News from Koholālele

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By Uakoko Chong

Greetings to you, my reading companion. Join Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili in enjoying this small taste of food and fish from our vast ʻāina of Hāmakua.

No ka ʻai (regarding food crops): Ten years have passed since the ʻohana of Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili (huiMAU) began taking care of ʻāina at Koholālele in Hāmākua Hikina. This was an important time for our ʻohana to unite together because we saw our ʻāina kulāiwi uncared for and covered with trash and invasive species. We then decided together that we were going to mālama our ʻāina by removing the trash, digging out invasive guinea grass, and planting food for our community. By being persistent in our care for this ʻāina through the past 10 years, the idea of Ka Maha ʻUlu o Koholālele was born.

In the month of Nana 2021, we began the felling of eucalyptus trees in the kula region of Koholālele. As we entered into the month of Welo, 11 acres of eucalyptus trees were cleared. With the support of Ikaika Kūaliʻi of HLM Hawaiʻi Inc, the remains of the eucalyptus trees were mulched to prepare and enrich the soil for the ʻulu trees. At the time of the rise of Makaliʻi, rain was falling, thunder was striking, lighting was flashing, ʻiwa were soaring, and rainbows were arching. We observed these hōʻailona as Ka Maha ʻUlu o Koholālele came to life. The “big people” and “small people” all came to plant ʻulu trees together during this rainy season. To date, 65 ʻulu trees have been planted.

Our ultimate goal is to transform 80 acres of ʻāina at Koholālele into a maha ʻulu – a regenerative ʻulu agroforest – to feed the multitudes of our people in Hawaiʻi. This is the first time in over 150 years that our native foods are being planted on this scale in Koholālele. This is an important task for our generation, to supply ʻohana with local food crops in Hāmākua so that we do not remain dependent on the food that is being imported from foreign places.

No ka iʻa (regarding fish): Below the kula region of Koholālele reside a variety of iʻa, extending from the top of the pali where the koaʻe birds fly down to the ocean where the koholā leap. Since Hāmākua has sheer cliffs, it is a narrow path to traverse by foot and only those experts who are native to these cliffs go down.

One of the tasks we began last year at Koholālele was that of kilo kai – identifying the birds flying along the cliff, the fish in the intertidal zone, and the fish swimming in the ocean every month. Just like our kūpuna observed their environment, we too observe the characteristics of the clouds, the winds, the ocean, and all the fish who live here. This is a way to strengthen our relationships with the communities of the kai region – identifying the different types of iʻa that make up these communities and closely observing our surroundings over the span of generations. Observe with your eyes, listen with your ears, and close the mouth: this is how we learn.

With these ancestral teachings, we carefully walk along the base of the cliff, paying close attention to the waves breaking. Donʻt turn your back to the sea, or you will be swept away. When the ocean is calm, that is the time to go. Patience and discipline are imperative on the shoreline. Since food sustains us, kānaka, it is important to know the life cycles and spawning periods of our food sources. This knowledge guides us in our gathering and stewardship practices so that our fisheries can continue to flourish at Koholālele for generations to come.

And so my friend, now that you have been delighted by this “appetizer,” perhaps you will come to Koholālele to join us for a “meal,” to enjoy the moʻolelo and turn your hands down to the land in our ʻāina pali loa o Hāmākua. Mahalo nui to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs who continues to support the work of HuiMAU through its grants program and to our beloved lāhui for your support of our efforts to mālama our ʻāina and kai of Koholālele.


Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili (huiMAU) is a community-based nonprofit organization founded by ‘ohana of Hāmākua Hikina on Hawai‘i Island in 2011. They are committed to cultivating kīpuka that foster and regenerate the growth of place-based ancestral knowledge, healthy food- and eco-systems, and strong ‘ohana with the capacity to live and thrive in Hāmākua for generations. Uakoko Chong serves as the ʻāina education coordinator for huiMAU.