Together we stand:
Molokai Hunters Association Unite against Pro-Hunt.
In a reaction against recent private meetings between TNC and selected local hunters, Molokai Hunters Association (MHA) has officially re-formed to protect their future rights and lifestyle. Since the meeting of February 5, 2007, MHA now has eighteen official members. All unanimously voted in favor of the motion “MHA is against Pro-Hunt and outside hunters coming to the island of Molokai to hunt,” as proposed by Walter Ritte.
On Tuesday, January 23 the Nature Conservancy (TNC) caused uproar with their suggestion of several projects in which a New Zealand group, Pro-Hunt, would be contracted to perform animal monitoring and hunting. The hunters immediately called two meeting dates of the Molokai Hunters Association in order to focus their thoughts on the matter. Many hunters at the first meeting on Monday, February 5, perceived the projects as a direct threat to their lifestyle and to the future of their children in hunting.
“Once they gonna get somebody else to do our thing, that’s it, we fo’ never gonna do no more,” said Hanohano Naehu. Naehu explained that if the projects were accepted by the hunting community without their input then a precedent would be set whereby the hunting rights of the community would gradually be eroded. He was echoed by Walter Ritte, who said “If we not stand up, we not gonna be the guys in the forest… we gonna be the guys at [Edwin] Misaki’s door.”
TNC had previously reported that understanding of the Pro-Hunt projects within the Hunting Working Group could be achieved with a high level of dialogue, which they saw as unreachable in a large group situation. The hunters were outraged by the small group meetings, with Ritte saying “they’re giving us a bad name.”
It became clear that without a large public meeting, the hunters had no way to express their opinions and frustrations. Yama Kaholoa'a, one of the founders of The Molokai Hunters Association, said that “I don’t want anybody speak fo’ me… Everybody should speak for what they believe.” Some hunters attending the meeting believed that TNC were attempting to avoid the open process of community involvement which the Molokai Community expects. Kaholoa'a voiced this belief, saying “if you gonna talk to me, talk upfront.”
Suspicion had been aroused amongst the hunters by the small group meetings, which seemed to promote an atmosphere of mistrust. Some believed that TNC efforts would lead to a divide in the community, asking skeptically if “they gonna hand-pick the ones and we gonna follow them?” Kaholoa’a urged the group “we don’t need to get all these shenanigans and people from Molokai fighting each other. We gotta be whole.”
TNC had offered to give the group a video which would explain their projects, however, it had not been made available by the February 5 meeting. The hunters showed disdain for the video, preferring to return to the Molokai tradition of public meetings and debate.
After taking annual fees and forming an official membership register, the group discussed their desire to have the Pro-Hunt projects “taken off the table.” Ritte said that “if we gonna start the project again, we got to start from scratch, open discussion.”
The desire for discussion has been echoed by TNC who explained that the small group meetings were held because they “were unable to complete [their] presentation at the Hunter's Working Group Meeting on January 23.” They continued by saying that “We want to meet with anyone who is interested in having a dialogue with us.”
TNC have answered some of the questions of the community, clarifying that Pro-Hunt “will salvage as much meat as can be safely retrieved and the meat will be made available for distribution to local residents upon request.” They have also made the concession that “the organization will hire some local residents to work with them.”
With members of the Molokai Hunting Group stating that “sometimes you gotta give a little, take a little,” both sides are willing to talk and compromise. However, it is clear that a lot of work will have to be done before TNC are seen as allies to the Hunting Community, rather than being perceived as a threat.
At time of press, voting had not been officially held for the official positions on the board of The Molokai Hunting Association. These shall be released in next week’s edition and on The Dispatch website once official results are made available.