Re-envisioning wahi kūpuna stewardship in Hawaiʻi
By Kelley Lehuakeaopuna Uyeoka
Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship
The term wahi kūpuna refers to a physical site, area, or landscape that is significant to Kānaka ʻŌiwi, past and present.
While every place in Hawaiʻi could be considered special or significant, this term can broadly encompass ancestral landscapes where kūpuna repeatedly and purposefully interacted, but also places of purposeful non-use. Often, these places provide evidence of kūpuna interactions via physical manipulation of the space such as burials, heiau, loʻi kalo, loko iʻa, ala loa, kuahiwi and ahu. Just as significantly, some wahi kūpuna contain no tangible evidence of human modification, but are still places of our ancestors through moʻokūʻauhau, inoa ʻāina, moʻolelo and mele.
Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective Objectives:
- Provide opportunities and spaces to strengthen and faster relationships in our community of practice.
- Compile, develop, and share wahi kūpuna stewardship knowledge, practices, & initiatives.
- Identify, support, and grow initiatives in wahi kūpuna stewardship, management, education and research.
- Seed actions to increase collective impact to malama wahi kūpuna.
- Expand the realm of CRM beyond archaeology, and disperse the authority to engaged communities, kiaʻi, and other allies.
Wahi kūpuna hold special prominence for Kānaka ʻŌiwi because of the longstanding relationships and interconnections Native Hawaiians have with these places. Wahi kūpuna are the tangible links to the past through which we maintain connections to previous generations, and perpetuate these connections for future generations. They shape our identity, and inform and inspire our living values, traditions, and practices.
These spaces are imbued with mana and meaning from generations of Native Hawaiians living in particular places and developing inseverable relationships with the land. Thus, an integral tenet of Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship (WKS) is recognizing the relationship between Native Hawaiians and place, because the people that have evolved with their environments are just as important as the places themselves.
The Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective (KC) was created in 2017 to address the pressing need to organize our shared ideas, resources, and strategies to build capacity and take collective action in safeguarding Hawaiʻi’s wahi kūpuna. We are made up of advocates, leaders, and change agents who represent many different fields and disciplines, but who all care about Hawaiʻi’s wahi kūpuna.
2019 Think Tank
″For me to be who I am, I’ve got to maintain identity as a Hawaiian who has a connection to this place. There are places here that are not just places, they are special sites, that’s why we call them wahi kūpuna.” -Uncle Fred Cachola (Kc Think Tank Presentation 2019)
In April 2019, the KC convened the first Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective Think Tank. Over 100 participants from 15 different sectors and 80 organizations participated in the two-day working conference to discuss a range of challenges, opportunities, and solutions for Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship in Hawaiʻi. The Think Tank focused on the current priority areas identified by the Collective including – building community capacity, knowledge generation and stewardship, restoring wahi kūpuna, and mālama iwi kūpuna. During this gathering, real-time data was compiled through ignite talks, topic area panels, facilitated breakout discussions, and live surveys. Participants shared, documented, evaluated, and prioritized existing and new information, knowledge, and practices regarding Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship.
From here, the KC created working groups to carry on the Think Tank discussions and brainstorm how to implement the proposed action items. The KC hopes to hold these types of “conferences with kuleana” every two to three years to continue to tackle systems change in Cultural Resource Management (CRM).
Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective Report
- Narrate the current situation and expand the public’s understanding of Cultural Resource Management (CRM) and Wahi Kupuna Stewardship (WKS).
- Create a baseline of data and metrics to measure impact and growth.
- Serve as an advocacy document to influence decision making by government entities involved in CRM.
- Present a future vision of what an ideal WKS landscape in Hawaiʻi would look like, and how we can get there.
- Activate involvement from all stakeholders.
Early on, the KC realized that a more complete understanding of the current state of CRM in Hawaiʻi was needed in order to address how to improve the system. It was decided that a critical first initiative of the KC would be to compile foundational CRM/WKS data in a holistic document from a Kanaka ʻŌiwi perspective. This report will serve as a guiding document to steer the KC along this new ala loa (path) over the next few years. This report aims to bring awareness to specific WKS issues and highlight ways that individuals, organizations, professionals, and others can take action towards greater stewardship of our wahi kūpuna.
To promote future collaborations, increase awareness on issues surrounding CRM and WKS, and in efforts to grow capacity and resources for wahi kūpuna stewards, Collective members prioritized our efforts around the following four Focus Areas that are highlighted in the report:
We also propose “16 Calls to Action” in the report that will help our Collective and supporting partners further carry out our kuleana of stewarding wahi kūpuna. And while much needs to be done to truly reshape the historic preservation and CRM systems in Hawaiʻi, we recognize that many of these calls to action are just the initial steps in long term processes. The kuleana of Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship is a kākou effort, where each of us has a contribution to make.
To learn more about the Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective and view the entire report, visit our new website at www.kaliuokapaakai.org, and if you would like to support any of the Collective’s initiatives, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelley L. Uyeoka currently serves on the Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective steering hui and is the executive director of Huliauapaʻa, the backbone organization of the Collective.