Culture is guiding plan

Editor’s note: This is in response to a letter from Kailua Neighborhood Board chairman Chuck Prentiss, published in the June 4 edition, regarding a meeting on the Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Master Plan draft.

Dear Editor, Kawainui Master Plan outcry: We ask you to reconsider.

We have proposed to fund, build and manage a 501(c) (3) Hawaiian Culture Center and iwi kupuna preserve at Wai’auia. This center, Hika’alani, is now being characterized as a for-profit, marsh-poisoning tourist trap complete with a drop-off area for visitor industry buses. Despite our repeated efforts to define the center as a LEED-certified, non-polluting, kauhale-modeled facility for the transmission of traditional knowledge to the families of our halau (not to tourists of any kind on any mode of transportation), the opposition has plucked the phrase “culture center” from our Hika’alani context, given it a Polynesian Culture Center spin, and raised a hue and cry against our desecration of our own kulaiwi. Nothing could be further from our hearts or more at odds with our almost 40-year record of commitment to Hawaiian culture education in Kailua.

We think that the same hue and cry holds true for the proposed Hawaiian education and stewardship centers at Kalaheo (canoe and voyaging), Kapa’a (culture and environment) and Ulupo (spirituality, agriculture and food-sovereignty). All are proposed by Kailua Hawaiian nonprofit (or soon-to-be-nonprofit) organizations led by members of the Kailua Hawaiian community. All are meant as place-based classrooms for the teaching, learning, practicing and growing of our native culture. But all are being targeted as conspirators in a master plan bent on promoting a tourist invasion of our Kailua home.

We view the Draft Master Plan through an entirely different lens; we see it as allowing for a permanent Hawaiian presence at Kawainui, as providing us with the opportunity to engage with our own ‘aina and manage our own legacy, as crediting us with the ability to steer our own canoe. We would seize that hoe uli, we would put paddles in the water for our long journey home to self-determination. This is “development” of an entirely different sort than that which is now being argued over in the usual forums.

The Draft Master Plan and appendices (these are especially important) can be downloaded at It’s not an easy read, and there is lots of room, and time, for criticism and improvement. But we urge you to resist the urge to skim, cherry-pick, jump to conclusions and howl in outrage (culture center=PCC=anathema!). We ask that you not throw out the bathwater without considering the babies.

Me ka ha’aha’a, Mapuana and Kihei de Silva