Monday, April 21, 2014

Two Days in April

Reflections on Vision, Commitment and Shared Kuleana
by Stanton Enomoto

Contributor’s note: Stanton worked for the KIRC from 1995 to 2004. He is currently employed by the U.S. National Park Service and works on cultural resource and climate change issues in Hawai‘i and the Pacific. His remarks are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the KIRC or National Park Service.

Photo: Stanton Enomoto. April 10, 2004: The dawn of a new era on Kaho’olawe
Ten years ago, on April 9, 2004, we watched the U.S. Navy and their contractors lower the colors at Honokanai‘a and exchange wellwishes before boarding their helicopter back to Maui. As it lifted off and the rotor noise faded, the Navy’s decade-long cleanup on Kaho‘olawe came to a quiet end.

As the fanfare of the wind and waves greeted us at and beyond Kealaikahiki, the sun set on a 63-year era of U.S. military occupation and control of the island. The transition of Kaho‘olawe to the people of Hawai‘i was complete.

At Kealialalo, on April 10, the sun rose through clouds over Moa‘ulanui — dawning a new period for the KIRC. As the coast from Ki‘i to Wa‘aiki became illuminated, the kuleana to manage and advance Kaho‘olawe as a wahi pana and pu‘uhonua took hold. Restoration, research and cultural stewardship activities could now be implemented infull, and without interference.

Photo: Stanton Enomoto. Witnesses to the departure of the last Navy helicopters.
In 2004, I had the privilege of serving as the KIRC’s Acting Executive Director and oversaw the ending of the cleanup and turnover to State control. Although I left the KIRC later that year, I have maintained volunteer involvement to help and to learn from the island. So, I was especially gratified in April when I was given the opportunity to observe the 10-year anniversary of the Navy-KIRC turnover on Kaho‘olawe.

Joining a KIRC volunteer access trip with former Commissioner Burt Sakata led by KIRC Restoration Ecologist Paul Higashino, we relived our experiences from those two days in 2004. We watched the sunset at Honokanai‘a on April 9 and the sunrise at Kealialalo on April 10. We traveled to different parts of the island and labored with the volunteers on erosion control and native planting projects.

We reminisced about past experiences, assessed their meaning in today’s context and sought some future insight. During our return across the ‘Alalakeiki Channel, with the island receding amid the waves, I was awestruck by the historical resolve to the vision for Kaho‘olawe and reminded of the necessity to remain steadfast to restoring the kino of Kanaloa.

Beginning with the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana’s landing in 1976 to protest the military’s use of the island, advancing the vision led to the end of the bombing, conveyance to the State, funding for the cleanup, and restoration of the island. During this time, many people and organizations came and went, multiple challenges and obstacles arose, and negotiations and compromises were undertaken. Still, the shared outcomes for Kaho‘olawe as a sacred and Hawaiian place were consistently advocated.

In the years ahead, Kaho‘olawe and all of Hawai‘i will be faced with many issues. Protecting cultural and natural resources, preserving traditions and practices, mitigating and adapting to global warming, and establishing and engaging a new Native Hawaiian governing entity are but a few examples. Compounding these issues is a socio-economic environment of escalating operational costs, bureaucratic constraints, conflicting or divergent ideals, and increased competition for declining resources.

Sustaining the vision for Kaho‘olawe can be a means to address these challenges, but it requires a focus similar to that which led to the 2004 transition, when individuals and organizations united to end the bombing and to clean the island.

Today, similar unification in collective impact is needed in order to achieve the goals of renewing our relationship to place, teaching us to live sustainably, increasing our cultural knowledge, and realizing our identity as Hawaiians and people of these islands. By aligning activities on-island to these goals and by sharing kuleana to achieve them, Kaho‘olawe can fulfill its role in the pae ‘āina as the piko of Kanaloa from which the Native Hawaiian lifestyle spreads.

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