Aloha ʻĀina Kākou!!


Dan Ahuna, Vice Chair, Trustee, Kauaʻi and Niʻihau

Last month, the BOT flew to Molokaʻi for our annual community meeting, the first in-person meeting since the pandemic began. At a site visit to Keawanui, a fully restored and operating loko iʻa, we learned about a new project propagating limu ʻeleʻele. Molokaʻi’s south shore once flourished with this delicacy, but human impact has stifled its growth, and it’s now hard to find.

Kilia Purdy-Avelino and Hala and Kahekili Pa-Kala reminded us that if a resource is lost, our relationship with that resource will also be lost. The ʻike about how to identify, gather, and most importantly, to nourish us will not be transmitted to the next generation. And akin to the death of a canary in a coal mine, the absence of limu serves as a bioindicator, telling us that our ahupuaʻa health needs to be remediated.

Photo: Ane Bakutis and the staff of Kealopiko
Having a bit of fun on our visit to Molokaʻi with Ane Bakutis and the staff of Kealopiko. – Photo: Joshua Koh

Our second site visit was to Kealopiko, a company producing wearable art that preserves and teaches culture using species identification combined with ʻōlelo noʻeau.

At the community meeting, we learned about the challenges, but more so, about the opportunities and examples of true resilience Molokaʻi has demonstrated – from the increase in farming production and distribution with Sust-ʻāina-ble Molokaʻi, to the community-led Hoʻahu Energy Coop Molokaʻi working toward Molokaʻi’s renewable, independent energy future, to the OLA and ROOTed homeschooling programs that recognize every one of our community members as teachers.

This trip made me realize that Molokaʻi is, in itself, a university. In sharing this with Maui County Council Vice-Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, she recommended I read her essay, Molokaʻi ʻĀina Momona, published in the Value of Hawaiʻi 3: Hulihia, which states, in part:

“In a subsistence economy, where we mālama one another, traditional metrics for measuring success involve ensuring the collective good, where all are properly fed and cared for. By reengineering the systems our kūpuna passed down to us, we focus our energy on industries central to our fundamental needs, such as food and energy production, while cultivating our core competencies. We are a living laboratory.

“As a living laboratory designed on “ʻike kupuna,” ancestral knowledge, the goal is to build capacity within our own community, while we also teach others around the world. Our kūpuna understood adaptive management and best practices to mālama our island and her resources effectively. As the planet’s climate changes, and natural disasters occur more frequently with heightened intensity, the world is recognizing ancestral knowledge is an invaluable tool for our survival.

“Education of course is key, and in Hawaiʻi ancestral knowledge was traditionally passed down from one generation to the next. We begin with a multipronged educational approach, teaching our children to identify their kuleana to our home, and then to pass that value on generationally and in perpetuity.

“I ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope. The future lies in the past.

“The answer has always been inside of us: it is our connection to one another and to our ʻāina.”

Mahalo nui to the Kānaka of Molokaʻi for sharing your manaʻo and great work. I look forward to your ongoing examples of aloha ʻāina, ʻoiaʻiʻo and learning from you.

Mālama pono!

Watch a short video of the OHA Trustees’ site visits on Molokaʻi at