In commemoration of OHA’s 40th anniversary, throughout 2021 Ka Wai Ola will feature select articles from the newspaper’s archives. This piece, about a Native Hawaiian family discovering military ordnance on their farmland, is reprinted from April 1984.
By OHA Staff, 1984
That the Kamaka Family Hui has been sitting on a keg of explosives is only putting it mildly.
The very land they farm in their Waikane Diversified Agriculture Institute on 187 acres of Waikane Valley aina is a virtual hotbed of military ordnance. They’ve got some beautiful papayas, taro and bananas growing in various areas of the land but they can’t expand any further without coming upon more explosives.
There are both live and dead ordnances littering the Kamaka land.
Marines of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit have been surface cleaning the area the past couple of months in what was scheduled to be a 90-day project. OHA has been assisting the family in establishing and developing their institute. In a recent on-site visit by OHA for an update on the situation, there doesn’t appear to be any way the cleaning job will be done in 90 days.
“There’s no way they can finish the job in that time. It will take forever,” said Ray Kamaka, family spokesman who heads the hui.
Erosion and other natural causes have exposed most of the ordnances and the Marines are just cleaning the surface. There was evidence of this everywhere OHA visited in the valley. At a couple of points during the visitation, Kamaka stopped and explained that all a person has to do to is dig a little ways with the hands into the soil and ordnances would be exposed. He brushed away some dirt and exposed some of the buried explosive, one of which was declared “live.” It was later exploded with other like finds.
Kamaka emphasized how dangerous it is for hunters, hikers and other people who go into the valley despite “Keep Out, Private Property” signs on the premises.
Among other trespassers are marijuana growers who sneak in from across the mountain on the Kualoa side or from the Waiahole Irrigation Ditch side to drop off their plants. “These people are crazy doing this. They’re putting their lives on the line,” Kamaka declared. He has destroyed what plants he’s found.
In addition to the three crops already planted, Kamaka would like to expand into flower-growing and establish an educational work project where children could come and learn about the different fruits and plants and work the land. Because of the hazards posed by the exposed and buried explosives, however, he is unable at the moment to realize his purpose.
And what is the future of the Kamaka land? Will the hui settle for a land exchange or money? Kamaka isn’t answering these questions yet. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” is all he would say. He has nothing but praise for the EOD unit and the cooperation he’s received from the military. “They’ve been just fantastic and we’ve worked very closely,” Kamaka stated.
Meanwhile, trespassers are reminded to stay out of the valley. OHA will continue to monitor the situation and assist the hui in whatever areas possible.