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.

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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.

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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
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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