Category Archives: Hawaiian Role Models

There is a Pipeline for Hawaiian Astronomers

Sunday’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald had an article about Hawaiian astronomers testifying in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing last week.

From the article Astronomers Make Their Case:

Native Hawaiian astronomer Paul Coleman says the Thirty Meter Telescope would not just help unlock the mysteries of the universe, but also provide him a link to his ancestors.

Coleman, along with fellow astronomer Heather Kaluna, were the last of TIO International Observatory’s witnesses called in its ongoing contested case hearing this past week.

Read the rest

I first met Heather Kaluna back in 2006 or 2007 when I was a Keaholoa STEM advisor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The Keaholoa STEM program aims to “increase enrollment, support, and graduation rates of Native Hawaiian students at UH-Hilo in science & mathematics disciplines, and increase familiarity and the use of related technology.”

When I spoke to the college students back then, I told them about starting the Adopt-a-Class program at Keaukaha Elementary School. That program raised money to send students on field trips to places like ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take.

Heather was in the Keaholoa program. After I spoke, she came up and asked me how she could donate money to help the kids at Keaukaha. She was a “starving college student” herself. I knew she should be spending her money on putting herself through school, not worrying about the kids at Keaukaha. It stuck with me.

She studied astronomy at UH-Hilo and then UH-Manoa. Now she’s a postdoctoral fellow at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Paleontology. I saw her recently when she and I, along with Barry Taniguchi, ended up on the selection committee for the new Institute for Astronomy (IfA) director.

There is a pipeline of Hawaiians coming up in astronomy. Paul Coleman was the first native Hawaiian astronomer. Then came Heather, and behind her is Mailani Neal.

Students that want to be Hawaiian astronomers

I attended the 2015 Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) hearing when OHA voted to rescind its support of the TMT. Mailani, then a high school student at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, told trustees, in tears, that she wanted to go into astronomy. Now she is on the mainland getting her degree and she will be an astronomer.

And I know of at least one more person who may be in the Hawaiian astronomer pipeline. On one of my last tours of the banana farm, there was a girl from Kamehameha Schools. It was a couple years ago and I think she may have been in eighth grade. She hung close to me and I thought maybe she wanted to go into farming.

But afterward she came up and told me, in a soft voice, that she wanted to be an astronomer.

I really regret that I didn’t follow up and connect her with Heather and Mailani. That I didn’t tell them, “Look, here’s another girl coming up the pipeline.” After the fact, I tried to find out who that young girl was but I wasn’t successful.

I’m so conscious of young people in elementary school, middle school, high school. They have aspirations you don’t know about, and they need help when they need help.

It’s like the story I just told here about my cousin Frank Kamahele. He was 11 years old when he knew he was going to be an airplane pilot. He didn’t know how, but he knew he would be. And he was.

It still bothers me that I didn’t connect that young girl with the others already on the path, and I’d still like to. That was maybe two years ago. If anyone knows who she is, please let me know.

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DOT Turns Over Palekai to Youth Education Group

On Monday, the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation signed over about four acres of land at Keaukaha’s Palekai, formerly known as Radio Bay, to the non-profit group Keaukaha One Youth Development.

Palekai

The 12-month revocable permit will allow Keahi Warfield and others in the community, including Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, president of the Keaukaha Community Association, to spearhead a community project to restore the double-hulled navigating canoe Hokualaka‘i.

Palekai

The terms of the revokable permit are for twelve months, and then the Harbors Divison has the option to extend for an additional 30 calendar days. Extensions beyond the 30 days will require Land Board Approval.

It was a beautiful, breezy sunny day when the signing ceremony took place, outside next to the bay. Hokualaka‘i was on one side of the gathering and Mauna Kea was a backdrop across the bay on the other. Community members, legislators and employees from the Department of Transportation were present.

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Keahi Warfield, who runs a children’s after-school program there on the site, said Keaukaha is an ocean community, and the purpose of the non-profit is to ensure children understand ocean activities.

Hawai‘i State Senator Lorraine Inouye spoke about the transfer of Palekai being unusual and a special day for the community.

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“Rarely do you see this kind of transfer happen between the state and a community,” she said. “It’s nice to know agencies and the state respond to a community’s request.”

patrick kahawaiolaa

Kahawaiola‘a spoke too, calling it a momentous occasion and a first. “We will have to live up to the example so more partnerships like this can be made throughout the State.”

They will, he said. “We are fierce Keaukaha people. We will work hard and we will show you what we can do.”

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Kalakaua at Lick Observatory

Did you know that Kalakaua was a true astronomy buff? He sailed across the ocean and rode a stagecoach up to the Lick Observatory outside San Jose.

My friend Peter Matlock, who just visited Lick Observatory, sent me this account of his visit:

My wife and I were recently at the University of California’s Lick Observatory, built outside San Jose back in 1880. 

For all those invoking the monarchy as they protest at the new leading location for astronomy, it might be useful to remind them that one of the first visitors to Lick, and an evident supporter, was King Kalakaua.

When Kalakaua made the trip in the 1880s, there was a single lane dirt road and it took 4 to 5 hours to travel by stagecoach from San Jose—and this after the voyage to get from Hawai`i to San Jose in the first place.

It still takes a high sense of dedication to and appreciation for the science of astronomy to make the trip to the Lick Observatory. Today it’s an hour drive and an elevation gain of over 4,200 feet from San Jose up a twisty narrow mountain road (365 turns, many hairpins)—often with a cliff on one side and a sheer drop-off on the other (and generally no guard rails).

I thought you might like to see some pictures I took there, as well.

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When the Lick Observatory  was built, it had the then-largest refracting and reflecting telescopes in the world.

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This facility was the leading astronomy facility at the end of the 19th century and has a long tradition of scientific innovations and discoveries. These include the almost immediate discovery of the fifth moon of Jupiter, use of photography and spectroscopy to record data and revolutionize our ability to probe and understand the universe, development of adaptive optics technology to improve resolution of astronomical images in real time, and Lick’s newest telescope—the Automated Planet Finder to discover planets outside our solar system.
The Lick Observatory continues to be a pioneer facility in astronomy.  
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Maku’u Stories, Part 5: What Uncle Sonny Kamahele Taught Me About Business

Let me tell you something really interesting I learned from my Uncle Sonny Kamahele. He had 20 acres in Maku‘u, in Puna on the Big Island. There was a rare kipuka there with soil that was 10 feet deep, no rocks or anything. There was a spring in one corner of his property.

I was just out of college with an accounting degree and lots of ideas about business. So I looked at his land and wondered if he would lease me 10 acres to grow bananas. I scratched my chin and thought about how I could grow 35,000 pounds per acre on those 10 acres. Maybe 300,000 pounds a year if I took into account turn around space.

And yet on the other 10 acres, Uncle Sonny was making his living with just 10 or 20 hills of watermelons, with maybe four plants on each hill. People would come from miles around to buy his watermelons. It provided him with enough income to support himself and to send money to his wife and son in the Philippines.

Here’s the lesson I learned from him: It’s not about how big your farm is. Your business is successful if it supports your situation. I learned a lot from Uncle Sonny, but I think that’s the most important thing I learned from him.

That’s what I always look at when I visit a farm. Not how big it is, or how much money it makes, but how it operates, and whether it solves the problem it is trying to solve.

Here’s why I’m telling you this right now. We have a real energy problem looming. I think the situation with oil is very serious, and there are definitely going to be winners and losers in the world. We need to position ourselves to be winners, and it’s going to take all of us, big and small.

How are we going to feed Hawai‘i?

Every one of us is going to play a role in it – from the largest farmers to the small folks growing food in their backyard. Do you remember in the plantation camps, especially the Filipino camps, how the yards were always planted with food? Beans, eggplants, the whole thing. I don’t see it so much anymore, but we can do it again.

We are lucky on the Big Island. We’re not crowded and everybody has room to grow food. You know how you can tell we have plenty space? Everybody’s yard is too big to mow! We have the ability to do this.

It’s going to take all of us. It’s not just about any one of us, it’s about all of us, from the biggest to the smallest.

I’m lucky to have had my Uncle Sonny Kamahele to learn from when I was younger. I spent a lot of time with him and I got a real feeling for how he made decisions, which was old style.

His lifestyle was a real connection to the past, too. His lawn and the whole area were always immaculate, practically manicured. He lived pretty close to the old ways with a lot of remnants from the past. His red and green house had stones from down the beach under the pillars, and lumber over the dirt floors. He built beds on those floors and then had five or six lauhala mats on the beds instead of mattresses; old style. There was a redwood water tank.

He listened to the County extension folks, and I learned from that, too – to pay attention to the people who know something.

But one of the most important things I learned was that your business, big or small, is a success if it supports your particular situation.

See also:
Maku‘u Stories, Part 1: My Kamahele Family in Maku’u
Maku‘u Stories, Part 2: Cousin Frank Kamahele
Maku‘u Stories, Part 3: Uncle Sonny
Maku‘u Stories, Part 4: Tutu Meleana & The Puhi

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Around The World on a Wa’a

Richard Ha writes:

The Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokule‘a and Hikianalia departed Hilo a couple days ago, headed for Tahiti on the first leg of an around-the-world voyage. Kalepa Babayan is captain of the Hokule‘a, and he melds ancient ways with modern technology and education. He is one of the most solidly grounded person I know. 

Hokule‘a crew member Na‘alehu Anthony blogged about leaving Hilo in It Takes a Community to Launch a Canoe:

Literally thousands of members of our ʻohana waʻa (canoe family) have come to see the canoes.  School groups by the busloads have come to share mele (songs) and hoʻokupu (offerings) to the canoes and crew. But if one looks a little closer, they can start to really notice how well this community still understands the sense of aloha. Every day for the past 10 days this community has come out to feed the crew three meals a day.  Cars have been dropped off to help with last minute runs to the store. People have come without any expectation of personal gain to give of their time to just help us prepare for this 47,000 mile journey. Just this morning after sunrise, one of the uncles from nearby came to drop off a dozen or so lei, that he personally strung together with flowers from his yard, just to “Aloha” the canoes.  He didn’t even ask to come aboard, rather, he left them in the care of one of our watch captains to bless the canoes with the sweet fragrance that reminds us all of Hilo.

We did our small part by supplying bananas and tomatoes, and feel very privileged to be able to support Hawai‘i's voyagers, along with hundreds of others. We learned, early on, that the voyaging crews like fresh fruit, especially longer into the trip, so we do this as much as we can on the voyages out of Hilo. We do our best to stage the ripening at different times, and try to see how far into the voyage we can get the bananas to last. We once got a batch to last until the crew reached the equator. 

Keaukaha was the host community for the wa‘a and their crews, and its president, Patrick Kahawaiola'a, was in charge of coordinating. June and I went to Palekai to see the canoes the other day.

As we walked down to the water, we ran into Bruce Blankenfeld, the captain of Hikianalia. I knew he had lots on his mind, so I introduced myself by saying we had supplied bananas on previous trips, and that they should "try keep the bananas separated so they no all go off at one time." He knew exactly what I meant. I gave him the thumbs up and we kept on going. 

To me, the voyage of the Hokule‘a and the Hikianalia represents hope for mankind. It is about the spirit of aloha. It is about using the resources available, modern and ancient, in a smart way. But mostly it's about attitude. There are a thousand reasons why no can. We need just one reason why, CAN.

From www.hokulea.com:

Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons

Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia, our Polynesian voyaging canoes, are sailing across Earth’s oceans to join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world. Covering 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, and 26 countries, the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage will highlight diverse cultural and natural treasures and the importance of working together to protect them. The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage began in 2013 with a Mālama Hawaiʻi sail around our archipelago, and will continue through 2017 when our new generation of navigators take the helm and guide Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia back to Polynesia after circumnavigating the globe.

The Hawaiian name for this voyage, Mālama Honua, means “to care for our Earth.” Living on an island chain teaches us that our natural world is a gift with limits and that we must carefully steward this gift if we are to survive together. As we work to protect cultural and environmental resources for our children’s future, our Pacific voyaging traditions teach us to venture beyond the horizon to connect and learn with others. The Worldwide Voyage is a means by which we now engage all of Island Earth—practicing how to live sustainably, while sharing, learning, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of this precious place we all call home.

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A Journey Back

Richard Ha writes:

We had no idea there was a stream running under the green sugar cane in the foreground of this picture. This is near our new hydroelectric plant. 

Cane

Here’s what we saw after we cleared some of the cane. Amazing!

Another great natural resource!

Awhile back I was asked to speak to students in the Hawai‘i Life Styles program at Hawai‘i Community College. The program has three tracks: hula, fishing and farming. Since then, I’ve kept in touch, and recently Keone Chin and Keali‘i Lilly came and helped clear the cane away. Keone is outreach specialist and Keali‘i is mahi‘ai (farming) support for I Ola Haloa, the Hawai‘i Life Styles program.

Though on the one hand we are using our property at the farm in a modern way, as in with the hydroelectric system, on the other hand, we are looking back at how the land was used in the past.

We have decided to plant canoe plants around the hydro area, to get a feel for how Hawaiian sustained themselves and what they used. I’ve also been talking to Gary Eoff, who’s a well-known expert in making traditional cordage, and we’re talking about planting some of those plants. Eventually we’d like to make plant materials available for others who want to use them.

Gary also grows gourds. You know what I think of when I think about gourds and cordage? I think Tupperware. You can use them to carry things around, and store food. Imagine – Hawaiians even had Tupperware back then. They really didn’t lack for much.

Everything comes down to net energy minus the cost of your food. What’s left over determines your lifestyle. It’s a little more complex than that, but it’s valuable in that it gives us a way to compare how people lived in the old days compared to now. If you use your energy efficiently, maybe you can sit around and go surfing a lot.

So we are just starting the process of figuring out how to use the land around the hydro plant, and going through the exercise with the folks from the HCC Hawai‘i Life Styles program. We are going on this journey together. It’s truly exciting.

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Room With a View

Richard Ha writes:

This is the view from my “office” window.

View

I took it from the air-conditioned cab of my bulldozer, where I can even charge my iPhone. I was on a conference call yesterday while I was in the middle of clearing some brush that we are going to replace with something more productive. Not bad, huh?
Bamboo

We’re busy putting our marginal lands into production. While we’re at it, we need to provide safety barriers using dual-use plants and trees. We need to protect the streams by preventing erosion and runoff over the long term. If we can accomplish this with plants that provide food, so much the better.

On the land surrounding the hydro generator, we want to highlight the modern and the ancient. The hydro generator represents the modern, and the plants the Polynesian navigators brought with them in their canoes are of particular interest to me.

Being a banana farmer, I am familiar with the cooking bananas, the mai‘a maoli and the mai‘a popoulu. The mai‘a maoli produced a large, heavy bunch. I remember thinking, I would have put that in the canoe as well. The mai‘a popoulu was probably a backup. It was susceptible to wind and not very strong, relative to competition from grasses, etc.

Anybody have those varieties? I don’t see them aroundanymore. They succumbed to the fusarium wilt, like the Bluefield bananas did in the 50s. That caused the world banana trade to shift to the Cavendish type of banana, which are starting to succumb to another race of the fusarium wilt. That is the biggest threat overhanging the world banana industry today.

More pictures from my bulldozer. That’s bamboo in the distance. It’s less than three years old, and I’m guessing it’s 60-plus feet tall and 5 feet in diameter now. That’s with only two applications of fertilizer.

We have ‘opae in this healthy stream on our farm.

All the rose apple trees on Wai‘a‘ama Stream succumbed to a fungus a short time ago. We are going to plant other trees here, which will keep invasive species down and also help to keep the river cool.

This soil was fallow after a banana crop, and as I was walking along I saw earthworms. Healthy soil.

(I videotaped an earthworm!)

I am fascinated by our Hawaiian ancestors’ ability to survive, well, in a world without draft animals and metals.

I’m planning to write more about all this from a farmer’s point of view.

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Noelani Kalipi & Kaiu Kimura Named Omidyar Fellows

Richard Ha writes:

The Omidyar Fellows has announced its inaugural class of statewide Hawai‘i leaders -13 people chosen from more than 150 applicants -and two of them are members of our Big Island Community Coalition (BICC). Wow!

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Read about all the Fellows here.

Here’s how the program is described:

Hawaii’s future will be shaped by the ability of its leaders to meet the increasingly complex challenges facing our state. That’s why it’s important to cultivate a community of emerging executives and to equip them with the skills and relationships they’ll need to collectively transform Hawaii.

In the fall of 2012, a diverse group of talented local leaders will be convened as the first class of Omidyar Fellows.  Over a 15-month period, Fellows will participate in a rigorous program that’s designed to build stronger leaders, more effective organizations, and cross-sector connections that are necessary to collectively affect community change. Omidyar Fellows will cover all costs associated with the program for each participant. And while the investment is significant (estimated at over $50,000 per participant), so is the promise of a group of leaders with the skills and experience needed to help lead Hawaii into the future.

The program is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment by Omidyar Fellows to make a positive difference with the knowledge and network gained and to help subsequent generations of emerging leaders. The cumulative impact of this extraordinary learning opportunity has the promise to be a life changer for Omidyar Fellows and a game changer for the people of Hawaii.

I attended the kick-off reception, and after all the speaking, what I was left with is that the Omidyar Fellows are about the greater good. Though it wasn’t said in these exact words,what I took away was they would focus on the question “What about the rest?”

This is what we are doing in the BICC, too. It is so appropriate that Kumu Lehua, when we were in the early days of the Thirty Meter Telescope effort, asked me that exact question. I never forgot it.

I am involved because Noe asked me to be her sponsor, and that’s a big deal to me. These young leaders are really special people and to be associated with them is something else.

Noe is interesting in that she is completely comfortable and effective operating in various different worlds. She totally fits in around here, local style, and you’d never know she spent 15 years in Washington D.C., where she worked in Senator Akaka’s office. Yet when she’s in Washington, she is completely comfortable talking with people at the congressional level. And she’d never tell you that she was a lawyer in the Army Airborne corps and used to jump out of airplanes.

She’s an impressive person – organized, steady and very focused. She thinks big!

I recognize this leadership ability in both Noe and Ka‘iu. I’m really happy about this because I’m looking at the future and it’s obvious to me that they both have that kind of grounding, that “What about the rest of us?” This means the moral compass is
clear. The direction is clear. You know where they are all the time.

Congratulations, Noe and Ka’iu. You guys make us all proud.

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Surfboards For Skibs & His Aloha Spirit

Richard Ha writes:

Yesterday I received an email. The East Hawai‘i Cultural Center was looking for Bradda Skibs, because someone had donated 10 surfboards for his program. 

I know Skibs and I wrote about his great "malama ka ‘aina" program before.

I said that what Brudda Skibs is doing is "a manifestation of 'aloha spirit.'"

"This is what is going to keep us together as a society when push comes to shove," he says. "We need to feel a part of our community, make more friends and stay close to our family."

“What we’re doing is real,” says Skibs. “We could change this island. We’re doing it already. That’s our job right now – the future of our children."

Skibs and I are both great-great-great grandsons of Kamahele Nui of Puna.

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Working With First Nations Fellows

I have been asked to be a resource partner for the next cohort of First Nations Fellows. The program’s vision is to develop well-balanced First Nations leaders who serve their communities through important work in community, public or professional roles. I feel so honored to have been asked.

This program is the brain child of Neil Hannahs, who directs the land assets division of  Kamehameha Schools. People don’t really know that the First Nations’ Futures program was the first program to do outreach about geothermal on Hawai‘i Island. I was invited to be a part of the program at dinner at Oahu Country Club when the project was assigned.

This video on growing the next generation of farmers was taken of the second group I worked with.

This one upcoming is the third I will be involved with, and I cannot be more pleased to be working with tomorrow’s Hawaiian leaders.

The First Nations’ Future program is a proactive solution to the problem of the end of growth.

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