Saluting Toilers In He‘eia Ahupua‘a
The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii’s coveted Kako’o ‘Aina award went to a team, rather than an individual, this year as TNC wanted to honor the efforts of seven community partners who are restoring a substantial part of Windward Oahu.
That would be the He’eia ahupua’a in Kaneohe, and all the awardees assembled last month at He’eia State Park for the ceremonies, which began with an original oli by TNC’s senior scientist and cultural adviser Sam Gon III.
“We are inspired by the collective effort of these organizations that have come together to do what a lot of people only talk about – working from mauka to makai to restore a traditional Hawaiian ahupua’a,” said TNC executive director Suzanne Case. “The job of restoring an ahupua’a is arduous and complex, requiring tremendous patience and cooperation.”
The representative of each group received an o’o, or Hawaiian digging stick, made by Mark Hee:
* Mahealani Cypher of Ko’olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, for its boundary marker project, now spreading across the state, and for establishing Kako’o ‘Oiwi and Mahuahua ‘Ai o Hoi to return area marshlands to traditional stewardship and productivity.
* Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and Hui Ku Maoli Ola, for 14 years of growing and promoting native plants from his He’eia nursery, and for restoring 60 acres of native landscape into a cultural and educational site at the end of Haiku Road.
* Jerry Kaluhiwa of Kako’o ‘Oiwi, which has cleared 10 acres of area wetland in a responsible manner and established two acres of operating lo’i with the goal of returning He’eia to its “breadbasket” status.
* Hi’ilei Kawelo of Paepae o He’eia, which has been the hard-working guardian and caretaker of He’eia Fishpond since 2006. Since then, the walls are getting stronger, invasive mangroves are disappearing, and fish are growing, thanks to its crew and thousands of volunteers.
* Jono Blodgett of the state Division of Aquatic Resources, which has cleared 138,000 pounds of invasive algae from Kaneohe Bay’s reef in the past year. It also raised and seeded the reefs with native sea urchins to eat algae.
* Charles Reppun of Hui Ulu Mea’ai, a group of local farmers who recycle that algae as fertilizer and compost, have helped restore lo’i kalo and advocate for farming water rights.
* Jo-Ann Leong of the renowned Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, which provides marine research that fuels much of the progress made in restoring Kaneohe Bay waters, including the Super Sucker reef restoration project.
“Their hard work and continuing efforts not only benefit the He’eia community,” Case added, “but the entire state.”