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`Aha Kiole Leaders Sought for Upcoming Election

Representatives will advise the state how to manage Molokai’s resources.

By Catherine Cluett

While some skepticism was expressed at previous `Aha Kiole meetings, hope remained the central theme at a meeting last Tuesday night. The meeting was called to look for leadership in each of the five moku on Molokai, starting with Pala’au in the center of the island. Vanda Hanakahi is the chair of the statewide `Aha Kiole and representative for Molokai.

What is the `Aha Kiole?
Hanakahi explains that `Aha Kiole is ancient form of government begun over 1000 years ago. “Aha,” means council, and “kiole” originally referred to a tiny fish that swam in large groups and used as a metaphor for a large body of people. So today `Aha Kiole means just that: the voice or council of the people. The `Aha Kiole’s job is to advise the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and similar agencies in resource management using traditional Hawaiian methods and traditions.

The vision of the `Aha Kiole, says Hanakahi, is to “navigate our way back into the current upon which our ancestors traveled with success and wisdom.” The mission is to strengthen and preserve the cultural and spiritual connection between the resources and the people who use them.

Selecting Leaders
Hanakahi explained that there are five main criteria for selecting representatives. These include having generational knowledge and wisdom, or `ike, about fishing, agriculture and land use and/or being a practitioner of cultural arts, having a knowledge of the spiritual connection between natural resources and native values and practices, and the willingness to perform service for the good of the community without self-interest or ego.

Hanakahi reminded the group that leaders will be chosen by the people of each village, not by the government. “Each village has its own way of doing things that works for them,” she says. “The purpose of the `Aha Kiole is to implement and work with the people’s existing system.”

The Future of the `Aha Kiole

Hanakahi says she hopes the `Aha Kiole Advisory Committee will become a commission. In response to concern that a commission will be just another branch of the government, standing in the way of fulfilling the group’s original purpose, she says that as an advisory, it can, as the name implies, only give advice and make suggestions. But if it becomes a commission, the `Aha Kiole will have the power to make decisions. As such, it can better serve the people it represents.

Group members discussed the importance of education in the success of the `Aha Kiole. Without passing on the `ike of the kapuna, the long-term vision of the `Aha Kiole will be lost. The Hawaiian language is another important carrier of `ike because of the close relationship between language and culture.

People pulled their chairs closer as members of the audience shared their thoughts and experiences. One fisherman observed that since the closing of the Ranch, water quality seems to have improved. He speculated that cattle are no longer creating dust and erosion, and suggested that the `Aha Kiole could place checks and balances on potential conglomerates, even agriculturally related, to protect water from chemicals or pollution.

“With every resource, there is a practice and protocol,” Hanakahi says. The state is trying to place laws to control fishing, but by following these protocols, fish and other resources have been sustained for centuries, and “with proper management, they will last for centuries to come.”

Hanakahi is currently collecting applications for moku leaders, and elections are scheduled to take place on Sept 11 at 6:30pm at Kulana `Oiwi. Candidates should list their qualifications, and they will appear on the ballot, along with the list of established standards. Voters are asked to bring their ID to the election, and will be asked to declare their moku and ahupua’a. Contact Vanda Hanakahi at 658-0098 with questions or absentee ballot requests.

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