KAHOOLAWE: NURSERY FOR HAWAII’S CULTURAL REBIRTH

Editorial

The Maui News

MAUI, Hawaii (Dec. 6) – Kahoolawe, the uninhabited fourth island making up Maui County in Hawaii, plays a pivotal role in the hopes and aspirations of the Hawaiian people.

Bringing about an end to the bombing of the island literally littered with archeological sites brought Hawaiians and sympathizers together in the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana. The PKO maintains visiting rights and a permanent cultural center on the island.

Through the first half of the last century, the island was ranched. At one point there was talk in the Territorial Legislature of selling the island outright. Cooler heads prevailed and the island was leased.

It was being ranched when the U.S. government took it over by executive fiat. That began a half century of abuse in the form of bombing and shelling by not only the U.S. Navy but also by the navies of allied forces in the Pacific.

Tons of ordnance fell on the island until the PKO – with widespread if not universal support from the public in the islands – forced the Navy to suspend the bombing and later release it to the state. A 10-year, $400 million effort was made to clear the island of unexploded shells and bombs.

A decade and all those millions weren’t enough. Most of the island is still covered by potentially hazardous surface and underground explosives. This week a Navy team is working there to explode dangerous ordnance that is constantly coming to the surface.The decades of abuse left the island once burned by Kamehameha I during one of his wars and later denuded by wild goats a place where water is scarce to nonexistent, the winds kick up dust clouds and the only access is by helicopter or by wading ashore from small boats.

The island is now under the direct control of the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission. Executive Director Sol Kaho’ohalahala says he wants to turn the island into a model of sustainability for the rest of the islands.

It’s a laudable goal, one that is close to hearts of all Hawaiians and all the islanders who know the future of the islands rests on a solid Hawaiian foundation. In many respects, Kahoolawe is the nursery for a reborn Hawaiian culture.

December 8, 2005

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com

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