Brief preliminary findings show that the methodology and mechanisms for resource management by a Native Hawaiian non-profit is systematically more than mere resource management and is a discernible process of resistance and persistence in establishing a space for cultural integrity and environmental self-determination.
For native peoples, land is inseparable to their culture. Native peoples language, stories, food, arts and their religion are inextricably linked to the land of their ancestors and for culture to endure and be strong, for present and future generations, culture must be lived and practiced with their ancestral land and resources.
Therefore, what are the unique characteristics of a culturally based resource management collective?
By asking this question, this analysis will deconstruct the methodology and mechanisms of a Native Hawaiian grassroots non-profit to increase awareness of the unique, inherent values of a Native Hawaiian culturally based resource management collective and bring attention to environmental self-determination in comparison to resource management in government driven environmental planning initiatives and projects.
The characteristics of a culturally based Native Hawaiian resource management organization exemplifies the inextricable connection to land for the preservation and continuity of cultural identity via subsistence, cultural, and religious practices—bringing forward basic human rights issues and environmental self-determination.
In Hawaiʻi, examples of Native Hawaiians’ environmental self-determination are exercised through kalo cultivation, traditional salt cultivation, and fishpond livelihood. Each of these cultural life-ways, including other cultural life-ways outlined in the mechanisms employed by said organization, are inseparable and interdependent on the land, and accessing these cultural life-ways are both human rights and protected rights in state law.
Today, governments are steering issues surrounding climate change, land pollution, urban development, and conservation designations. These issues are rapidly encroaching upon native rights and increasing difficulty for natives to maintain a strong culture because of conflicting agendas found in government driven environmental planning initiatives and projects.
More analysis is needed on the potential impact of the green economy on Native Hawaiians’ rights to environmental self-determination and more caution should be given to government driven environmental planning initiatives and projects. State laws may provide protection for traditional and customary practices however, such protections are not always in alignment with economy-centric government driven environmental planning initiatives and projects.
Designed and implemented Native Hawaiian strategies to increase traditional subsistence, cultural, and religious practices.
Fostered leadership and decision making to support Native Hawaiian strategies and life-ways.
Conducted workshops and ceremonies honoring life-ways for community residents and visitors.
Promoted language, culture, value, traditions, and life-ways.
Established a place for teaching and learning culture-based education.
Delivered resources to individuals and groups honoring and upholding traditional subsistence, cultural, or religious practices.
Collaborated with community individuals, organizations, and local businesses to remove illegal dumping, and to provide extensive tree care in the area.
Organized weekly and monthly opportunities for environmental services to residents of Kailua and greater area of Oʻahu Island, as well as out-of-state and out-of country visitors.
Increased awareness for environmental self-determination and ecological awareness through community engagement, demonstrations, and outreach.
There are three mechanisms that support subsistence, cultural, and religious practices. The mechanisms: Kūkulu Hale, Uhau Humu Pōhaku, are Māla ʻAi are integral elements of the collective’s mission and vision and its own cultural identity.
Participation in mechanisms lends to a deeper cultural-environmental understanding, is an assertion of environmental self-determination through restoration and cultivation of the land, and represents a framework of indigenous sustainable development.
Kūkulu Hale (a house, or a hall) – Kūkulu means to construct, erect, establish, organize, set up. Hale building and maintenance provide educational and cultural opportunities while standing as a metaphor of the human body, the hale provides protection and stability to those within and near. There is a transmission of ʻea in the building and constructing of a hale that suggests a foundation towards indigenous sustainable development. Kūkulu Hale is a life-way of cultural identity inextricably linked to the land and environment and is a subsistence, cultural, and religious practice conducted on site.
Uhau Humu Pōhaku – To strike and stitch stones into rock walls provides necessary erosion control and increases planting areas. Uhau humu pōhaku is considered a necessary foundational science and art for subsistence practices. By building stonewalls, practitioners lay the foundation for environmental sustainability resulting in preparation for cultivation and thereby, a practice of subsistence. Uhau Humu Pōhaku is a life-way of cultural identity inextricably linked to the land and environment and is a subsistence, cultural, and religious practice conducted on site.
Māla ʻAi – Māla ʻAi is food cultivation supporting physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness. Mala ʻAi includes the growing of kalo, a plant inextricably part of cultural identity—found in the creation chant of the Hawaiian Islands, and cultivating kalo epitomizes subsistence practices for Native Hawaiians. The ongoing cultivation, and observation of plants, including kalo, and surrounding resources require long-term, real-time experiences with the place, the trees, the plants, and the animals for environmental routines and behavior and is a process of subsistence practices. Māla ʻAi is a life-way of cultural identity inextricably linked to kalo, the land, and environment and is a subsistence, cultural, and religious practice conducted on site.
Number of projects conducted
Number of internships and community volunteers
Planting native plants to restore and improve plant biodiversity and support native life-ways
Removing harmful invasive species
Improvements in quality and yield of fruits, flowers, and plants
Conducted 12 cultural ceremonies and workshops.
Removed 20 tons of debris (metal, concrete, telephone poles, cattle fencing, etc.) that allowed for the erection of a 20x30 hale and surrounding māla ʻai,
Controlled erosion in areas by uhau humu pōhaku that increased native planting and decreased invasive species.
Planted over 200 native plants (kalo, ʻolena, pili, mamaki, etc), over 200 lāʻī (ti leaf) and 54 native trees (loulu, kūkui, ʻulu, oku, milo, manele, niu, wauke) for use to support and honor Native Hawaiian lifeways.
Completed three internships with Native Hawaiian youth and hosted over 2,000 volunteers since 2015 totaling more than 8,000 hours of volunteer work to restore and cultivate a place for Native Hawaiian culture.
Yielded over 200 lbs. of papaya, avocados, kalo, lilikoʻi, coconut, cassava, and long squash to the community.
Distributed ipu gourds, lāʻī leaf, kūkui leaves, pili grass, wauke, banana stumps, and hau to community members for cultural or religious practices.
Gathered and provided flowers, fruits, roots, leaves, and cuttings to community for cultural and medicinal practices.
Return of native plants, particularly ʻaeʻae and increased sightings of native birds.
Mahalo to all ancestors and to every persoon who listened and provided input and insight throughout the years, and on this presentation. Mahalo to each and every one of the volunteers who have supported the endeavors at Ke Kahua O Kūaliʻi. Special mahalo to Bill, Teresa, Keahi, Kukona, Ricky, Nina, Ikaika, the lashing gang, and all the keiki and ʻohana for the invaluable hours honoring Kawainui, Hauwahine, and Haumea at a very special, very beautiful place for Native Hawaiian culture.
Akutagawa, M. et al. (2016). Traditional & Customary Practices Report for Manaʻe, Molokaʻi. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/
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