Photo: Loko Ea
Loko Ea is a 500-year-old fishpond and wahi kūpuna on the North Shore of Oʻahu in Haleʻiwa. - Courtesy Photo

NaHHA would like to share a feature from Rae DeCoito, one of our “lamakū hoʻokipa” (beacons of hospitality) who is making a positive impact through the value of mālama and as a contributing member of the Native Hawaiian community.

By Rae DeCoito

Almost 15 years ago, Kamehameha Schools sent a kāhea (call) to the community to solicit support for restoring the Loko Ea fishpond site, a wahi kūpuna (historically significant cultural site) nestled on the North Shore of Oʻahu in the town of Haleʻiwa.

Loko Ea is a 500 year old fishpond and one of two loko iʻa (traditional Hawaiian fishponds) located in the ahupuaʻa of Kawailoa within the moku of Waialua. The kāhea was answered by a small group of community members who established Mālama Loko Ea Foundation (MLEF) in 2009.

Today, the restoration of Loko Ea represents the timely reimagination of what it means to preserve Hawaiian culture while supporting a thriving, sustainable community in modern-day Hawaiʻi. MLEF remains steadfast in addressing the needs of the Native Hawaiian people as it endeavors to expand culturally informed educational programs, Hawaiian language commitments, loko iʻa and ʻāina restoration. Additionally, MLEF hopes to stand as a repository for Hawaiian knowledge, culture and a place for community gathering and education.

Each year MLEF hosts over 400 community, cultural and educational events at Loko Ea. In our Kupuohi programs, over 5,000 haumāna from various DOE schools visit each year. Here, students learn ʻāina based education using cultural values practices focused on traditional ways of knowledge that promote the sustainability of the natural gifts of Hawaiʻi Nei.

Last year, MLEF began offering virtual Hawaiian language courses. Each semester, over 600 participants register for Kumu Kahanuola Solatorio’s free 26-week course. The demand has been humbling as we see the hunger from the community to foster opportunities of learning and a desire for more cultural connection.

Our Kumu ʻIkena program, established with funding from Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities, brings in over 40 cultural practitioners each year to teach free classes such as paipo board making, lāʻau lapaʻau, lomi, papakū makawalu, oli, mele and traditional rock wall kuapā building. Participants share that they feel a direct benefit from these uplifting community building events.

One kumu shared this: “Wahi kūpuna are the repositories of our cultural mana, these are places where mana is transferred from place to Kānaka, from Kānaka to place, from kūpuna to the next generation. These repositories are the stronghold of our culture and are places where we can transmit the culture to the next generation.”

Rae DeCoito is the executive director of Mālama Loko Ea Foundation, a Native Hawaiian community educator, and a graduate of NaHHA’s Ola Hawaiʻi program. DeCoito leads a team that focuses on marine conservation, community engagement and cultural practices while building the next generation of conservation leaders, and is working on building a Hawaiian Science Learning Center on the North Shore to scale-up STEM research for K-12. For more information on ways to participate, support or kōkua, contact