Trustees listen to concerns from Maui beneficiaries. - Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

Walter Kamaunu, Jocelyn Costa, Kaleikoa Kāʻeo and Clare Apana were among the community members who attended OHA’s Maui meetings to voice their concerns about iwi kūpuna being disturbed by mining at the sand dunes in central Maui.

The sand dunes are known to contain iwi of kūpuna from numerous historic battles, epidemics and other internments. Recent movement of the sand for grading and mining has exposed more burials, creating alarm in the Native Hawaiian community.

“Maui is under full assault right now,” Kāʻeo testified, imploring trustees to stand up for kānaka. “Either we stand together and stay in our place, or we’ll be erased together.”

Photo: Kaleikoa Kā‘eo
Kaleikoa Kāʻeo testified before Trustees at UH-Maui College. – Photo: Kaipo Kī‘aha

In her testimony, Apana asked the trustees to support a moratorium on sand mining and formal recognition of the entire sand dune as both a protected area and a known burial site.

Apana told OHA trustees that more than 1,000 iwi kūpuna have been disturbed in the sand dunes and the numbers grow with every day that sand mining is allowed.

The Maui Lani development, affecting roughly 1,000 acres of sand, has been the focal point of recent concerns. Primary jurisdiction over the discovery of ancestral remains and their disposition in this area falls under the State Historic Preservation Office within the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Maui and Lānaʻi Island Burial Council.

Upon hearing the testimony, Maui Trustee Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey and At-Large Trustee Lei Ahu Isa agreed to join the community members at a June 22 Maui County Council meeting to support the urgent need to protect the iwi.

In addition to community concerns, the Maui meetings included presentations by organizations that received OHA grants for community events and programs, and proposals for future consideration.

Ohua Morando, of Nā Pua Noʻeau Maui, shared the outcome of an OHA ʻAhahui grants sponsored event: College Super High Day. The event drew more than 100 high school juniors and seniors, including those who weren’t sure about going to college, or didn’t know what Maui College had to offer. Nā Pua Noʻeau plans to broaden its reach by forging stronger relationships with high school educators and counselors, including those on Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi, Morando said.

Kawika Mattos, of Maui Family Support Services (MFSS), talked about another ʻAhahui Grant event: The Celebration of Fathers, which OHA funded for the second consecutive year. Eleven community partners were part of the event, which encouraged fathers to spend quality time with their children through cultural activities like kuʻi ʻai and ti leaf lei demonstrations, as well as Hawaiian cultural games. Attendance-wise, Mattos said the crowd was big enough to go through 1,000 hot dogs.

Mattos invited Samuel and Leimomi Holi to speak about MFSS’s 12-session parenting classes. “It teaches me a lot about working with my kids and not spanking them. I don’t believe in spanking,” said Leimomi. “I really enjoyed going to class every week and my children enjoyed it, too.”

For Sam, two years with the Hui Kāne group has helped him overcome some personal challenges and become a better father and husband. The father of six – four with Leimomi – noted that his children had to deal with his anger issues in the past but now he’s making changes for his family’s sake. Through Hui Kāne, Sam said he’s “learning about nurturing and helping them along, not being a parent who treats them with anger or physical abuse.”

Hāna’s Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke, one of OHA’s programmatic grantees, reported on progress made in improving health throughout their small East Maui county. Over the past two years, the program has added six new loʻi with help from the Wendt ʻohana, which adds to Hāna’s abundance of locally grown food and can help supply the school’s kuʻi program.

Photo: Lipoa Kahaleuahui
Lipoa Kahaleuahui updated Trustees on OHA grant-funded activities in Hāna. – Photo: Alice Silbanuz

“Hāna is at a critical juncture,” Lipoa Kanaleuahi told the trustees. “Our community is reaching this critical point where enough of us have skills, we have passion, we’re remembering our culture and our practices and we’re learning how to grow our own food. We’re really at a point of elevating our community.

Rick Rutiz, executive director of Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke, pointed out that the work is not over in Hāna however. Over the past year, four Hāna residents lost limbs to diabetes, he said.

Rat lungworm disease, most commonly spread by slugs and snails, has been a particular challenge in rural Hāna, where the Department of Health called for gardens to be shut down this spring. The residents did, but then a kupuna told Rutiz she wasn’t going to eat any more green things. “That was our battle cry,” he said. That’s not something that can happen.”

The community reassessed the risk and went on attack, collecting and disposing of snails, as well as educating the community and making sure to take every precaution.

Reynold Ikaika Fruean and Karl “Kahanu” Noa presented an idea to use sports to improve health and boost pride among Native Hawaiians.

Ancient Hawaiians were known for their athletic prowess, noted Fruean. “Sports were our strength,” he said. “Now we’re missing the athletic part, the healthy part.”

Fruean and Noa, who both played football for the University of Hawaiʻi, would like to create a Makahiki Athletic Association, with competitions between moku.

Fruean, who attended UH-Mānoa on a football scholarship, envisions an organized, structured athletic association that provides academic support, such as tutoring and scholarships. It could be like the Oʻahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) or the Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH), he explained, except MAA would be for Hawaiians, with makahiki competitions and championships among the moku. “We need something to unite the community. Why not go back to makahiki and sports?”

Each year, the Board of Trustees holds community meetings around the state to hear from beneficiaries on all islands. The Board met on Kauaʻi in May and will be meeting at Lānaʻi High & Elementary School on July 12. Visit www.oha.org/bot for meeting schedules and agendas.