News Briefs | July 2024

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Fun at FestPAC 2024

Photo: Mokomae Araki with OHA Beneficiary Services Agent Kaimo Muhlestein
At the Bishop Museum, one of FestPAC’s many venues, wood carvers and tattoo artists worked outdoors under tents on site for the duration of the festival to demonstrate their work. One such artist was Mokomae Araki, a tattoo artist from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). He is pictured here with OHA Beneficiary Services Agent Kaimo Muhlestein who was delighted to receive a tattoo (see the kūpeʻe on her wrist) from Araki. The design Muhlestein chose was from an ʻohana kapa pattern created by her late cousin, Loea Kapa Moana Eisele. Indigenous Pacific artists – representing all types of media, from traditional to contemporary – showcased their work at Fest-PAC alongside the colorful pageantry and dynamic performances presented at venues across Oʻahu from June 6-16. – Photo: Joshua Koh

Injunction Stops Surf Village Development

In a May 28 decision, the First Circuit Environmental Court issued an injunction to stop development of the controversial Honokea West Surf Village.

The injunction follows a complaint filed by Nā Kiaʻi o Wai Hā, a grassroots organization comprised of Native Hawaiians, lineal and cultural descendants of Puʻuloa, ʻEwa, Oʻahu, and ʻEwa residents. Honokea West was co-founded by local businessman Keno Knieriem (Honokea CEO) and renowned surfer Brian Keaulana (Honokea president).

Centered around an enormous, 6.8-million-gallon wave pool, Honokea West Surf Park would also offer other sports amenities, athletic training facilities, an aquatic film studio, shopping, restaurants, cabins, and bungalows. Proponents say it will provide up to 200 full time jobs.

However, opponents say the site is just minutes away from two other existing water parks: Waikai, with a 52-acre lagoon and its own wave pool, and Wet ʻnʻ Wild Hawaiʻi, a 29-acre water park.

Nā Kiaʻi o Wai Hā also cites serious concerns about disturbing the iwi kūpuna buried in the area’s vast underground karst (caves, sinkholes, streams) system, potential damage to cultural and historic sites, and the environmental impact to the area known by cultural practitioners as “Ka Hale o Limu” (The House of Limu).

And they worry that another water park will exacerbate pressures on Oʻahu’s already limited freshwater resources in the aftermath of the Red Hill jet fuel spill and the closure since 2021 of the Hālawa Shaft – Oʻahu’s largest source of freshwater.

The injunction prevents further progress on the surf park unless and until the developers and HCDA produce revised environmental documents.

“Major’s Bay” Renamed Waiapuaʻa Bay

Photo: Capt. Brett Stevenson places a lei in front of the new sign for Waiapuaʻa Bay
Capt. Brett Stevenson places a lei in front of the new sign for Waiapuaʻa Bay Recreation Area at the sign unveiling ceremony. – Photo: Louis Lea, US Navy

Major’s Bay Recreation Area at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the west side of Kauaʻi is now called Waiapuaʻa Bay Recreation Area. Waiapuaʻa is the traditional Hawaiian name for the area.

A sign unveiling ceremony on May 31 was attended by Hawaiian cultural advisors, county officials, and PMRF staff.

Waiapuaʻa, which means “water of the pig” is the oldest recorded name for the bay where the PMRF has been located since 1957. Waiapuaʻa is also the name of a valley on the island of Niʻihau.

“For too long, the names of places like these have echoed with the sounds of distant lands and distant peoples,” said PMRF Commanding Officer Capt. Brett Stevenson. “This is not merely about changing signs or updating maps. It is about recognizing the full narrative of our island’s history, and it’s about acknowledging the contributions and sacrifices of Native Hawaiians and weaving their stories back into the fabric of our shared identity.”

Kumu Hula Troy Allen Hinano Lazaro led protocol for the event, offering a welcome oli and pule. Historian and cultural practitioner E. Kalani Flores shared the history of Waiapuaʻa as a wahi pana and discussed the importance of Hawaiian place names in making connections and establishing an understanding of place.

Kauaʻi County Council Chair Mel Rapozo was quoted in a Kauaʻi Now article saying, “Our next generation will not know this as ʻMajor’s Bay.’ To me that is incredible.”

Mauna Kea Access Road Seizure a Breach of Trust

On May 30, the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in favor of native Hawaiian beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) in Kanahele, et. al. v. State, et. al. (“Kanahele”) who asserted that the Department of Transportation (DOT) wrongfully exercised control of the Mauna Kea Access Road which is held in trust for their benefit.

Mauna Kea Access Road is built on Hawaiian home lands. In 2018, the DOT unlawfully claimed control over these lands when it designated the road a state highway without following required processes.

Relying on its claimed control and authority over the Access Road, the DOT subsequently closed the road in 2019 during the peaceful demonstrations by kiaʻi (protectors) opposing the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. This led to the arrest of dozens of kūpuna.

The court held that the DOT violated the requirements of the HHCA when it asserted control over the lands underlying the access road, that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and HHC breached their duties by not objecting to the DOT’s action, that HHCA beneficiaries had a right to sue the state for these breaches of trust, and that the access road was improperly designated a state highway.

Represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), plaintiffs in this case were Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele, Edward Halealoha Ayau and Keliʻi “Skippy” Ioane. Following this ruling, the case will return to the trial court to determine appropriate relief, including damages owed by the state. For more info: https://nativehawaiianlegalcorp.org/mkardecision/.

Kohala Oral History Project Documentary

A documentary film that captures the memories of 24 kūpuna from Kohala will be available to view online for the next three years on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Hawaiʻi’s YouTube channel. The film, This is Kohala, premiered on PBS last March and was produced by the Kohala Oral History Project.

The project began in 2019 when Lucas Manuel-Scheibe and his mother, Jocelyn Manuel, began recording the stories of his 80-year-old grandmother Martina Manuel. This led to a larger mission to document the narratives of other Kohala kūpuna. Documentary filmmaker Bryan Campbell worked with Manuel to create the film from the 24 interviews recorded between 2021-2022.

The documentary begins with the kūpuna’s collective memories of moʻolelo from ancient times and continues chronologically recording their memories of plantation days to the present. The kūpuna’s personal stories are intercut with archival footage and images.

In addition to Manuel, kūpuna interviewed included notable community members such as David Fuertes, Kealoha Sugiyama, Jeff Coakley, Hope and John Keawe, Maile Spencer Napoleon, and the late Fred Cachola.

Watch This is Kohala

New Book by Ray Schoenke

Photo: Fat Girl Sings Book Cover

Hawaiʻi-born author, Ray Schoenke, 83, debuted his latest book, Fat Girl Sings, at a book signing event on June 12 at Inspiration Hawaiʻi Museum in Honolulu. Fat Girl Sings received a 2023 Global Book Award bronze medal, was recently named an Eric Hoffer Book Award Nominee, and was named as a 2024 Distinguished Favorite in the Memoir category of the prestigious Independent Press Award.

Schoenke, who resides in Maryland, was among the earliest Polynesian NFL players and was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He had a 12-year career as an offensive lineman with the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. He is the retired CEO of Schoenke & Associates and served as chair of the Hawaiian Arts and Culture Board for the Bishop Museum.

Fat Girl Sings is Schoenke’s personal memoir – a sharing of early trauma, self-discovery, and his struggle to embrace himself as a Hawaiian while defying racial stereotypes in both the sports and business arenas.

“My book speaks of how I internalized the better parts of myself (Fat Girl) to confront the challenges I faced and how I struggled to reconnect with those parts of myself over the course of my lifetime,” said Schoenke. “What I want Hawaiian people to take away from my story is to never give up and to be proud of our heritage. You may have to work harder, better, or longer than your non-Polynesian peers to earn the recognition you deserve, but you can earn that recognition.”

A Safe Haven for Endangered Seabirds on Molokaʻi

Last month the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Molokaʻi Land Trust announced the completion of a 5,600-foot-long predator-proof conservation fence at the Mokio Preserve on the north shore of Molokaʻi.

Vulnerable endemic seabirds will now be able to rebuild their populations within the nearly 100-acre elevated wildlife sanctuary protected from sea level rise and invasive predators.

ABC Oceans and Islands Director Brad Keitt said that benefits from the newly installed fence are already evident with the presence of ʻuaʻu kani chicks within the sanctuary. In previous years all chicks were lost to mongoose predation. Through social attraction and active translocation, “we hope to establish species that are losing their nesting sites due to sea level rise in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands,” he said.

Years of cattle, goat, and deer traffic due to ranching introduced and spread non-native grasses and predators. The fence is part of a long-term restoration effort, transforming this site from an area overgrown with non-native grass and kiawe trees to a thriving dune coastal ecosystem that supports numerous endangered plant and pollinator species unique to Hawaiʻi.

Construction of the fence began in August 2020. Predator-proof fencing is the most effective means of protecting endangered ground-nesting seabirds which lack defenses from feral cats, mongoose, rats, and mice that attack adults and eat their eggs or hatchlings.

The Mokio Preserve is ranked as a top five priority location for seabird restoration across all U.S. Pacific Islands and identified as a potential habitat for multiple seabird species. These include species such as mōlī, kaʻupu, ʻuaʻu, ʻaʻo, ʻakeʻake, noio, koaʻe kea, koaʻe ʻula, ʻā and ʻiwa.

For more info visit: https://abcbirds.org/program/seabirds/challenges/.

A Celebration of Surfing

Photo: Hawaii Gold Surf Book
Native Hawaiian Olympian and world champion surfer Carissa Moore recently released her first book, Hawaiʻi Gold: A Celebration of Surfing.

Moore, 31, was the first winner of the Olympic Gold Medal in women’s short board surfing in 2020 and was also the World Surf League’s (WSL) Women’s World Tour Champion in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2019 and 2021. She is considered one of the greatest female surfers of all time and was named to the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

Hawaiʻi Gold: A Celebration of Surfing celebrates Hawaiʻi’s surfing history and culture as Moore shares her own story and perspective on the sport. Moore’s book pays tribute to the significance of surfing in Hawaiʻi as shared by notable Hawaiian surfing ʻohana such as the Aikau, Moniz and Ho families, and individual athletes such as Zeke Lau, Kelia Moniz and Keala Kennelly, and highlights traditions such as paddle outs and surfboard shaping.

The book features stunning photography that captures some of Hawaiʻi’s most famous surf breaks and legendary surf icons. The book’s forward was written by renowned carver, surfer, and waterman Tom Pōhaku Stone.

Wildfire Mitigation Efforts in Waimea

Parker Ranch in Waimea, Hawaiʻi Island, recently announced a significant enhancement to its wildfire mitigation strategies through the establishment of a new fuel break on its lands. The initiative was developed in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT) and the Hawaiʻi Fire Department (HFD).

Recent wildfires across the pae ʻāina, most notably on Maui, have highlighted the urgent need for proactive measures to protect our communities, natural resources, and critical infrastructure. The fuel break, covering approximately 8 miles from Mana Road around DHHL’s Puʻu Kapu pastoral lots, will serve as a strategic barrier to help control the spread of wildfires and provide safer zones for emergency responders.

The fuel break project is part of a broader collaboration involving state and local authorities, reflecting a community-wide effort to enhance resilience against wildfires. The Hawai’i Fire Department has expressed strong support for this initiative, recognizing its potential to significantly impact the community’s ability to withstand and recover from wildfire incidents.

The implementation of the fuel break will be funded by the state under Gov. Josh Green’s Emergency Proclamation.

EPA to Disband Red Hill Oversight Group

On June 12, Honolulu Civil Beat reported that the Red Hill Community Representation Initiative (CRI) will be disbanded.

Formed last year through an agreement between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Navy, and the Defense Logistics Agency, the purpose of the CRI was to provide residents and kiaʻi wai (water protectors) an open line of communication with the military in the aftermath of the Red Hill jet fuel leak in 2021 that contaminated drinking water, sickened thousands of people and pets, and forced the closure of the Board of Water Supply Hālawa Shaft – the primary source of water for the island of Oʻahu.

Hālawa Shaft remains closed almost three years later.

Over the months, relations between the CRI and the military deteriorated as citizens and the military jockeyed to control the meetings and agenda. As a result the EPA has “cancelled” the CRI citing a failure to “reach a consensus on ground rules.”

Environmental justice attorney Marti Townsend noted that this comes at a time when the Navy is hoping to improve its public image, as leases on Hawaiian land currently used by the US military will expire soon.

The EPA claimed that Hawaiʻi’s entire congressional delegation supported the dissolution of the CRI – a claim that was refuted the following day in a joint statement issued by Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, and Reps. Ed Case and Jill Tokuda.