subsidize our public programs, Hawaiʻi State legislators have challenged the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to exhibit community support of our work.

By demonstrating that our community values the historical, cultural, ecological and community building resources shared through the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve, we aim to boost the State’s potential financial investment in our continued operations. Please help by joining as a member today.

If you have been impacted by Kahoʻolawe — as a volunteer, friend, teacher, student, researcher or otherwise interested community or family member, we hope that you will join in our campaign to Aloha Kahoʻolawe. With your support, we will see the continuation of Kahoʻolawe’s restoration, protection, preservation and access for generations to come.

Please submit this completed form and send with your cash or check to the address listed, or call us at (808) 243-5886 for assistance. Want to do this online? Sure! Click here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Announcing Our First Mahinaʻai Night

The Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) will be presenting its (first) Mahinaʻai Night on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at its Kihei boat house property; an 8-acre parcel designated to them in 2002 as the future site of a Kahoʻolawe learning center.

The first in a series of full moon events geared to raise awareness of and access to Kahoʻolawe, the event offers a guided tour of our new walking trail, live music by UH Maui College's Institute of Hawaiian Music, food vendors, an opportunity to talk story with experts in Kahoʻolawe history, restoration and culture and the unveiling of a 40-foot mural; a collaboration between Kihei Charter School and Maui artist Valentin Miro-Quesada. This program is made possible by a new grant made through the Maui County Product Enrichment Program (CPEP).

Our Kihei site is the first point of contact for all community volunteers accessing Kahoʻolawe, as it is where our vessel - the ʻOhua, the primary means of Kahoʻolawe transport - is housed. Cultivating the area responds to a strong demand for information and shared experiences for those that cannot commit to the 4-day volunteer restoration access trips on-island. We see this as an important step in strengthening understanding of and connection to Kahoʻolawe for all residents and visitors.

With grant support through the Atherton Family Foundation, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, hundreds of Maui residents and visitors have volunteered their time during monthly Kākoʻo iā Kahoʻolawe work days to create the Kahoʻolawe educational walking trail, a native plant nursery that will propagate plants for both the Kihei site and for Kahoʻolawe and a traditional hale for Kahoʻolawe education and outreach activities - all of which will be unveiled at the Mahinaʻai Night event. Upon hearing about these opportunities to support Kahoʻolawe projects right here on Maui, independent groups such as Haleakalā National Park's Pōhai Maile High School Internship Program, the Kamehameha Schools Ipukukui program and the staff of Four Seasons Resort Maui have scheduled additional work days at the site - a testament to the value of sharing the Kahoʻolawe experience with the larger community.

A standout amongst these groups is the 7th & 8th grade classes of Kihei Charter School, who have adopted the Mālama Kahoʻolawe curriculum, developed by the Pacific American Foundation in partnership with the Protect Kahoʻolawe Ohana, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, and have spent 2 mornings each week over the last year applying their lessons at the KIRC's Kihei site.

"For the seventh and eighth graders at Kihei Charter School, this is an opportunity to work with real scientists, historians, and preservationists in the field, getting their hands dirty, and making meaningful connections between the things they learn in class and the world around them," stated former director Jen Fordyce, "For some of our kids, it is the best part of coming to school (and the kind of experience that will hopefully keep them from dropping out in the future).  I have seen boys who are completely unable to focus and keep their hands to themselves in class proudly carrying the heaviest branches and digging the biggest holes to make a contribution to this project.  They give tours of the site as if it were their own home."

Mahina`ai Night: Saturday, May 9, 2015 (6 - 8 PM) / Free & open to the public / Park at the Kihei Boat Ramp and follow signs for The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to their boat house site (2780 South Kihei Road). RSVP's are requested, but not required at or

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Volunteers gather in front of the ‘Ōhua, just outside the KIRC's Kihei Boat House
 Developed through a 2015 grant partnership with the County of Maui Product Enrichment Program (CPEP), new opportunities are available at our Kihei, Maui Boat House property — the future site of the Kaho‘olawe Education and Operations Center — to Hō‘ola iā (revitalize) Kaho‘olawe! Pick a date and email to confirm your participation.

School field trips to volunteer for the KIRC help bring together teachers, students, parents and others for community service and cultural learning opportunities.
Kāko‘o iā Kaho‘olawe Work Days
Mar 28, Apr 25, May 23, Jun 27, Jul 25, Aug 22, Sep 26, Oct 24, Nov 28, Dec 19, 2015
Make an active contribution to the restoration of Kaho‘olawe by working on the walking trail and native plant nursery to propagate plants for Kaho‘olawe. Complimentary lunch is included for volunteers as program experts share knowledge of Kaho‘olawe restoration techniques and Hawaiian history. (8 AM - 12 PM)

Mahina‘ai Nights serve as an opportunity to engage our community in Kaho‘olawe activities, such as this ceremony during Makahiki season.

Mahina‘ai Nights
May 3, Jun 2, Jul 31, Aug 29, Sep 27, Oct 27, Nov 25, Dec 19, 2015
Join a torch lit guided tour of our walking trail while learning about Kaho‘olawe. Then, gather in the KIRC’s Kalamalama traditional hale, where historical artifacts from Kaho‘olawe will be on display, to enjoy live entertainment provided by University of Hawai‘i Maui College’s Institute of Hawaiian Music. Vendors will be on site to provide non-alcoholic beverages and appetizers for purchase. (6 - 8 PM)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Q & A with Hui Kāpehe program intern Boysie "Boy-Z" Burdett

Selected as one of seven national grant program recipients through the Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Education Program (NHCTEP), in partnership with Alu Like Inc, the KIRC's Hui Kāpehe college internship program offers work-related experience, community service learning, and job shadowing opportunities related to career and technical education (CTE) focusing on sustainability and Hawaiian culture. Through the program, students of Native Hawaiian descent participate in intensive internships in each of the KIRC's core program areas: Operations, Ocean, Restoration, Culture and Administration.

In preparation for our most recent newsletter, we interviewed 25 Kāpehe participants. Here, Boysie "Boy-Z" Burdett shares his story.

Out of 20 Kāpehe that accessed the island this past winter break, I might appear to be one of the older ones of the group because of my age. But from a college standpoint, I am actually the youngest one being that I am in my first semester in school with the goal of accomplishing a degree in Hawaiian Studies. 

Seven years ago, the organization that I was working for suggested that I go to Master Gardener’s School to get certified in Native Gardening. We had a 2.5 acre native garden on the grounds of the Waimanalo Health Center enveloped with trees such as Kukui Nut, Milo and Kou.Ti-leaf plants draped the subterranean shrubs and Kupukupu and Lawae Ferns blanketed the grounds. This cooled down the temperature and controlled erosion tremendously. We also had a vegetable garden and other medicinal plants used for dietary practices. However, my parents along with my wife’s aging parents started to get sick and old and needed a lot of attention. I was so sad to walk away from such a grand privilege but family comes first. On top of that, we just adopted four kids from Foster Parent’s Hawaii who also needed my care. So, I had to step down and step aside in my pursuits of Native Gardening. 

Sixty days prior to the trip (to Kaho`olawe), my wife of 40 years fell asleep and didn’t wake up. She was my biggest supporter and advocate of me being a native gardener and a good father in raising our children because I raised our children in gardens. And to me, gardens are way better than a farm because it doesn’t only provide food, but provides everything else you need that are essential. So I didn’t think of gardening for a long time until this privilege came along.  It is as if my wife is guiding me and saying to me “keep gardening” and “do your gardening in a bigger garden this time – KAHO`OLAWE!” 
What are you doing to help Kaho`olawe?
I was so grateful for the privilege of going to Kaho`olawe that that event still ignites a fire within me. Since returning from the island, it has changed and exhilarated my life tremendously. How? After returning, I couldn’t stop talking, and sharing experiences of that honored privilege. I must’ve had hundreds of hours of conversational speaking with others about the trip because everybody asked: “How was your trip?”, so I tell them and show them my pictures that I proudly collected and documented about our journeys. And you would be proud to know that my fellow interns embraced that same sentiments as well, for a number of them has already given power-point presentations with pictures about our visit to the Reserve. And with great enthusiasm, we encourage others to get involved on our next trip if possible.

Personally, I couldn’t help but get in the hang of sharing weekly pictures and text messages of our trip through my smartphone with groups of fellow students that went with us so this reminds them what we need to do and about the time we spent on Kaho`olawe. The pictures really tell the story.  And when you’re in the picture, it really proves it. Prior to the trip, I did not know how to use a cell phone. My wife used to be my secretary for a long time and now that I’ve learned how to use it, I feel the needed privilege to share.

How did you view Kaho`olawe prior to volunteering on-island?
Prior to visiting, I always thought that was a place for the elite group of Hawaiian people, and never felt that it would have been accessible for someone like us (students). It changed my life for the good and brought my natural creative inclinations out of me by allowing me to use a gift that was given me at birth; that is to live and to work on natural lands and to speak about it by living and practicing nativities. It also helps me to live up to my middle name, “ma pa`a e kaleo” which is also the last line of the entrance oli that is chanted prior to entering Kaho`olawe.

How did that perspective change upon accessing the Reserve? How did it affect you?
After accessing the Reserve, it changed my perspective each passing day. After touching base and seeing the island in person, you develop more feelings about it that help you to have empathy for the `aina. After letting Kaho`olawe talk to you personally, it moves one to take action and do something about being in collective association with other interns with similar interests about the island. This also helps one to react with contributions such as love by giving voluntarily for the recovery efforts. However, it will take more than love. It will also take time and more visits by people like us in order for it to progress.

Why should others get involved with this cause/ What's so important about preserving this place for current and future generations of Hawaii residents?
Others should get involved because it was humans who desecrated this beautiful place so it will also take humans, modern technology and more diligence in applying these methods and many hands to put it back together and making it even better than what it was, because of the collective efforts.
It is important because it is our heritage as native Hawaiian people. There is a lot of Hawaiian heritage that is already lost and forgotten. Why should we let even this beautiful island be lost? Would one put his grandmother out on the streets and allow her to get lost?  Would one stop getting food for his family to get and allow them to get lost also? Same as Kaho`olawe…It is the last place where native people can practice their culture and be Hawaiian and educate the world while doing it.

10 years from now, how would you like to see Kaho`olawe function?
10 years from now, I see Kaho`olawe as the biggest classroom (halau) in the state. I also see it as a modern day heiau built with many hands to include many others.  I also see it as the oldest rain forest that needs to be redeveloped out on Kanaloa.

Do you see this internship impacting your future in any way? If so, how?
As a student, collectively with colleagues, we may contribute to the accuracy of knowledge and mo`olelo as well as traditions to putting it back, almost like how it was. As researchers, we should continue because this process not only validates but vindicates the native people of the land. It’s proof of the people who once lived here and call this place home. For culture, who do you think got the island back to the people in the first place?  Wasn’t it P.K.O who practiced their culture and got the balls rolling?  Why not all of us work together in putting it back to a beautiful land. Hell yea, I am fully involved and immersed now. I planted a grove of 20 Hau saplings and nearly 20 saplings of Milo and want to go back and see their progress. Many things that I am learning in class presently can contribute to progress too. I am currently trying to encourage native plants to grow in inhospitable areas like the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve.

Click on the April 2015 issue of Ko Hema Lamalama at and scroll to page 8 for snapshots of other Kāpehe experiences. Apply today at

Monday, January 5, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Vernon Wong

To say the least, Vernon Wong is a dedicated KIRC volunteer. He donates his own time on Kaho‘olawe while also educating, organizing and encouraging his friends and colleagues to support the KIRC’s efforts. After a volunteer access on Kaho‘olawe with the Pacific Century Fellows program, he became a great advocate for us by organizing rotary groups and leading teams of colleagues and clients from First Hawaiian Bank’s Wealth Management Group. Vernon’s infectious enthusiasm has opened the door for many new members of our community to support the work and many challenges that come with restoring Kaho‘olawe.

Why did you initially volunteer for the KIRC?
I was able to make my first trip to Kaho‘olawe in 2006 with a group from the Nature Conservancy who invited some of us who went through the Pacific Century Fellows program. I enjoy everything about our native Hawaiian culture and I had always wanted to visit Kaho’olawe to learn more about this special, uninhabited place.

Why do you continue to volunteer?
I continue to volunteer because Kaho‘olawe is so special and it needs our care, love and support. The island is very spiritually and culturally significant. It is so sad and disheartening that it had to go through so much pain and neglect. Once you have experienced the spirit of the island, you feel a sense of responsibility to help restore and malama the island.

Why is it important to volunteer for this cause?
I volunteer for this cause because Hawai‘i is my home. With the growing population and development throughout the state, it is important to keep Kaho‘olawe pure and simple. My wife and I are both 4th generation in Hawai‘i, our kids being 5th generation. We need to restore and preserve Kaho‘olawe for future generations to be able to come to a place that’s pure and undeveloped and learn about the history, culture and spirit.

What has been one of your favorite memories throughout this journey?
My favorite memories from my volunteer trips have revolved around the spiritual experience and building a relationship with my co-volunteers and the island. So many chicken skin experiences shared with family and good friends. I always enjoy the landing in Honokanai‘a Bay. The boats’ engines shut down and as we drift in, we ask for permission to enter with the Oli Kahea and receive a chant back from those on shore. Everything else is silent except for the winds and the ocean. Chicken skin. Walking up Moa‘ula Iki in silence, with the mist, taking in the entire island and feeling the wind and spirit. Chicken skin.

Is there a message that you would like to share with the public regarding Kaho‘olawe?
My message is to keep the funding going for restoration and the volunteer programs. Kaho‘olawe is such an important island for education and for preserving our native culture. We need to take responsibility to preserve this island for future generations. The Legislature and federal government need to understand the responsibility and importance of keeping these programs going. My volunteer trips and experiences on Kaho‘olawe have helped me to change my perspectives and priorities and I am better off for it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Safety Trainees on Kahoʻolawe

Cashman sisters, Ulu and Pilialoha being awarded their KIRC Access Guide Certificate
after completing all their training requirements.
When I was first asked to attend Access Guide Training, I was hesitant because of the role I was being asked to play by those whom I trusted most. Whether or not I passed the training, I had just been told that this could be my chosen path to Aloha ‘Āina on Kaho‘olawe. As one flips the coin of responsibility and privilege, my own Ala Loa was changing just as I am.

Access Guide Training was a trip of many firsts. It was a striking chance to see the pleasant clash of polar opposites. The classroom became a melting pot of learning about the dangerous and the safe, along with the past and the future. 

I learned about the very thing that could kill me: UXO (unexploded ordnance). Learning to identify UXO was like learning a foreign language. But, when we were put on the spot in the field surrounded by live UXO’s, it became hard to focus on identification. How could you not think about all the suffering that a single UXO could do to the land, a person, and a people? I would make sure the future generations would know the story. 

I am very thankful to Mike (Executive Director), Bart (UXO Safety Specialist), and Grant (Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Specialist III) who took the time to establish a foundation of safety while being open to an equal playing field of ages and personalities. Thank you to the KIRC staff for being open and helping in the preparation of Access Guide Training. Mahalo most of all to those who have supported me through Access Guide Training and continue to support me.
— Pilialohamauloa Cashman

At first I wasn’t sure if becoming an Access Guide was something that I was worthy of - but I am committed to do anything for the lāhui and Kaho‘olawe.

My main goal for becoming an Access Guide is to support the effort towards the completion of the Ala Loa. Being given such a big responsibility was heavy, but knowing that the few supporting me to attend training believed that I could do this, I needed to believe in myself. And I do.

Despite my age, I focused my energy on representing the next generation that those before me can rely on to follow through and to prepare both my generation of leaders and those that will follow. This was the beginning of my kuleana to Kaho‘olawe and the lāhui. 

Mahalo to Mike, Bart, and Grant for their patience and willingness to instill safety in us while on Kaho‘olawe. Most of all, mahalo to them for viewing all members as equals. Despite individual ages and the amount of time each spent on Kaho‘olawe, they instilled that safety is number one.  Mahalo to the KIRC staff, to all of my classmates for their kōkua, laughs and life long memories and to all of the individuals that continue to support and believe in my desire to be a part of Kaho‘olawe. Most importantly, mahalo piha Kanaloa. Amama ua noa…
 — Uluwehiokapulapulaikalaakea Cashman

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Talk Story with Franco Salmoiraghi, He Moku Poina ‘Ole Featured Photographer

On Friday, October 10th, 2014, THE KIRC will launch a month-long event at the Bailey House Museum / Maui Historical Society in Wailuku, Maui. An exhibition of photographs captured during the critical time when Kaho‘olawe was returned to the people of Hawai‘i 20 years ago, “He Moku Poina ‘Ole, An Island Not Forgotten” will be on view featuring pieces by three acclaimed Hawai'i photographers: Wayne Levin, Franco Salmoiraghi, David Ulrich, and archaeologist/ writer Rowland Reeve. Complementing the exhibit will be a free opening reception with the artists, talk story sessions and opportunities for schools and community groups to participate.

During a recent breakfast with photographer Franco Salmoiraghi at Manoa's Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe, book designer Barbara Pope, KIRC Executive Director Mike Naho‘opi‘i and myself exchanged information, ideas and stories about the time they spent on Kaho‘olawe 20 years ago creating the larger collection that will be sampled at the Bailey House.

Photo Source: Andrew Rose Gallery

KIRC: Why is Kaho'olawe important to you - and - why did you select the subjects you did for your photographs?

FS: My visits to Kaho‘olawe in the 1970’s and 1980‘s were first as a witness to make photographs that documented the commitment of the people to the restoration of the ‘aina. I was there as a participant, to use photographs to help create an awareness of the struggle and to show the inherent beauty of the island. This was not a forgotten wasteland worthy of being bombed and ignored.

The photographic expeditions in the 1990’s were for a book and exhibition project about Kaho‘olawe for the Bishop Museum. During that time, there was cooperation with the military. I was able to visit areas of Kaho’olawe that had been unavailable before  –– places which were restricted because of live ordnance. This access provided a means of seeing Kaho‘olawe from that point of view for the first time and making photographs of the military presence and infrastructure.

This allowed me to combine those photographs with others from the past to tell a much larger story about Kaho‘olawe. This story of course was always the islands' importance to the Hawaiian people and culture and their commitment to healing and restoration after many years of human neglect and carelessness.

KIRC: Why is it important to continue to share these images in person, rather than online, with the community?

FS: When seeing good prints of photographs in person, there is often a stronger physical connection –– as there may be in any live performance venue. The viewer may pick up direct energy from the print itself as an object, as well as power emanating from the subject matter. I believe that energy may be distracted and diluted when viewed through the digital portal. Also, if there are other viewers present in the exhibition space, there is the opportunity for a shared dialogue concerning the content of the photographs. Questions may arise; Who are the people in the photographs? Why were they so committed to participate in such a difficult “battle” with the U.S. military against the degradation of Kaho‘olawe?

Mike, Barbara & Frank talk story at Morning Glass
He Moku Poina ‘Ole will be on view at the Bailey House Museum / Maui Historical Society October 10 - November 3 (Mon - Sat from 10 AM - 4 PM). The collection will showcase selections from the Bishop Museum’s Kaho'olawe: Rebirth of a Sacred Hawaiian Island (1996, Honolulu, HI) and Smithsonian Institution’s Ke Aloha Kupaa I Ka Aina -- Steadfast Love for the Land (2002, Washington, D.C.) exhibitions.

KIRC program specialists in Hawaiian culture, restoration, ocean resources, UXO (unexploded ordnance) and Kaho‘olawe history can be available by appointment for school visits, talk story sessions or other educational & outreach requests. Interested parties should contact Kelly McHugh at kmchugh (at) For developing details, follow the KIRC at Learn more about the KIRC at

Postcard photograph: Tattoo, Bombs, Camouflage — Kahoolawe © franco salmoiraghi