Aha Moku Gathering

SUBHEAD: This was a gathering of the Hawaiian nation, in the best sense. Let us hope more youngsters will participate in the future.

By Juan Wilson on 22 November 2010 for Island Breath - 

Image above: Detail of conference poster celebrating the gathering of the net created by Oliver Kinney.  
On Friday and Saturday I attended a conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu on Oahu. It's title was Ho'olei 'la Pae'aina Puwalu. The subtitle was “Throw the Net to Bring Everyone Together in Hawaii”. About two hundred people attended representing Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau.

Those attending were drawn from a process that began with the formation of the Aha Kiole Advisory Committee by act HB212 in 2007. The purpose of HB212 was to develop a method of bringing Hawaiian indigenous practices into the management of the resources in Hawaii - largely because of the recognition of the long and sustained practices that provided plenty for the people of the islands for centuries.

The state of Hawaii promised funding for the advisory committee to create an Aha Moku Council that would govern the procedures of incorporating traditional Hawaiian practices into state resource regulations. That funding never came. None the less, the committee was able to do its work and complete the required tasks culminating in a Final Report in 2009.

The Aha Kiole Advisory Committee was initially organized with efforts of the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council (WesPac). WesPac is an independent non-profit entity that is supported and overseen by the US Congress, similar to the US Postal Service, the Federal Reserve, Fanny Mae and Fanny Mac. It is not a Federal government agency, yet it has responsibility for managing fishing regulations for the US territory islands in the western Pacific, including Samoa, Guam, the North West Islands and Hawaii.

The staff and consultants of WesPac were available, as well as some funding to facilitate the self organization of Aha Moku system that would ultimately manage resources by the ancient Hawaiian land divisions of island moku (bioregions) and their ahupuaa (watersheds). The final report of the Aha Kiole Advisory Committee made a listing of the moku and ahupuaa of each island. In 2010 things were moving ahead.

A bit of a flashback here
In 2008 Jonathan Jay and I were completing a map of moku and ahupuaa of Kauai. We had been working on such a map for almost two years. We had been working with Malama Kauai and attending their Eco Roundtable meetings.

We were proposing that we have island district meetings based on traditional Hawaiian land divisions. As part of that interest we attended a meeting of the Kona Moku of Kauai held in Poipu by the Aha Kiole Advisory Committee. There we presented our first revision of the Kauai map. At the meeting we met Jean Ilei Beniamina of Niihau. We committed then to producing a map of Niihau too.

After reviewing the maps of Kauai and Niihau, Jean Ilei Beniamina suggested to WesPac that they not use an agency like NOAA to map the Hawaiian land divisions (as planned) but contract with me to complete the rest of the islands. I was engaged as an independent contractor in May of 2010 to deliver maps of all the Hawaiian islands, in phases, and be finished the time of the Ho'olei 'la Pae'aina Puwalu in late November. Those maps are now available on islandbreath.org in GoogleEarth format.

There are also GIS .shape files and PDF plot files that have been produced. Through the summer and into the fall there was an Aha Moku puwalu (conference) on each island. Among other things. The job was to set an agenda for future actions and prepare for the statewide Puwalu, that would bring together representatives from all islands.
Exit the flashback. 

 Last weekend, I was asked to attend the Ho'olei 'la Pae'aina Puwalu, held on Oahu, in the role of a consultant and be prepared to demonstrate the work to date on mapping moku and ahupuaa. I was glad to participate. I packed a laptop loaded with 3D GoogleEarth files of the islands. When I arrived at the Honolulu Convention Center I had to sign in. I was given an ID tag on a purple lanyard rather than a staff ID and lanyard. The color coding of the lanyards were assigned to the colors of each island’s symbolic flower. In other words, The ID lanyard indicated I was a Kauai participant rather than staff. This resulted in me acting in both rolls for the two days. In the general session the kiole (the speaker) representing each island made a presentation.

It must be noted that Keith Robinson was there wearing construction boots and a hardhat as if he just got off a bulldozer. When Niihau was asked to present Robinson pretended to be shy, as if he did not want to speak. When the mic was finally put in his hand he couldn’t stop. He began with a 1000 years history of his family, back to the Vikings. As a staff member I had responsibilities in helping WesPac facilitate the event (relative to providing maps offered to the groups present) and had access to staff areas “back-stage”.

As a Kauai participant I sat in at Kauai’s breakout session on discussion of offering a bill to the Hawaii legislature to consider concerning the acceptance of a continuation of the Aha Moku system and implementing its protocols.

Image above: Puwalu participants gathered for group photo of 200 people. Photo by Juan Wilson

After the island representatives returned to the general puwalu from their breakout sessions the last item on the two day agenda was before us. To craft the wording of a bill for the legislature to consider. The kiole for each island gathered with the indigenous coordinator of WesPac to make out the wording of the bill. This was at about 5:00pm. In about 20 minutes they had a first revision of the bill. It went like this.
WHEREAS, the statewide Ho'olei 'la Pae'aina Puwalu was held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu on November 19 and 20, 2010, involving more than 200 native Hawaiian traditional practitioners, fishermen, farmers, environmentalists, municipal representatives, State representatives and the general public, and WHEREAS, it was agreed that the 'Aha Moku structure is an effective, community-based way to manage natural resources in Hawai'i. and
WHEREAS the island caucuses at the Puwalu agreed that the Hawaii State Legislature should extend, amend and implement Act 212:
• That the 'Aha Moku system be continued;
• That the recommendations from each island in the 2009 'Aha Kiole report to the Legislature be implemented;
• That new 'Aha Kiole representatives be selected/elected by 'Aha Moku councils that have been established on each of the mokupuni;
• That where Aha Moku councils have not yet been established, efforts be made to establish them as soon as possible;
• That Niihau a Kahelelani continue to be managed based on and exclusively under its konohiki system:
• That these Aha councils be formally recognized;
• That the 'Aha Kiole role be amended so as to include it being the conduit between the Aha Moku system and the State of Hawaii Legislature; and
• That the new 'Aha Kiole report back to the Legislature on the status of the 'Aha Moku system throughout the pae'aina at the end 2011, and
WHEREAS the Puwalu participants also supported customary traditional practices that have sustained the Native Hawaiian population and culture, such as the cultural, non-commercial take of honu and fish from waters throughout the Hawaii Archipelago;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the participants of the Hawai'i Statewide Puwalu, in conference at the Hawai'i Convention Center on November 19 and 20, 2010, urges the county, state and federal entities with responsibility and authority for managing natural resources to support the development of the 'Aha Moku system of natural resource management and the allowance of customary traditional practices; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this Resolution be transmitted to all County Mayors, Governor of Hawaii, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chair, House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs Chair, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees Chair, Secretary of Commerce and the Chair of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.
Image above: Detail of ceramic tile mural outside of Convention Hall ballroom. Photo by Juan Wilson.

The Kiole huddled together a made some adjustments to the final wording of the document. Keith Robinson, as kiole for Niihau, made a grab for being representative konohiki of the islands of Lehua, Kaula, and Nihoa... and got it.

It should be remembered that the 200 people present had been sitting in the ballroom for two days. It was the end of the conference and people were eager to get on their way home. They were in a mood to agree with what had been worked on paper. But... There were some questions about details. A few people began to take exception to specific language. Some points were important. The first edit to the first revision was to remove the words;

“WITH RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY FOR MANAGING NATURAL RESOURCES” This was done to remove the assumption of their authority over Hawaiian resource management, and to just have those government entities accept Hawaiian cultural tradition as the governing authority of Hawaiian resources. This went over smoothly with the group. Then point was made that legally the first paragraph and what followed the “NOW

paragraph at the bottom of the resolution had to match exactly. That was resolved quickly as well.
 Then something bad happened. A few people in the audience had the sense that this large body of people would go along with any change to the resolution that was only the change in a word or two and could be done quickly. They pounced.

Someone from an outer island interjected that there was a difference between “conservationists” and “Environmentalists” and that conservationists should be added to the list of participants since all Hawaiian cultural practitioners were conservationists. “Conservationists” were added to the first paragraph. Then came the suggestion that “Ranchers” should be added to “Fishermen” and “Farmers” and that “Conservationists” and “Environmentalists” should be removed from the list of participants. When the crowd passed that suggestion, by sitting on their hands, I left of the conference hall.

 In my mind “ranching” is generally a destructive practice (look at Niihau and Kahoolawe) that was not part of traditional Hawaiian cultural practice and that even if it was should be eliminated. Removing “environmentalists” from the participants of the conference removed me. So... I took a cab to the airport. In the Hawaiian Airlines waiting area I met up with two other Kauai reps. We were there early enough get on a flight before our scheduled time.

Coincidentally, we got the last three seats on the plane and even more surprising, they were together. They were both fishermen and had been active contributors in the Kauai breakout session. One was Japanese, the other haole. Both had been on Kauai for over 30 years. They had walked out of the conference hall as well. They had left when suggestion was made (and incorporated) that required kiole to be limited to those with Hawaiian blood. That tore it for them. They had been disenfranchised. I think this conference ended tragically for many committed to living pono in Hawaii. However, overall I was impressed with the what was achieved by the gathering at the convention center.

 I met wonderful people from other islands who are working hard to preserve and protect where we live. I have a special fondness from those I got to know from Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island. This was a gathering of the Hawaiian nation, in the best sense. Let us hope more will participate in this process... especially the young.

 See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Traditional Hawaiian Land Divisions 1/30/12 .

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