When Resistance is Required


Kū‘ē (nvt. To oppose, resist, protest.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

When I was small, I spent one wonderful weekend in Happy Valley on Maui.

My dad played softball in a community league, and when there was an interisland tournament on Maui, he took our family with him. I remember our Kohala families being hosted by Happy Valley families like the Kuloloio ʻohana, and making friends with a little girl named Mei Ling.

Fifty years later, I still remember how our ʻohana was welcomed by the ʻohana of Happy Valley, and have lasting impressions of the warmth and assurance of that community, in that place and time, that transcends the decades.

At the time, I was too young to know that Happy Valley was once part of an extensive and abundant wetland ravaged and forever altered by the sugar industry. There was no way I could have understood the decades of resilience and the resistance that defined the kupa ʻāina of that place.

This idea of resistance, of kūʻē, is a thread that runs through this issue of Ka Wai Ola.

Our cover story recounts the struggle over Nā Wai ʻEhā and the Water Commission’s recent historic decision recognizing the rights of traditional kalo farmers. For more than 150 years, Hawaiians on Maui have resisted the business interests that greedily diverted and hoarded the precious water resources of the West Maui Mountains at the expense of Kānaka Maoli.

Kūʻē manifests in many ways.

With a focus on Maui, we highlight some of the ways that ʻŌiwi and others are resisting the status quo, asserting their voices, refusing a system that would have them believe they are “less than,” and making pono and sovereign choices for themselves and for their ʻohana, moʻomeheu, and ʻāina.

For example, there is a small, private Hawaiian immersion school in ʻĪao that has developed an innovative, interactive curriculum. Residents of the remote moku of Kīpahulu are making strides to protect their land, fisheries, and sustainable lifestyle. The owners of popular eatery, Kalei’s Lunch Box, are known for both their ‘ono food and their servant’s hearts. An ambitious affordable housing plan developed for Maui County by Hawaiian Community Assets has the potential to not only resist, but upend, 40 years of bad federal housing policy at the local level. Meanwhile, UH Maui College Assistant Professor Kaleikoa Kaʻeo shares a thought-provoking essay about resisting “Admission Day.”

We also celebrate the kūʻē of Prince Kūhiō who spent a year in prison for rebelling against the illegal overthrow of the kingdom and went on to secure the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in the U.S. Congress with deft diplomacy despite blatant and pervasive racism.

And, finally, we collectively grieve the loss of Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, arguably Hawaiʻi’s most influential Indigenous scholar, activist, and feminist. Her example of kūʻē, her legacy of courage and resistance, inspired generations of young Hawaiians. She was a fierce and fearless warrior who spoke truth to power and her voice will live on.

E ala a kūʻē; arise and resist.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Ka Pouhana | Chief Executive Officer