Ka Wai Ola

By Kaleleonālani Kekauoha-Schultz

I am writing to raise a grave and immediate concern about the spraying of glyphosate-based herbicides at the Waiehu Kou community of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands here on Maui. Reputable studies show that glyphosate-based herbicides raise the cancer risk of those exposed to it by a shocking 41%. DHHL beneficiaries need protection from glyphosate exposure. All of Hawaiʻi, our ʻāina aloha, and all people living here need this same protection.

Photo: Haʻi Manaʻo Ditch
What is left after heavy spraying of Roundup on both sides of the ditch
immediately behind our home. – Photo: K. Kekauoha-Schultz

Moving to our homestead in 2013 was a prayer answered. With the encouragement of my hālau aunty, I took the necessary steps to get on our land, and I am most grateful to my father who helped us to qualify for our home.

Our home was blessed by my hālau brothers and sisters and we were gifted an ʻulu tree to plant for the sustenance of our ʻohana. Indeed, we intended to plant, grow and sustain our family, and it was a very hopeful time.

We have tended to our ʻāina over many moons to heal it as we ourselves heal. I distinctly remember cheering as I found the first earthworm because it took so much to build viable soil. We trucked in loads of compost to get started. We sifted rocks and built raised beds.

Today our yard is a vibrant testimony to the love of this land and the legacy of homesteading. We have had fruitful harvests of kalo, ʻuala, and a diverse array of garden vegetables and fruits. We harvest medicines from our yard, and we weed with the same reverence that we sow seeds. As for that ʻulu tree, it is quite giving and was a great comfort to look upon amidst the COVID-19 crisis as a sustainable food source for our ʻohana.

So, it literally pained me in body, mind and spirit to see a landscape worker spraying just over our backyard fence at midday on May 13, 2020. I ran to him and asked, “What are you spraying?” And he replied, “Only Roundup.” I shrieked for him to stop; the glyphosate-based poison is known to cause cancer. Deep concern for our children, our food, and our safety jolted me into a fight mode that, in actuality, left me feeling quite helpless and defeated. I know he was just doing his job. But the damage was done. And this wasn’t the first time Roundup was sprayed in this area. And in that instant, a light breeze blew toward an open window where my toddler was napping.

Who will protect us? What will it take to stop the spraying of toxic chemicals upon our land and people? If it was acknowledged at the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act that our ʻāina is an agent for healing, how is it acceptable to poison the land and disregard the impact it will have on people? We must bring awareness to this situation as a start to making a change: an act as hopeful as planting a garden today for the health of our families tomorrow.

Kalele and her husband, Jeff, are raising their four children to be healthy kanaka in body, mind and spirit with an understanding of the interconnection of life and a kuleana to mālama our finite resources and ways of being. Practices in pule, ʻōlelo, presence, gratitude, humility, forgiveness and aloha are daily guideposts for their ʻohana.