Mahalo for the Birthday Wishes, from Hinaleimoana
- A co-production of ITVS in association with Pacific Islanders in Communications:
At a time when gender non-conforming people are marginalized and mistreated the world over, Kumu Hina presents an intimate portrait of a proud and confident mahu (transgender) teacher who is passing on ancient Hawaiian culture and traditions to her students as she searches for love and a fulfilling romantic relationship in her own life.
Over the course of a momentous year, Hina inspires a tomboyish young girl to claim her place as leader of a boys’ hula troupe, culminating in a rousing year-end performance at their inner city public charter school, and takes a chance at happiness when she marries an unpredictable young man from Tonga who finds it difficult to adjust to life in modern Honolulu.
As the trials and tribulations of Hina’s journey unfold, her Hawaiian roots and values give her the strength and wisdom to persevere, offering viewers a rare glimpse of island life that tourists rarely see and an understanding of the true meaning of aloha — unconditional love and respect for all.
The Oahu Island Burial Council is part of a grassroots network created under state law to make sure someone with familial ties to the land is looking out for the iwi kupuna. They are the bones of the ancestors that are buried throughout the islands rather than sequestered behind fences in Western-style cemeteries.
The Hawaiian word for burial, kanu, also means “a planting,” so the clear sense is that Hawaiians view iwi as belonging to the land.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who chairs the council, once met for an interview in a Hawaiian graveyard that overlooks a city bursting with development, as if to underscore the presence of kupuna. At 40, the teacher of hula, chant and culture at Halau Lokahi Hawaiian Charter School came late to the issue of iwi protection, and to advocacy generally.
On top of that have been the events in her personal life. Wong-Kalu is the focus of an upcoming documentary, “Kumu Hina: The True Meaning of Aloha,” which touches on her transgender status, her marriage to a Tongan immigrant and her work as a teacher. There’s a Facebook page about it, and a producers’ website (www.itvs.org/films/kumu-hina).
Wong-Kalu has no issue discussing being transgender, but would rather think of herself as being part of the larger community. She was honored at the state Legislature last week (she proudly showed off the framed award) for various roles including OIBC and as a cultural adviser to the U.S. Army.
It’s all been a steep learning curve, especially considering that the OIBC is now part of the planning conversation about the planned rail project. That’s the big one, but Wong-Kalu also toted up nearly a dozen other projects involving the council, as well as the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) staff. SHPD has been in the throes of reversing a chronic staffing shortage in the midst of all that.
There are lots of openings for contentiousness, but Wong-Kalu says she works to maintain a good rapport with all the players.
There’s no pay in that job, she said, but a lot of satisfaction.
“If I felt that I wasn’t going to be effective, if I felt that my voice would be for nothing, then I wouldn’t do it,” she said. “But I feel that I can influence things.”
QUESTION: When did you first get involved in the burial council work?
ANSWER: I started on the burial council in 2008 … as the Kona representative, for Kona, Oahu.
Q: Meaning the south shore area?
A: Yes. Honolulu has two other names: Kona and Kou. … I understand it as an old name for the area. And it’s also used in chants.… “Honolulu” is only limited to its good port — that doesn’t refer to this entire section.
Q: And why? What drew you in?
A: I was drawn in to this because it was an area that I had not yet ventured into, with regards to taking on kuleana or taking on responsibility. As a kanaka ‘oiwi, kanaka maoli, I was raised by my grandparents, especially with my Hawaiian grandmother, Mona Kana-niokalani Kealoha. … I was raised to always remember to do things with fortitude and integrity and great resolve, in that which was the world of the Hawaiian, be it language, be it practices, the practice of anything. Hula, cooking, you name it.
Q: Were you born on this island?
A: Yes. So with the potential for me to serve in a very important way that needed representation, I said yes. So that’s led me up until now.
Q: Did your years with your grandmother include any training on iwi care? Or did you learn as you went?
A: On-the-job training. But that’s only because I sought opportunities for me to learn more. Previous council members and their leadership, as I have been told by those in the community, recognized descendants who have been in the iwi discussion for much longer, have said that the current burial council composition and membership is by far very, very different from preceding councils.
Q: In a good way?
Q: What has improved?
A: Because I avail myself. The one difference is that as Kona rep, there’s two of us, myself and the vice chair, Jonathan Scheuer. … Since coming on, he, too,has endeavored to attend as many meetings as possible. …
Kona, Oahu, has the largest amount of development on the radar, and what’s happening now is developers are doing much more active consultation. They hold consultation with descendants or potential descendants. In the event that there aren’t any immediate concerns for iwi — they haven’t gotten to that step yet — but they are in the planning stages, they still have their option to consult early, and that’s what they’re doing.
Q: More so now than before?
A: Yes. Now Jonathan and I are availing ourselves to as many of these meetings as possible.
Q: So these are outside the normal meetings of the OIBC?
Q: I think you’ve met with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation people a couple of times, right?
A: Oh, I’ve met with HART not a couple of times — too many to count.
Over the last 31⁄2 years, the first year and a half I floundered around, finding my way. But by the time 2010 rolls around, I start to attend all the meetings.
Q: But that’s a good thing, isn’t it — they’re meeting with you at the earliest stages?
A: Yes, because then they develop a relationship. And it’s important. Because unless they know you, they don’t know where you come from, and they don’t know what your perspective and your philosophy is, and they don’t know what level of Hawaiian representation and integrity is.
Q: Can you give me an example of where this went down well?
A: There are several projects. There’s the Kewalo Development, a subsidiary of A&B (Properties Inc.). They’re having active consultation. There’s also Howard Hughes Corp. There’s also GGP (General Growth Partners), for Ala Moana. There’s also Hilton Hawaiian Village, in the Kalia area.
There’s also the Queen Emma Land Co. and the renovation of International Marketplace, through Taubman (Centers).
It all boils down to active consultation, early consultation. When the descendants feel that the developer has reached out, established a rapport and a connection and a relationship, when the developer has learned all that they can about the stories of the people, and what exactly is the connection and the relationship between the people and the land, then they’re far more
inclined to do things that are intended to honor.
As to what the larger perspective is, on what is appropriate and what is not, what exactly does “honor” mean?
Q: So when you talk about teaching them about your practices, do you mean primarily the burial practices?
A: They’re consulting with us, letting us know that this is their map-out of their intentions, this is where they’re planning to start work, this is the level of trenching and testing they have done … do the descendants want to see more? And the descendants have an option to chime in at that time.
Q: They would want more testing and sampling done because they think burials could be identified there?
A: Yes. Because if you’ve identified something during the archaeological inventory survey, that means it keeps the iwi discussion going in burial-council chambers. … The intent by most of the descendant folks is to keep the discussion in council, where we have a venue for them to share their thoughts, whether they support something or not. …
Let’s say this area over here is surveyed and nothing came up. Books are closed on that survey. Then they come up with something later, in an obscure corner. That’s considered an inadvertent find. SHPD is not required to consult with any of the families (for an inadvertent find).
But if it’s found during the inventory survey, then it’s previously identified, and (the decision over) the proper treatment remains with us (on the council). So, in other words, the developer has to now consult. And when the developer consults, then they eventually have to come before the burial council for the final approval of the burial treatment plan. …
This gives the descendants greater assurance that there will be, No. 1, an advocate for their wishes and their intent. It also gives them a forum and the venue to come and express their concerns and/or positive support for an effort. And this allows there to be a public record for what they felt. It’s more empowering for the descendants.
Q: Do you think some descendants are there for the iwi kupuna but also maybe because they don’t like the project for other reasons? Does that happen?
A: All kinds.
Q: Do you think that happened a lot with the rail controversy?
A: Everybody had their own perspective for the rail. Not everybody gave their personal perspective.
… Some of the recognized descendants came to the table because in every other project they advocated for the highest level of protection and respect for iwi kupuna, regardless of whether they supported the project or not.
Our knowledge of it as a community is that the rail is going to be built. So, do you completely resign yourself from participating in the process because you don’t support the project? And you just let it go and say “never mind,” and nobody’s going to be there?
Q: You feel certain the council will remain engaged throughout the project, regardless?
A: I know I will be engaged, and I know our current vice chair will stay engaged.
Q: You have said in the past that your goal is to help see that this project have a greater Hawaiian sense of place. Do you still feel that way?
A: Yes, that is part of the larger discussion. But again, it’s all through the door of the iwi kupuna. But when we get to the table, we have the wherewithal to advocate for the things we’d like to see.
Q: What do you contribute to the consultations and your advisory role?
A: I have a strong sense of diplomacy, engaging people and ensuring that there is a fair balance in the expression and articulation of any number of perspectives that come to the table, on any topic.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, shown here with Gov. Neil Abercrombie, last week received a proclamation in her honor from the state Legislature for her work on the Oahu Island Burial Council and her dedication and commitment to teach students and others about Hawaii’s culture.
by Kumu Hina:
I can’t believe how backwards a society some Haole (foreigners) exemplify and project to the world. I am so glad there is no such thing as a gay-straight alliance or anything else like this at my school.
I’m sure it works for schools that are oriented and grounded in the foreigner ways that have eroded Hawaiian culture, philosophy, perspective and fundamental values, however, at our school, Halau Lokahi PCS, our students are encouraged to just be themselves. They are expected to focus on their studies and to prioritize their progress, gain, development and learning above whatever else they may be dealing with.
In the case of the students who stand in the middle, whenever I call for the student body to assemble with Kane (males) and Wahine (females) on the right and left, there is a group that stands in the middle, and these would normally be labeled by western society in some derogatory or negative way.
Instead these are my students who are loved just the same and they identify themselves as possessing a duality of spirit and nature. They are all loved and supported the same as the next.
We don’t embrace western culture or try to pronounce a separate climate and environment for the “gay” student. In the true Hawaiian culture one is not judged by such things in life … one is judged by oneʻs contribution and commitment to family, community, and kuleana in life.
We simply say that everyone is a part of the larger whole and the Hawaiian way of life requires acceptance and aloha for all.
a film by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, in association with ITVS and Pacific Islanders in Communications:
KUMU HINA brings the powerful perspective of Pacific Island culture and values to bear on one of the most important and hotly contested issues of the 21st century: dignity, respect and human rights for transgender and gender nonconforming people, especially youth, around the world.
Although there have been several high profile films about transgender people over the years, they have tended to focus on the prejudice, discrimination, and hostility that trans people face, rather than on their abilities and accomplishments. From Paris Is Burning to The Brandon Teena Story, from Two Spirits to Southern Comfort, viewers have been introduced again and again to the ways in which people with differing gender identities and expressions have been marginalized, excluded, bullied, beaten, raped, and killed.
Now imagine a film where instead of transgender people being marginalized because of who they are, they are actually visible, included and honored. A world where youth who are searching for their own creative forms of gender expression are embraced and encouraged to be themselves rather than to hide in fear or pretend they are just like everyone else.
Welcome to KUMU HINA’s Hawai’i.
Like many ancient societies, pre-contact Hawaiians regarded those who displayed both male and female characteristics as gifted and special. They called these people mahu and valued and respected them as caretakers of family and guardians of culture. The arrival of missionaries, however, and imposition of European and Christian values in Hawai’i drove such practices deeply underground. Yet despite two centuries of colonization and repression, and efforts to abolish all traces of Hawaiian acceptance of mahu, the ancient tradition lives on.
In KUMU HINA, the tradition is embodied by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident mahu, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader. Over the course of a pivotal year at the inner city charter school where she teaches, Kumu Hina inspires a boyish young girl to find her voice and claim her place as leader of the boys hula troupe, as she herself embarks on a moving quest for love and a fulfilling romantic relationship. The setting is contemporary Honolulu, where the encompassing, welcoming traditional values of the Pacific Islands collide head-on with the modern, westernized dominant culture.
While it is important for film and media to inform audiences about the persistent and structural bias and challenges that transgender people face, it is equally essential to offer positive portrayals of transgender people as a cultural norm. As a highly visible and respected member of both the Native Polynesian and mainstream American worlds that comprise modern Hawai’i, Hina is an ideal role model. In the past month, for example, she has been on network television both as the Chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council – a Governor-appointed position on an important State body – and as the traditional Hawaiian chanter for the opening ceremony for the NFL Pro Bowl – possibly the most masculine and hetero-normative event imaginable. Her visibility in such spaces is a powerful real-life example that transgender people can succeed and make valuable contributions in their community and society.
The need for stories such as Hina’s mentorship of her boyish young student is especially evident in schools. A recent survey found that 78% of students who were out as trans while in K-12 school had been harassed on the basis of their gender identity, 35% suffered physical abuse, and 15% had to leave school to escape. At the same time, there is a striking paucity of resources available to teachers and counselors, many of whom are unsure and anxious about even discussing the topic, much less offering guidance to a preadolescent child who is questioning their gender. While there has recently been a much-needed focus on school bullying and anti-LGBT harassment through projects such as the It Gets Better and Bully projects, teacher preparation and professional development on gender inclusion is virtually nonexistent.
The urgent need for such a focus was brought to national attention by a letter - that quickly went viral – written by an 11-year-old transgender girl named Sadie after President Obama’s recent inaugural address. While Sadie was inspired by the President’s inclusion of gay people in his speech, she wondered why he didn’t directly address trans people too. She wrote: Transgender kids like me are not allowed to go to most schools because the teachers think we are different from everyone else. Kids are told not to be friends with transgender kids, which makes us very lonely and sad. It would be a better world if everyone knew that transgender people have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.
Sadie’s words are an urgent reminder of the distance yet to travel in the struggle for dignity and respect for gender nonconforming people. And they lead one to wonder what the world would be like if all young people had a place as safe and welcoming to learn and grow as Kumu Hina’s Hawai’i. We believe that the KUMU HINA documentary will be a powerful tool to raise awareness about these issues and to promote dialogue, action and civic engagement on the global struggle for gender non-conforming people’s rights, all through the lens of a culture with a fundamentally more positive, inclusive and community-oriented philosophy of life.
We came to know Hina through our longstanding work in Hawai’i and trusted relationships with Hawaiian human rights activists. As filmmakers with a strong interest in social justice and equality, we immediately saw the potential for a film about her life to give voice to transgender and indigenous communities that have been too long ignored, misrepresented, and divided. We are fortunate that Hina shared our vision, and has given us complete and unparalleled access to film all aspects of her life and work. Her school, Halau Lokahi, has also been a staunch supporter of the project, and is delighted for the opportunity to present their Hawaiian culture-based approach to education to new audiences.
OUT IN THE SILENCE, our previous Sundance-supported PBS documentary about the largely invisible lives of LGBT people in rural America, demonstrated the ability that compelling films have to bring marginalized voices into the public square, help create much-needed community dialogue, and promote grassroots participation for social change. Combining public television broadcast with a robust engagement campaign, supported by a visionary public media funder, OUT IN THE SILENCE became a powerful example of a high impact social-issue documentary film. Its success was highlighted as a case study in two recent reports: Designing for Impact by the Center for Social Media at American University and The Good Pitch Review by the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation.
With similar support and visibility, our hope is that the stories in KUMU HINA will inspire viewers to think past the popular stereotypes of gender non-conforming, indigenous and other minority group members to view them as people to be valued and cherished rather than merely tolerated or accepted.
by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu
There have been several individuals lately that have challenged my political analyses, my tactics, my intentions, my sentiments and my strategies with regards to why and how I seek to empower our Kanaka Maoli people to the next level.
That next level isnʻt an agreed upon topic.
Hereʻs how I see it.
I am a pro-independent Hawaii supporter and I shall uphold my great and great-great grandparents signatures affixed to the petitions protesting annexation to the fullest extent that I can muster.
I used to be someone who threw daggers, darts and other stinging comments to legislators and other public officials and office holders and have really come full circle. However I’ve not stopped.
In fact, I’m constantly evaluating, strategizing, analyzing and assessing the level of impact that I’m having on the areas of our Hawaiian community affairs in which I’m involved.
I prefer to now use a more calculating and strategic approach to how I’m going to accomplish my goals.
Until such time that an Independent Hawaii and government controls our lands and natural and financial resources, along with the political and judicial system to leverage fines, penalties, sanctions, as well as impeach/incarcerate those who would bring insidious destruction of irreparable levels beyond what has already been brought i.e. colonization of our people/loss of land and language and culture (and the list goes on), I will choose to seek ways that will bring impact at the expense of those who have the control of resources to do so. Change is inevitable.
I will not focus on whether or not it is the Hawaiian or non-Hawaiian that is behind said change. Instead, I shall focus on what kind of change happens and the who, what, when, where, how, and why of it all at every last discussion table I can sit at.
Until our people control what goes on in Hawai’i and there is reassurance that our will be done and upheld beyond the will of other governments, then I will make chess moves to stay right on the kings and queens of the board.
I want developers to not move on projects until we determine some of the key details of their actions and efforts. I want legislators of the defacto government to create opportunities for me to even further influence numbers of people right in their own conference chambers. I want business and tourism officials to stop seeking opportunistic/Showʻike (mahalo Hale Mawae) folks to facilitate being the cultural face/voice/messenger/representative of my people and my islands and instead seek out folks who’ll try to keep things real and deliver culture that maintains integrity and dictates that Hollywood renderings of Hawai’i be relegated to things of the past.
I endeavor to control those who are “in control.” I don’t care so much that it’s the non-native responsible for implementation of change, but that it’s done on native terms that insist on integrity, honor, dignity and pride for the native status, not the American status.
I am not an American nor will I embrace the thought of being one.
In mind and heart, that is what I am.
Until such time that our independent government runs this show, I am forced to use an American passport and I’m ok with it. Do I want to be an American? No. But I like President Obama and think that he’s one of the best things that’s come to lead the U.S. and that he brings some saving grace to a nation and government that would continue to have relations with an independent Hawai’i regardless. (And that’s the U.S. and other countries as well).
I will go forward and try to set a different standard of norms and expectations along with a level of what is desirable in terms of language, culture and our people.
I will keep friends and family close, and keep potential enemies even closer until they cannot do without me.
I will demand a level of attention that will hopefully cripple them without my and other Kanaka Maoli input and share openly our knowledge in an effort to create a different norm and tune for them to start marching to. Marching, however, won’t be possible without the right gear and accouterments to aid in their march.
Let there be no mistake. I will ensure that anybody I come in to contact with shall know it is possible for tides to change … its just that that change has to be on native terms.
by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu:
The Hawaii Football Hall of Fame is certainly the most current of your accomplishments and Iʻm humbled that I was asked to be present on that morning as you received the honor.
You taught so many of us what Iʻm sure youʻre continuing to teach on Maui:
RESPECT, HUMILITY, COURAGE, HONOR, DIGNITY, PRIDE, INTEGRITY, HARD WORK, COMMITMENT, DEDICATION, HONESTY, AND LET ME NOT FORGET TO SAY, ACCEPTANCE.
Coach Gaison never let me feel like I was a “less than” person and always ensured that I was a part of the team.
Being a part of the team extended well beyond the players, but also to those who made the behind-the-scenes and sidelines efforts possible.
Your actions as well as your words illustrate the magnitude of your character and heart.
Being Kanaka Maoli, being Hawaiian, isnʻt contingent upon speaking Hawaiian, or pounding poi, or fishing, or dancing hula or any of those other “cultural” things.
Being Hawaiian starts on the inside, and You, Coach Blane Gaison are a most exemplary model of a Man of God, a Kanaka Maoli, a Hawaiian man who lives and breathes Aloha to the truest essence of the word.
You are also a husband and father to such a wonderful family who is blessed to have you in their lives.
Aloha Coach … youʻve not only touched so many of the football players and other athletes that youʻve taught and inspired, but also, youʻve empowered me to never quit.
By your example, you showed me how to find the conviction, courage, and resilience to get up and keep on getting back in the game even when the rest of the world would expect or wish failure.
And donʻt stop there, you reminded me how important it is to help others pick themselves up along the way.
May my Halau Lokahi PCS students, friends, and family know what a great man you are and how much youʻve contributed to my early years.
Those lessons help to sustain me through thick and thin.
I know youʻd probably read this and have a hard time accepting all the praise, but please, know how heartfelt this is.
Mahalo I Ke Akua for you and all that youʻve brought to me and so many more.
If Legislators Can’t Fix The Law, Abercrombie Says He Will Abandon The Development Plan
by Derrick DePledge, Honolulu Star-Advertiser - January 18, 2013:
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Thursday that he would consider a repeal of the Public Land Development Corp. if the state Legislature is unable to adjust the controversial law to satisfy public objections.
The governor said he believes in the intent behind the PLDC but doubts that the administrative rules process that drew opposition last year can reconcile concerns. He said state lawmakers would have to adjust the law so its “good intention can be implemented.”
“Public understanding and support are essential,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “If the Legislature cannot achieve this outcome, the possibility of repeal will ensue. I will take that outcome into consideration, but we cannot walk away, should that occur, without a solution that moves us forward.”
Abercrombie’s advisers have cautioned privately that the governor’s priorities, such as developing underused public school land to generate money to modernize schools, could be at risk as long as the debate is muddied by the PLDC.
The governor is expected to urge lawmakers to focus on redevelopment opportunities of school properties, sources say. Lawmakers are discussing an education facilities trust that could lease those public lands for commercial development, as well as a pilot project at a few school sites to test the concept.
The PLDC, set up as the development arm of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, was given broad exemptions from land use, planning and zoning laws as incentives to attract private developers for projects on state land. But the new corporation has not developed a single project — and has yet to adopt administrative rules — after vehement protests from environmental, labor and some Native Hawaiian interests.
Abercrombie defended the PLDC last year after the protests about administrative rules, dismissing some of the more vocal opponents as the “usual suspects” who wanted to be the arbiters of state development. At one point the governor said he would veto a repeal attempt.
But counsel from his advisers and the steady opposition led Abercrombie in late November to urge the PLDC to slow down the rules process. He said the future of the PLDC would be up to the Legislature, which had overwhelmingly supported the law in 2011.
Abercrombie issued his statement Thursday after reviewing the information that had been compiled by the DLNR and the suggested rule and regulation proposals.
The governor had cited the example of potential redevelopment of public school land when asked by reporters Wednesday about his position on the PLDC.
“What I’m impressed by the most is that virtually everybody agrees that we want to make the most productive use of our opportunities with public lands. And the fact that so many people are interested in seeing that gets done is very encouraging to me,” he said.
“To take a particular example, how do we use those lands that are devoted to public education in a way that will be productive for education and at the same time perhaps provide a revenue stream that will help support education?”
House and Senate leaders have said they will review legislation this session to either repeal or significantly amend the PLDC.
The first bill introduced in the Senate — Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua) — would repeal the law.
“There’s no doubt that the public has reacted negatively to the passage of the PLDC,” Hee said. “This has given many legislators, including myself, reason to believe that the bill was overly broad. So rather than tinker with it, I think it’s in everyone’s interest to repeal it outright and start fresh.”
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Wheeler-Wahiawa-Schofield), a PLDC advocate who has been disappointed by how the law has been implemented, will propose a bill that would substantially amend the law.
The bill would change the name of the PLDC to the Public-Private Partnership Corp. and require that the corporation conduct a pilot project in Wahiawa before developing any other projects.
Restrictions or conditions imposed by state or county agencies that transfer public land for development, such as the DLNR, the Department of Education or the city, would trump any exemptions. The bill, like a strategic plan for the PLDC recommended last year by Dela Cruz and Sen. Malama Solomon (D, Kaupulehu-Waimea-North Hilo), would also make clear that the corporation must comply with state laws regarding environmental review, historic preservation, open meetings, wage rates and ceded lands.
“Legislators who really want to improve Hawaii’s economy and create revenue without raising taxes are already making amendments, and I think that’s the way to go,” Dela Cruz said.
Others said it was too soon to tell what direction lawmakers would take on the PLDC this session.
“At this point we’re at the beginning of the legislative session, and one of the things I’ve learned in my short time here is that while four months is a short time, it’s also a long time,” said newly elected Sen. Laura Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo-Kailua), a former DLNR director who favors repeal. “And we’re just going to have to see how this plays out.”
by Sarah Zoellick for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
With swooping, rhythmic motions, hundreds of men, women, teenagers and preschoolers pounded taro into roughly 1,000 pounds of poi Wednesday at the state Capitol as part of a protest that drew hundreds of residents hoping to have their voices heard on the opening day of the legislative session.
They dipped their fingers in water and sprinkled moisture on the poi — balling it up and spreading it with the pounder; scraping it up and slapping it down — while activists spoke of Hawaiian sovereignty, Hawaiian-immersion charter school independence and financial support, the prevalence and possible danger of genetically modified organisms, the need for government transparency, and a repeal of the highly contested Public Land and Development Corp.
Four-year-old Kea McIntosh, a preschooler at Punana Leo o Manoa, said his favorite part about the pounding taro was “smashing it.”
“I’m doing poi,” he said proudly. “I’m going to make it like poi.”
Most of the protesters marched from the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. They arrived thrusting anti-GMO signs above their heads, yelling “a‘ole GMO” in unison, and transitioned into loud, rhythmic Hawaiian chanting as they approached the Capitol steps and nearly filled the courtyard.
Other signs read “Don’t disrupt the bones, what if it was your own?,” “When in doubt, don’t dig it out,” and “Save our kids, save our food, no GMOs.”
“This is Hawaii, our land, and we have to teach respect for it and love our land, so it kind of just opened my eyes to come and support the label GMO or no GMOs (movement),” said 18-year-old UH-Manoa student Roslyn Dayton as she pounded poi.
Jamaica Osorio, a 22-year-old New York University graduate student from Hawaii, recited a poem that she wrote in high school in 2008 titled “Kaulana na pua,” or “Famous are the Flowers,” about the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. She said that for her, the protest meant acknowledging those events that occurred 120 years ago today.
“It’s pretty special that so many people have showed up today to either talk about GMO or (from) the charter schools to talk about independence, because today (Wednesday) and tomorrow are pretty much the most important days of Hawaiian history and the future of our people,” Osorio said.
The protest also featured singing from Halau Lokahi Charter School students, songs written and performed by a GMO opponent and a hula performed by Hakipuu Learning Center students facing the Queen Liliuokalani statue.
Gary Hooser, a Kauai County councilman and former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, spoke to the audience in support of a repeal of the PLDC, which he said “allows for the development of public lands anywhere in the state.”
“Public lands: that means our beaches, our parks, our mountains,” he told the crowd. “Are we going to let them do that?”
Hooser then led the group to chant “Repeal” and “Label,” referring to GMO products. He said after his speech that he is hopeful the PLDC will be repealed this session.
Internationally known GMO protester Vandana Shiva of India called for the abolishment of GMO products. She traveled to Hawaii to speak about food justice at the protest and other events this week.
“The human work and the human mind has been made to look primitive, and the primitive mind of violence and war has been made to look as our future,” Shiva told the crowd. “We do not accept it.”
She said later, “Gardening is our future; not GMOs. Freedom is our future; not seed slavery.”
Alicia Maluafiti, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, said she does not support GMO-labeling legislation because it would increase food costs by up to 40 percent. GMO opponents, she said, are “a group of people that have a religious and philosophical opposition to this technology.”
“We’re farmers, so we’re really down here to support a lot of the agricultural priorities,” she said. “Food security is everyone’s business, and we want to make sure that we have enough affordable food for the people here in Hawaii so we’re going to be down here supporting land issues, labor, water, irrigation, infrastructure … You want to address food, you need to address the needs of the farmers.”
Reported by: Brianne Randle - KHON2 News (1/13/13):
Another human burial was found along Honolulu’s rail route Sunday morning.
This discovery was made during the last remaining trenching work to be done through the downtown corridor.
This latest find is close to where other human remains have been recently discovered as part of rail work, now that work has been put on hold.
Rail trenching work Sunday morning along Punchbowl near the downtown Federal Building turned up what the state has confirmed as a burial of human remains.
“It was an infant, not sure what the age would be, but again a young child,” says Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu of the Oahu Island Burial Council.
As soon as the find was made, Rail Authority officials and cultural monitors arrived at the site to address this latest discovery.
“The evidence shows that most likely this would be pre-Western contact,” Wong-Kalu says.
“That whole area on either side of Halekauwila street, Pohukaina to Queen Street is rife with native Hawaiian graves,” says rail critic Cliff Slater.
A lawsuit has halted the rail project since August for an Archeological Inventory Survey to be done, which is necessary before construction can continue.
Two-hundred thirty-two trenches have already been dug in the city center alone, but the State Historic Preservation Division asked that an additional 18 trenches be made. Sunday’s iwi find was at one of the the last two dig sites.
“Not withstanding todays finds, I’m not too sure what will happen in terms of any extra survey trenches that could be done,” Wong-Kalu says.
Slater says this will mean added time and money for the rail project, and wants HART to re-consider its alternatives.
“We could run a rail line on Beretania street, which Judge Tashima has talked about, that’s one option, our favorite is bus rapid transit, that would have no impact on native Hawaiian graves,” he says.
Wong-Kalu says The Oahu Island Burial Council will advocate that the iwi found Sunday be preserved in place.
“And we were re-assured by the rail CEO Dan Grabauskas that any and all iwi finds can remain in place,” she says.
HART says it is working with the state and Burial Council to determine the next course of action.
Grabauskas says all of the AIS work is on track to be completed ahead of schedule and expects rail construction in west Oahu to resume later this year.
See KHON2 News video HERE
Honolulu Star-Advertiser 1/1/13:
The venerable Merrie Monarch Festival will celebrate its 50th year in Hilo, March 31 to April 6.
The festival committee plans to bring back the barbershop quartet and King Kalakaua beard contests that took place in 1964, and the coronation pageant will once again be held at the Hilo Armory.
“I wanted to bring back what happened 50 years ago and to honor all those who made it happen,” said festival director Luana Kawelu. “I don’t want to forget our past. It’s a special tribute to all the kumu hula, past and present, who have dedicated their lives to hula.”
The 2013 Hoike will feature halau that participated from the start, including 1971 overall winner Hau‘oli Hula Girls, as well as Robert Cazimero’s Na Kamalei, the first kane winners, and the Men of Waimapuna.
Kumu hula Aloha Dalire, the first Miss Aloha Hula (1971), will perform, calling up all the former winners to join her on stage.
The Edith Kanaka‘ole Tennis Stadium, which has hosted the hula competition over the decades, is expected to undergo major renovations for the first time in many years. A new multipurpose building to serve as dressing rooms, upgraded restrooms and a larger lobby should be completed before the festival’s start.
The Merrie Monarch Festival’s origins date to 1963, when Helene Hale, Hawaii County chairwoman, was looking for a way to bring tourists to the island. The event debuted the next year.
Five years later the late Dottie Thompson (Kawelu’s mother) volunteered to take over as director of the foundering festival. She enlisted the late Uncle George Naope to invite the best hula dancers from around the isles to compete in honor of Kalakaua.
The hula competition itself was introduced in 1971, then a one-night event.
Today the weeklong festival with three nights of competition draws audiences from all over the globe while focusing on the same mission of keeping hula, the heartbeat of Hawaii, alive.
Construction of a Multipurpose Center Had Unearthed Hundreds of Historic Burials
by Ken Kobayashi for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
The state appellate court delivered a stinging blow to Kawaiaha‘o Church’s plans to build a multipurpose building in ruling Friday that an archeological survey should have been conducted before construction of the $17.5 million project began.
The appellate court had ordered a halt to excavation work in September by ruling that Native Hawaiian cultural advocate Dana Naone Hall would likely prevail on her claims that the construction threatened human remains in unmarked burials.
In a 37-page unanimous opinion by Chief Appeals Judge Craig Nakamura, a three-judge appellate panel ruled Friday in favor of Hall and held that the State Historic Preservation Division should have required the survey before the construction.
The court cited the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in August that mandated the halt to construction of the city’s rail project until an archeological survey was done for the entire 20-mile route.
“I’m elated because of the past 10 years there’s been an erosion of the protections afforded to prehistoric and historic sites,” Hall said.
She said the failure to prepare the survey led to the “tragic and unnecessary desecration” of more than 600 burials.
“The (court’s) opinion opens up the path for a proper reburial of the iwi kupuna in their original resting place,” she said.
The church issued a brief statement.
“The church is reviewing the decision by the court and conferring with our attorneys to determine what our options are,” said William Haole, chairman of the Kawaiaha‘o Church board of trustees.
The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represented Hall, said the appellate court ruled that the efforts by the church and state to “circumvent” the State Historic Preservation law were illegal.
In its ruling the appellate court said the high court’s rail ruling in August was controlling.
The appellate judges concluded “that the SHPD should have required Kawaiaha‘o Church to complete an AIS (archeological inventory survey) before concurring in the (multipurpose center) project and that the SHPD violated its own rules in failing to require an AIS before permitting the project to go forward.”
The state and the church argued that Native Hawaiian burials uncovered during the project were “Christian burials” that aren’t protected by the law, the appellate court noted.
But the appellate court said it disagreed and said the law’s protections of “burial sites do not turn on religious distinctions.”
The removal of more than 600 burials from unmarked graves had upset many Native Hawaiians and some members of Hawaii’s oldest church.
As of Sept. 9 church contractor Cultural Surveys Hawaii had removed 605 burials and thousands of individual bones, according to a report it submitted to SHPD.
Hall filed her lawsuit in 2009 maintaining that SHPD wasn’t following state law protecting historic burials.
The church asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s September decision issuing an injunction halting excavation work. The high court denied the request Tuesday.
Appellate Judges Katherine Leonard and Lawrence Reifurth joined in Nakamura’s opinion.
The state said it could not comment until it reviewed the ruling, Deputy Attorney General James Walther said.
The two-story multipurpose center on church grounds is planned to have 30,000 square feet of space for classrooms, conference rooms, a kitchen, a library, a bookstore and a small museum.
by Jon Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio:
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and House Speaker Calvin Say have wisely said that they will consider a repeal of the Public Land Development Corp.
Say has tried to defend his approval of a waiver that gave the public less than two hours notice for a public hearing on the bill that established the PLDC.
He also said he does “not believe that the PLDC would abuse the exemption authority.”
The reality, however, is that government does not operate on personal beliefs. There is no mechanism in the PLDC law to ensure it upholds its constitutional obligation to protect the public’s interests,
The public response that originally Abercrombie described as “hysteria” was actually a widely diverse resistance coming from environmentalists, farmers, labor unions, Hawaiian sovereignty and independence groups, schools, counties and individuals — all united against a law that would have allowed a small group of individuals to spur the commercial development of public lands, including the “ceded lands,” without input and opposition from the public or following the state’s own land-use, zoning or construction laws.
Here is the reality: Better management of state-controlled lands is a necessity. Hawaii has incredibly rich resources, many of which — like fisheries and agricultural lands — have been wasted or hustled into development because it provides short-term jobs and revenues for the state.
For example, sacred lands have been leased to the university for multimillion-dollar telescopes on Mauna Kea for $1 a year, without considering the environmental costs and the insult to Native Hawaiian cultural beliefs.
Yet, Hawaii’s resources are part of a “public trust,” originally created by the Hawaiian monarchy and adopted in the state Constitution.
The government is mandated to properly manage and balance the use of these lands, in conjunction with the people.
Management requires intelligent consultation that is not simply a wholesale genuflecting to business and commercial interest.
Proper management must include input from cultural practitioners, farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, labor, business people, educators, planners — a wide body of the community that can help the government make balanced decisions about our special places in the context of future use of Hawaii’s lands.
And all of this must be done with the recognition that Hawaiian political claims to these lands could result in a profound change to that management.
Handing the storehouse keys to developers and real estate agents will not ensure prosperity. Wider consultation and participation is a far better alternative.
Repeal the PLDC and start over.
Jon Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio, a board member of KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, submitted this article to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on behalf of his organization.