Hawaiian Panels at Merrie Monarch a Winner!!!

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

The Merrie Monarch was a stunning success this year, and it was not the only event that was a winner. On April 3 and 4, OHA sponsored three panel discussions at the Nani Loa on Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, ʻĀina Momona & Self-Determination, and Kai Moana.

Panelists on the Indigenous Traditional Knowledge topic were Uʻilani Naipo from Miloliʻi, and Kalena Blakemore, OHA’s Legacy Land specialist. On the ʻĀina Momona panel were Kawika Lewis of ʻĀina University, Dana Shapiro from the ʻUlu Co-op, and Kūʻike ʻOhelo, OHA’s Director of ʻŌiwi Wellbeing and ʻĀina Momona. Solomon Kahoʻohalahala, Kalei Nuʻuhiwa and Roxanne Keliʻikipikaneokolohaka were on the Kai Moana panel.

The panels were informative, uplifting and concerning. Solutions and problems emerged, all were critically important.

It was concerning to learn that there are ongoing problems facing our Community Based Subsistence Fishing Areas (CBSFA). What’s that all about? Miloliʻi is a good example. It’s a CBSFA, but the folks living there have no authority to actually protect and preserve the fish and reef in Miloliʻi!! Why? Because they cannot stop the bus loads or tourists who come to ‘sunbathe,’ slather themselves with suntan lotion and go in for a ‘dip’ every week. They cannot stop the aquarium and pet store owners who come to Miloliʻi to scoop up little fish to sell. Also problematic is the increasing rent being charged Hawaiian ‘tenants’ whose families have lived there for generations and were real native tenants but are slowly being forced out because their subsistence lifestyle doesn’t bring in enough money to pay the increasing rent being charged by the DLNR.

This problem has been going on for years. It’s an excellent example of how the state tourism industry ‘uses’ Hawaiian culture to market the industry without preserving the ʻāina, culture and rights of those who are real ‘native tenants.’

It was uplifting to hear the presentation from our Hawaii island ʻUlu Co-op. These farmers work together to grow and market ʻulu, a primary food source for Hawaiians. Dana Shapiro shared the tradition of ʻulu, which was a staple food that fed our peoples during times of famine. She talked about the health problems we face because white rice and bread cause diabetes. (Hawaiians never had diabetes when we were eating our traditional diet). ʻUlu is affordable, delicious and does not have the negative health outcomes that plague our families and kūpuna.

The Kai Moana panel was empowering. It focused on our cultural and spiritual connections to the Kai Moana – the vast Pacific – our cultural heritage and the corresponding obligations and blessings that we inherit along with it. All Pacific Indigenous peoples know that the Pacific is the mother that feeds us and through our voyaging practices, links us to the Indigenous peoples who are our cultural ʻohana. Today, these practices are maintained and strengthened by the collective effort of Pacific native peoples who are crossing government and national boundaries to protect and defend the Kai Moana.

I am working to support the coming FestPAC Hawaiʻi because it will bring together all the Indigenous peoples of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia to kūkā the critical issues facing us all.

Many people were busy during the Merrie Monarch festivities and could not attend the workshops. No worry – with the help of our local high school students from KVIK, the panels were recorded and preserved. Within a few days of the events being held in Hilo, we had over 1,000 hits and the numbers continue to grow. Check out the Nā Hanana o OHA on the OHA Facebook page.

I am excited about the coming FestPAC Hawaiʻi and the opportunity it brings for Pacific Indigenous peoples to continue to address the need to protect the Pacific, our food, and our cultural resources.

Aloha,
Mililani