E Alu Pū attendees mālama ‘āina in Waimānalo

Photo: Rehatching a hale
E Alu Pū network members from Holani Hale on Maui used their master hale building skills
to lead a rethatching project in Waimānalo.- Photo: Treena Shapiro

UH’s Waimānalo Research Station was a hub of hana lima on the eve of July’s Hawai‘i Conservation Conference, as members of the E Alu Pū network harvested ‘awa, rethatched a hale and built an above-ground imu.

Other agricultural activities were underway in the ‘ulu orchard, as well as in a medicinal māla, where ‘ōlena was harvested for an upcoming lā‘au lapa‘au workshop.

The open community day was part of E Alu Pū’s 15th annual conference, this year held on O‘ahu. The gathering of 34 grassroots stewardship groups from across the islands was organized by Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA) and hosted by God’s Country Waimānalo, Ke Kula Nui o Waimānalo, Waimānalo Limu Hui and Na Kua‘āina o Waimānalo. The limu hui had organized makai activities the day before at Kaiona Beach Park, where attendees helped plant limu and restore the wall at Pāhonu Pond. In addition, at the Kaiona work day, Waimānalo community leaders participated in a traditional sakau (‘awa) ceremony held by leaders from Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia) to honor the work they have done to bring awareness to fishery abuse and over extraction of fish and other marine life like loli (sea cucumber), an issue that has inspired actions in Pohnpei and other communities in the Pacific.

Aunty Luana Albinio, a kupuna advisor born and raised in Waimānalo, presented the area’s history to attendees and noted Pāhonu has changed significantly since the 1960s. Today, with help from E Alu Pū’s members, about 300 feet of the ancient fishpond wall has been restored. “To see all these young Hawaiian people coming from everywhere to help you restore something that belongs to you… Everything inside was all pipi‘i, bubbling over, I was very, very appreciative. I couldn’t speak, I was overcome,” Albinio described the next day when the activities had moved mauka to the agriculture research station.

“The spirit of E Alu Pū originated with makai gatherers, especially nearshore lawai‘a and limu kupuna like Uncle Kelson ‘Mac’ Poepoe who in 2003 asked supporters to help gather them to share, learn from and empower each other and future generations to mālama Hawai‘i. It’s a testament to their perseverance that they continue to gather 15 years later and build a momentum around mālama ‘āina,” said KUA Executive Director Kevin Chang. “This spirit to enliven the kuleana (right and responsibility) to mālama Hawai‘i carries forth in E Alu Pū’s support on issues and policies like co-management of place-based resources, building capacity for community and government collaboration and community-based subsistence fishing areas and rules like the current package for Mo‘omomi now sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting hearings. Discussion on these matters carry forward in the midst of practicing mālama ‘āina and building a kupa‘āina union and community like E Alu Pū.”

The E Alu Pū network member organizations span the pae ‘āina. Practitioners focus on place-based sustainability and stewardship and share a dedication to the restoration and protection of Hawai‘i’s land, ocean and water resources. Some groups concentrate on restoring ancient fishponds, loi kalo or caring for wahi pana. Others focus on perpetuating traditional cultural practices in their places and across Hawai‘i. Often it’s a combination – at the open community day, volunteers harvested and processed older ‘awa for a cultural ceremony that evening, then planted new ‘awa for later use.

Master hale builder Uncle Francis Palani Sinenci of Holani Hana oversaw construction of an above-ground imu that incorporated techniques from different cultures – Hawaiian, Portuguese, Italian – to create a high temperature stone oven, similar to brick ovens used for pizza. Rethatching the research station’s hale, meanwhile, was led by Tiana Henderson, also of Holani Hana, a hui of hale builders dedicated to the cultural preservation of Hawaiian architecture.

The open community day activities at UH’s agricultural research station were led by Ke Kula Nui o Waimānalo, a nonprofit established last November to help community organizations like Waimānalo Limu Hui seek funding and build capacity. “Every year, somebody else co-hosts (the E Alu Pū conference) and we move to different islands to help everybody do the work they need to do in their ‘āina,” said Ikaika Rogerson of Ke Kula Nui o Waimānalo. “For us, we figured we’d highlight what everybody knows how to do already because we have the same projects we need to get done.”

Ke Kula Nui o Waimānalo also planned activities that attendees could take home to do in their own communities, with workshops on ‘ohe kāpala to make bamboo-printed greeting cards; lā‘au lapa‘au to make medicines from ‘ōlena; plant printing with banana stumps and lauhala weaving. “It’s free-flowing,” explained Rogerson. “We teach them the basics and show them how to do whatever they want to take home.”

Learn more about E Alu Pū and Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo at kuahawaii.org.