Restoring the Historic Agricultural Lands of Luluku

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Pono is being returned to traditional agricultural lands at Luluku that were ravaged during the construction of the H-3 freeway. – Photos by Jason Lees and cover design by Joshua Koh

By Ardena Sanoe Saarinen and Trisha Kehaulani Watson-Sproat

Mark Paikuli-Stride walks the lands of Luluku with his children and a tremendous sense of pride. He has lived with his family on these agricultural lands for decades, growing kalo and hosting education groups from local area schools.

Paikuli-Stride and his family were among the farmers impacted when the Interstate H-3 was built. They spent much time farming and later living in Luluku with “Grandma” Caroline and “Grandpa” Anthony Sanchez who farmed bananas and lived in Luluku since the 1950s. Stories of their life in Kāneʻohe, farming and raising their family, provide a glimpse of what Kāneʻohe once was – a thriving agricultural community of families.

Before her passing, Grandma Sanchez asked for help from Paikuli-Stride and in 2006 they formed the Luluku Farmers’ Association as a support platform to protect the farmers and perpetuate Luluku’s agricultural legacy.

Despite the changes construction of the H-3 brought to the agricultural lands of Luluku, Paikuli-Stride and other farmers continued to farm in Luluku and advocate for the restoration of the historic agricultural lands that once helped to feed the Kāneʻohe community. “We are bringing life and family back to these lands,” says Paikuli-Stride. “We’ve worked so hard so that our children, who are Native Hawaiian descendants of this ʻāina, can have a future on the land – it is hugely rewarding to see that vision come to life.”

In 2015, Paikuli-Stride, with community groups Aloha ʻĀina Health and Learning Center and the Luluku Farmers’ Association, entered into a stewardship agreement with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to facilitate the restoration of some of the Luluku agricultural lands impacted by the H-3. Earlier this year, the groups completed Nā Wai o Luluku, a Stewardship Management Plan (SMP) for the area which includes three parcels totaling 20.87 acres. Published by OHA, the plan will help to guide traditional agricultural activities and education programs for the community.

Kuaʻāina Stewardship

By completing Luluku’s SMP, the Hālawa-Luluku Interpretive Development Project (HLID) team, in collaboration with the Luluku stewards and ʻĀina Momona (a Native Hawaiian nonprofit organization), reached a significant milestone in the H-3 mitigation process. This document also serves as a Strategic Action Plan for the Luluku Project Area covered under HLID to mitigate some of the negative impacts to the cultural and archaeological resources of Luluku resulting from the construction of Interstate H-3 Highway.

The hope is that this successful collaboration can serve as a model to inspire other community stewardship efforts across the islands, which gives practitioners the support they need to conduct traditional Hawaiian agricultural and cultural activities in places they once thrived.

“The success in Luluku shows how agencies can come together to effectively support community initiatives,” said OHA Ka Pouhana/CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey. “This program has also served as an important example in highlighting how OHA can provide valuable guidance to grassroots groups looking to restore ʻāina and care for their families.”

Farming for the Future

Luluku’s cultural landscape is envisioned to be restored through culturally appropriate science, engineering and agricultural practices. Restoration of these historic agricultural lands and cultural kīpuka will be facilitated through the planting of Hawaiian kalo and other traditional food crops, using ancient and contemporary techniques. While certain agricultural spaces are already functioning, the intention is to expand these activities by reconstructing the agricultural terraces and reactivating parts of the comprehensive loʻi (irrigated kalo) system that once flourished there.

“Protection of these cultural kīpuka is central to OHA’s mission,” explains Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, “and when we protect places like Luluku, we do more than just protect ʻāina, we make sure that our keiki, who are the future of our lāhui, can feed and sustain themselves in a manner that honors our kūpuna and preserves our traditional practices.”

The relationship between the land and its people are of both historical and cultural importance in the context of interpretations which emphasizes Luluku’s ability to feed people in the Kāneʻohe district and areas beyond. Historically, Luluku has retained a land use that focused on agriculture due to its natural resources and geographical location. As a result, people have maintained an agricultural relationship with these lands over time.

Though the intensity and depth of this relationship has changed over time, the cultural importance remains; thus creating an opportunity to rehabilitate this relationship in tandem with the land and its resources. Luluku’s reputation and contemporary potential to feed (as in food, medicine, education, Hawaiian culture, and/or spirituality) the people of Kāneʻohe and its surrounding areas still apply and drives the focus of Paikuli-Stride, his ʻohana, the kūpuna of Luluku, and supporting partner organizations.

The Luluku stewards are looking forward to beginning their long-anticipated collaborative work to repair, restore, and maintain some of the historic loʻi terraces and associated archaeological sites located within the Luluku Project Area. Modest support facilities are being designed, with construction activities anticipated to begin within the next year that will create learning spaces for students and community.


To watch OHA’s video about Luluku go to: www.kawaiola.news/cover/restoring-the-historic-agricultural-lands-of-luluku/. To review the Stewardship Management Plan (SMP) go to: www.oha.org/aina/ainahalawa-luluku-interpretive-development-hlid/

Ardena Sanoe Saarinen is OHA’s HLID Interim Project Coordinator. Trisha Kehaulani Watson-Sproat is the founder and owner of Honua Consulting, LLC.

OHA’s Kuleana for H-3 Mitigation

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) recognizes the decades of work and perseverence of the Luluku stewards and celebrates the milestone accomplishment of completing their Stewardship Management Plan this year. Despite the excellent stewardship work occurring at the Luluku agricultural terraces, mitigation is still needed in the Hālawa and Haʻikū Valley areas also affected by Interstate H-3.

OHA’s role as the recognized consulting agency for this mitigation project includes kuleana for ongoing advocacy, and holding both Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) accountable for making resources available to continue federal historic preservation-related mitigations and state level conservation district commitments made decades ago.

OHA remains committed to working with Nā Kūpuna a me Nā Kākoʻo ʻo Hālawa and the Koʻolau Foundation to bring about cultural restoration and preservation work in both Hālawa and Haʻikū Valleys, respectively.