FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana Announces Call to Action:Pule, Alert and Positive Reflections for the Current Kaho‘olawe Fire
Kanaloa-Kaho‘olawe - Kaho‘olawe is a sacred island that in modern times has served as a foundation for the revitalization of Hawaiian cultural practices. On the morning of Saturday, February, 22, 2020, a brushfire started on the southwest end of the island (Kealaikahiki - Honokanaiʻa). Since then, over 5,400 acres have been burned by the fire. As of this afternoon, Tuesday, February 25, the fire continues to consume the island.
Craig Neff, a Senior Advisor of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ‘Ohana (ʻOhana) and owner of “The Hawaiian Force” in Hilo stated, “As the extended family for Kaho‘olawe for the past 44 years, we have kept the spirit of the land alive through our cultural and spiritual practices and clearing the island of invasive species and healing her natural resources. Now, our ‘Ohana feels like our ʻhome’ is on fire. We call upon the public to focus on pule, strong prayer, to provide rain for the island.”
This call is rooted in the practices of Hawaiian ancestors who historically composed rain chants. “We are especially focused on manifesting the abundant rains, known as Nāulu,” declares Dr. Kaliko Baker, a leader of Makahiki ceremonies with the ʻOhana and an assistant professor of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language. Nāulu is a rain cloud that forms on Maui in the uplands of ʻUlupalakua and has carried rain to Kahoʻolawe from historic times to present (Image 2).
Image 2: The Nāulu rain cloud formation, by Anela Evans, from the water looking towards Kaho‘olawe. Naulu can be seen connecting Honua‘ula, Maui with Honua‘ula, Kaho‘olawe. The rain bridge is distinct, and can be seen year round but has reduced over the years due to deforestation on Maui and Kaho‘olawe. Reforestation efforts in both locations are underway.
An example of such a rain chant, as shared by Dr. Baker, is “No Leialoha”. This chant comes from Kamapua‘a, a demi-god, who calls for his sister Leialoha to bring rain down on to the earth, this rain form is called Nāulu.
‘O ka haka lei o Paoa,
Ō Māhele ana ka ua me ka lā ē,
E iho e iho mai ana ta ua i lalo nei,
E ka pūnohu nui o ‘Ikuā,
Ka‘alewa ka ua koko!
Po a Kama a ka po i hana ai,
He ‘ino nou, he pa ‘a ia, he pa ‘a ai!
E uli ē, ma hea ke ala!?”
“In Hawaiian traditions, fire is viewed as instrumental in creating new lands and life as well as purging or cleansing the land of elements that are unnecessary. It is an essential part of the life cycle and serves to catalyze new growth and activity,” notes ‘Ohana member ‘Ānela Evans of Lāna‘i.
Dr. Davianna McGregor, ‘Ohana member and professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa acknowledges both the negative and positive impacts of fire. “Our immediate concern about the fire is the destruction of infrastructure, traditional hale, water catchments and tanks, storage units, equipment and supplies that will be costly to replace,” said McGregor. “At the same time, we can foresee the positive impacts of the fire - the clearing of invasive species, the revelation of archaeological sites, opening up the coastal area for an Ala Loa or around the island trail that has already taken 10 years to clear. We can build upon the remnants of the fire and move forward.”
Image 3: Dr. Clay Traurnicht (@claytrau on Twitter) of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Natural Resource Environmental Management (NREM) Wildland Fire Cooperative Extension network identifies extent of previous fire reach, or fire scars, on Kaho‘olawe to provide understanding about where the fire is burning and where it may weaken. Fires are currently burning over areas where they were recorded in 2002-2003.
The fire is reportedly being fueled by bio-masses of grass that are invasive to Hawai‘i. Currently, one physical structure that is utilized by the ‘Ohana during volunteer and cultural accesses has been consumed by the fire as of 4:00 PM today Tuesday February 25, 2020. The brushfire is hoped to cease once it reaches the hardpan, a dense layer of soil that is impervious to water. The hardpan provides for a natural fire break on the landscape (Image 3) and a physical separation from Hakioawa, the basecamp for the ʻOhana on the northeast end of Kaho‘olawe. While natural firebreaks are present to help reduce the spread of the fires impact, members of the ‘Ohana remain vigilant.
The next visual assessment by Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission staff and ‘Ohana members will occur on Thursday, February 27, 2020. We also ask our community to keep the health and well-being of the members of the Maui Fire Department and the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission staff and all monitoring the fire in our thoughts.
The protocol for brush fires on Kaho‘olawe is for total evacuation due to remaining threats of surface and subsurface unexploded ordnance, also known as UXO. UXO may also be exposed by the fire. Members of the ‘Ohana are trained to identify ordnance, report sightings, and steer volunteers clear of marked areas.
Evans of Lāna‘i shares, “we appreciate our community’s willingness to kōkua and we mahalo those who have reached out to offer resources. At this time, the ‘Ohana is focusing our efforts on manifesting rains to squelch the brushfire and re-green our beloved island in conjunction with our overall mission to heal the land. While the landscape consumed by the fire may be left scorched, the rich cultural and historical significance of these special places will always remain.”
Kealaikahiki, where the brushfire originated, is home to cultural sites actively used by the ʻOhana for the Closing Makahiki ceremony. Kealaikahiki is tied to ancient voyaging traditions and is home to a navigational compass known as Kuhike‘e. Wayfinders, voyagers, and those in-training from around the Pacific have gathered to study navigation and train in contemporary times at Kealaikahiki on Kuhike‘e (Image 4). The voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society have commenced many of their journeys to and from the South Pacific at Kealaikahiki where the fires have cleared the land of brush.
Other culturally and historically significant resources in the fire-impacted areas include old-growth maʻo (Gossypium tomentosum, an at-risk, endemic cotton) fields at Kealaikahiki, Honokoʻa, where Kalākaua journeyed to cleanse himself when ascending the throne, and Puʻu Moiwi, an ancient lua koʻi, or adze quarry.
The Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana is a grassroots organization dedicated to the island of Kaho‘olawe with a vision of Aloha ‘Āina and the mission to perpetuate Aloha ‘Aina throughout our islands by means of cultural, educational, and spiritual activities that heal and revitalize the bio-cultural resources of Kaho‘olawe. In our work to heal Kaho‘olawe, from ranching (1858-1910; 1918-1952) and military use (1941-1993), we strengthen our relationship and pay respect to elemental phenomena connected to land.
Audio for “NO LEIALOHA” provided in attachment and is chanted by Dr. Kaliko Baker.
To donate to the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana visit: www.protectkahoolaweohana.org
For conversations relevant to the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana on social follow:
@kahoolawe (IG); @protectkahoolaweohana (FB)
Dr. Davianna McGregor, 808-222-9728