Sitting in a circle, where all mana’o is treated equally, the ‘Aha Kiole ‘O Mana’e working group met last night at the Kilohana Recreation Center. Despite a small turnout, the group was able to identify key issues for Molokai’s East End as it moves forward to create a sustainable system of land management.
The ‘aha moku (district) for the East End of Molokai is composed of 37 separate ahupua’a, or traditional land subdivisions, that range from Halawa in the east to Kamalo, 10 miles east of Kaunakakai. This is a far broader area than the other three moku on Molokai — Pala’au, Kawela and Kaluakoi. The challenge of organizing this diverse area into a community consensus was a central theme to the meeting.
‘Aha Kiole O Molokai gained attention in 2012 after the local group negotiated an agreement with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the State Department of Transportation concerning the scope of cruise ship activity on Molokai.
Last night’s meeting opened with Mana’e representative Hano Naehu announcing that the Mana’e moku will meet every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Kilohana. In explaining the group’s mission, Naehu said, “This is always about sustainability, not for ourselves, but for the seven generations that follow.”
Naehu said a new state law passed last year establishes a more active relationship between the ‘Aha Kiole and the DLNR. After meeting a few weeks ago with Leimana Damante, the ‘aha moku po’o (leader) for Hawaii, Naehu learned that the DLNR must seek input from the local ‘aha moku concerning any changes to the ‘aina. Naehu still questions if the DLNR will take this new relationship seriously.
“In reality, we are still not sitting at the table,” said Naehu. “That is the challenge — the theory versus the application.”
To be taken seriously, Naehu believes all of the ahupua’a need to be involved in this process. “We need to get the ahupua’a awoken. Three out of 37 does not do us justice, it doesn’t look like participation. We need to show the numbers, that is the only way to be taken seriously.”
Naehu sees his role in ‘Aha Kiole ‘O Mana’e as a “steward.” His hope is that every ahupua’a will have representation and then they can all vote for a single representative of the ‘aha. In the traditional ‘aha moku model for governance, the kupuna with expertise in a relevant area would be chosen as a representative. “We cannot exclude anyone,” said Naehu. With greater participation, choosing the right people will not be difficult, he added.
If Mana’e can set the example, the DLNR will involve the ‘aha moku system in more of its decision-making, Naehu believes. “The law is on our side but right now it’s ghost-like. We need to participate to make this work.”
Protecting the East Molokai Watershed
The ‘Aha Kiole ‘O Mana’e has worked closely with the East Molokai Watershed Partnership to develop a fencing project for the upper mauka area. Approved by The Nature Conservancy, this project would keep ungulate animals out of the upper forest that has been devastated by the grazing of these wild animals.
The Mana‘e Mauka Working Group, a committee of the East Slope Watershed Project, has developed a management plan to preserve Molokai’s only watershed. Community meetings have been held to discuss the implementation of the plan, which includes a cultural impact assessment and an integrative mauka makai plan.
Naehu reported that a group of concerned landowners on the East End have opposed this project. He said this group intends to take legal action through a contested hearing to stop the project. The group believes the fence line would inhibit access to certain areas and also move animals both east and west away from the Pakui management unit. This group has various issues with the implementation of the management plan as well as the control of the funds that will be used for the project, said Naehu.
Naehu said the plan represents the best planning of wildlife biologists, hunters and concerned community members. The group protesting the plan was given an opportunity to voice its complaints at the last ‘aha moku meeting, said Naehu, but chose to remain silent.
Naehu announced that the state legislature denied the capital improvement project funding for 2015. But, according to project manager Stephanie Dunbar, they are “optimistic” about receiving funding for 2016, said Naehu.
For the ‘aha moku to be successful on this issue, it needs to be resolved on Molokai and without legal action, said Naehu. “We need to collaborate with the whole community on this,” he said.
“We have got to ho’o ponopono if this is going to be solved,” said Bronson “Duke” Kalipi. “The kupuna have to step in if we are going to do it the old way,” Kalipi added.
“We have got to be the example,” said Anakala Pilipo Solatorio.
Naehu agreed. “This canoe is going to be pono,” he said. “If they don’t get on then they will just have to go their own way,” he said about the group protesting the project. “I think all their concerns have been met.”
OHA nation building
The agenda then switched to a discussion of Kana’iolowalu, the efforts by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to use a Native Hawaiian roll as a means of establishing a nation within a nation status for the Hawaiian people.
For many years, some Native Hawaiians have resisted the effort of this type of nation building, as represented by the Akaka Bill that failed to pass through Congress. Because the Hawaiian nation was illegally overthrown in 1893 and then annexed in 1898 by the United States, many Hawaiians believe the sovereign government needs to be reinstated, not treated like a Native American reservation.
Before OHA took these efforts further, OHA CEO Kamana’opono Crabbe decided to write a letter a couple of weeks ago to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a ruling on whether the Kingdom of Hawaii still legally exists. This has sparked an internal crisis in OHA when the other trustees attempted to rescind the letter.
Naehu, who visited the World Court at the Hague in 2000, said in the eyes of the international arbitrators, the Hawaiian nation still exists “as a collective.” He sees the letter from Kamana’o as a “leap forward” in establishing a sovereign Hawaiian nation. At a recent OHA meeting shortly after the May 1 Kana’iolowalu sign up deadline, the 60 people in attendance were asked if they would prefer a nation within a nation status or an independent nation status. All but two people raised their hand for the second choice, said Naehu.
Tomorrow, Naehu plans to attend an OHA meeting to discuss this issue further. “We owe our allegiance to do righteously to make the wrong right … we see ourselves moving forward with the ‘Aha Kiole system on Molokai regardless (of the outcome tomorrow),” said Naehu.
So what is the ‘Aha Kiole? “It’s bigger than any one project,” said Naehu. “We figure out our problems among ourselves and we are practicing sovereignty.”
All Mana’e residents are encouraged to attend the ‘Aha Kiole meetings on the third Tuesday of every month starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Kilohana Recreation Center.