Author Archives: Brandon Roberts

The Valley of Sufficient Life

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

The Valley of Sufficient Life

palms still standing. They used heavy equipment, which crushed a historic grave in the process. Workers apologized, said they were only following orders, they did not know.

“How can you know if you do not ask, if you are not from here,” he says with his heart.

Some malama Halawa as families once did, but the rainforest of today has conquered the lo`i of yesterday. Nature and man have changed the `aina, but the story Pilipo tells has not changed, passed down from countless generations of Halawa kupuna.

He says, things are not secret, they are sacred. Pilipo’s ultimate message is respect – to care for the valley he believes one must know what it was before and to understand the ultimate sense of place. Nana i ke Kumu, “seek the source.”

His tutu kane, David Kapuwai Akina, once told him to share the mo`olelo of Halawa, so people can know and respect where they live and where they are.

“When?” Pilipo asked.

“When you feel it, burning in your soul – that is me, and you know the time is right,” was the message his tutu kane left.

Pilipo may not be here tomorrow. He is one of the last of the unbroken generations of Halawa farmers still in the valley. He asks all to look at Halawa as a whole, spiritual and physical, to obtain a greater sense of place. Mana is found in the knowledge and respect of the ahupua`a.

The sun has journeyed across the valley once more, and as it readies for sleep behind the Western cliffs, shadows cast from the dominating forest grow long. The mo`olelo is there, hidden by the forest but not darkened by the shadows.

“Feel the spirit of Halawa and the ancestors that gave it life,” he asks. “The kupuna of Halawa are alive; like Haloa, they are everywhere.”

Pilipo Solatario is a master storyteller and a Kumu of the Halawa mo`olelo. After many years as the cultural director of Molokai Ranch he has returned to his birthplace. Blow the pu, Pilipo makes time to talk story to all who inquire.

“I speak to educate so all who listen can respect, otherwise our people will be overgrown like the Halawa of today.” This is Pilipo’s hope. This is Pilipo’s message.

The Binding of Past and Present

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

The Binding of Past and Present

Aunty Vanda Hanakahi believes the ahupua`a of Pala`au will be the first on Molokai to re-implement the ancient management system of `aha kiole.

Molokai’s ancient resource management system is reborn.

By Brandon Roberts

Molokai’s historic bounty is sleeping, awaiting its awakening. Once the fertile land, (Molokai he `aina momona no), groves were planted to hold the soil and summon the rains and vegetation was not forced to survive where it was not happy. Each ahupua`a (traditional land division) had its own resources that inhabitants took responsibility of. Thus the `Aha Kiole, a people’s council founded on resource management, was born in the Eighth Century by Paepaeko`a Kuhuna `Umoumou.

The Hawaiians of old understood their kuleana to the `aina, which requires both the physical and the spiritual. The late Kumu John Ka`imikaua said pono was a spiritual balance in all things, it is lived – it is seen not in words, but in actions, in results. Molokai was said to have thrived as a result of pono.

Many of today’s island residents believe the Western system of governance is depleting and destroying what is left of Molokai’s resources. However, the `Aha Kiole was formed to act as a consultant to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), blending native Hawaiian knowledge and protocol into resource management.

The chain of `ike (knowledge) has not been broken - Aunty Vanda Hanakahi is a Molokai kupuna whose roots hold firm in the mo`olelo of Molokai. She was chosen to represent the “Last Hawaiian Island”, and is the chair woman of the `Aha Kiole formed by Act 212, which was introduced by Molokai’s Representative Mele Carroll.

The DLNR is looking to turn the tide by implementing Hawaiian tradition into Western bureaucracy.

There is deep symbolic meaning to the `Aha Kiole, like much of the Hawaiian language and culture. In a community meeting held at Kulana `Oiwi on June 5, Kumu Ka`imikaua explained on video the birth of the `Aha Kiole on Molokai.

An aho is a single strand of material, and many aho are woven together to form one strong chord. Each aho represents a specialist: for example, a lawai`a (fisherman), a mahi`ai (farmer), a konohiki (caretaker of the land). It is this type of binding that is called `aha.

The second part of the term, kiole, refers to the schools of fish hatchlings that used to darken the waters on Molokai’s southern shores. The kiole became a symbol for the island’s dense population, and from these symbolic references, the `Aha Kiole was born.

Kumu Ka`imikaua said one purpose of the `Aha Kiole was to prepare the land spiritually so it could thrive physically.

Aunty Vanda said the traditional governance is an inclusive effort to malama Molokai resources. She said the ancient chants “tell us what was here”, and that is the starting point to return the land to pono.

Mac Poepoe has rejuvenated Mo`omomi in accordance to the ancient `ike, which is now a model for rehabilitation and best practices according to Aunty Vanda.

Poepoe said that teaching begins in the `ohana, and that actions will speak. “If you let someone take care, you need to teach them. The `opio have to be taught to be a part of the group to malama.” He recommends setting priorities and working them out one by one.

Impending Change

DLNR biologist Bill Puleloa said the agency often “fails to recognize the human element.” He told meeting attendees the community needs to organize quickly as the `Aha Kiole will sunset in June 2009, and the DLNR is making management decisions without their input. He warned Molokai of an impending fishing regulation that will limit bag size as well as minimum fish size.

Puleloa said the DLNR is looking to incorporate and accommodate the community and the `Aha Kiole is the vehicle to do so. “We will not make rules and regulations that the people don’t want.”

Homesteader Walter Ritte said now is the time to take back the management of our resources. “Take this opportunity, we may not have another. The harder we work to get people involved, the more control we will have.”

The `Aha Kiole timeline states a draft report for the next legislative session will be up for public review and comment by August. The revised report will then be submitted in December, 20 days prior to the 2009 legislature. Aunty Vanda said Pala`au may be the area where the `Aha Kiole can malama Molokai.

Aunty Vanda concluded the meeting by introducing members of Kumu Ka`imikaua’s Halau Hula O Kukunaokala who shared the prophecy of the Lepo Popolo given at the Paku`i Heiau in Mana`e. She explained that the people shall rise up like the crest of a wave. “We are here to stay; we will build our `Aha Ki`ole.”

For further information, contact Aunty Vanda here on Molokai at (808) 560-6203 or email her at

Saved By a Seven

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Paddlers’ Poker highlights skills and thrills.

By Brandon Roberts

Lee Derouin was all in, hoping to stay afloat on the river competitive card playing. Looking across the table, Kahealani Maliu had the strong hand and was statistically favored to push Derouin out of the running. But there is unpredictability in the cards, an essence of luck – defying stats and probability.

Derouin did just that, he rebelled against the numbers and picked up a full-house on the final flop, the river, to split the pot and keep him in championship contention at Paddlers’ second poker tournament last Saturday. At play were 50,000 in chips, divided by point percentage amongst the top eight.

Entering the final table, Derouin was fourth on the point’s board, and capped his victory in a head-to-head duel with Maliu, who entered eighth with a 2,350 chip deficit from the season leader Bernice Kalilikane. Yet Maliu worked her magic, playing catch-up to vie for the grand-prize round trip to Las Vegas, a two-night stay, and a one-thousand dollar buy-in to the World Series of Poker satellite table.

Eventually Derouin out-played his competition catching a diamond flush to clinch the Vegas vacation. “I caught a break, that is what poker is all about,” he said, adding how grateful he was to the late Kamuela Kamakana, Paddlers’ Inn, and the dedicated staff.

“If it wasn’t for Kamuela, the poker community wouldn’t have been brought together in this friendly environment. I also want to fire some compliments to Loke Kamakana, Alicia Montemayor, and the entire Paddlers’ staff, who are always here for us, they don’t miss a beat and keep it fun yet professional.”

The top eight competitors fought it out for the last three months against the Molokai masses, who know their cards. The standings going into the final table were points leader Kalilikane, followed by Reyford Stone, Paki Kamakana, Derouin, Elizabeth Poepoe-Lawerence, Tranq Pasual, Larry Sagario and Maliu.  

Farmers Sow Future

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Farmers Sow Future

Pa`ina in Paradise

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Molokai celebrates class of 2008 graduates.

By Brandon Roberts

Graduation is known as a commencement ceremony because it is a new beginning rather than an end. Melodious laughter echoed throughout the ceremonies, and graduates adorned gowns and grins.

Molokai High School (MHIS) and Ho`omana Hou held their graduations the last week of May in the company of friends and `ohana. Mother’s wept with joy and fathers, with pride in their eyes, were unable to contain their emotions.

It is a moment of emotional irony, with students entering adulthood – embracing their new freedom with a hint of anxiety. In the same moment, parents admire the growth of their children into young adults and hope they are prepared for work, college, or whatever the next step is.

Plans a Plenty

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Molokai readies for new guidelines.

By Brandon Roberts

Governing guidance is gearing up on Molokai and in Maui County. The next generation of plans which will incorporate water, development, sustainability, and conservation are on the drawing board.

Several strategic committees, filled with community and county figures, have formed to further discussions on how to preserve Molokai from mauka to makai. Last Tuesday kicked off a week of planning meetings with the Water Use and Development Plan (WUDP) at Kulana `Oiwi, and the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC), along with the General Plan Advisory Council (GPAC) kept the Mitchell Pauole Center abuzz on Wednesday.


Eco-Friendly Education

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Eco-Friendly Education

Senator Mike Gabbard plays Oily Al  to teach keiki what not to do to the environment.

Kualapu`u students learn healthy habits.

By Brandon Roberts

Awesome Al was not always a pal. He used to be Oily Al until he met Water Girl, who showed him how to malama `aina.

Kualapu`u Elementary students gathered last Friday under the shade of a hala tree at Ali`i fishpond to enjoy a presentation by the Healthy Hawaii Coalition.

Senator Mike Gabbard founded the coalition with his daughter in 1996 to raise environmental awareness in Hawaiian keiki. Since 2001, the senator and his wife Carroll, have traveled to schools throughout Hawaii, teaching positive environmental habits.

The Kualapu`u keiki were entertained by a play where Oily Al’s bad habits, like throwing rubbish on the ground and dumping chemicals into the drain, were corrected when Water Girl educated him on how to respect the environment.

“Our presentation reinforces a positive message for schools and homes,” Sen. Gabbard said. He believes the interactive afternoon strengthens teachings from Kumu Piliana Naeole in the classroom, as well as reinforcing messages keiki receive at home, from like parent volunteer Sharon Likua.

Following the play, roughly 25 students broke into four groups that rotated around the fishpond – exploring their environment and learning to live “malama `aina.”

The Healthy Hawaii Coalition has presented to over 4,000 students in 45 schools with the help of a grant from the Department of Health.

Workshop Workout

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Workshop Workout

The day of business workshops were a great success thanks to the Kuha`o Business Center, Maui County, and the volunteer facilitators: Tessie Juario, Kanani Koanui, Kuulei Arce, Brian Thomas, Donna Haytko-Paoa, Richard Kehoe, Deidre Tegarden (standing) and Stuart Funke-d’Egnuff, Helen Wai, Anna Ribucan and Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo. Mahalo for your dedication to self-empowerment.

Kuha`o Business Center hosts day of workshops.

By Brandon Roberts

“The Molokai island community is thirsty for education on sustainability,” said Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo, executive director of the Kuha`o Business Center , reflecting on the successful day of economically informative workshops.

The Kuha`o Business Center partnered with Mayor Charmaine Tavares and the Maui County Office of Economic Development to facilitate the sessions last Wednesday at the Maui Community College campus on Molokai.

Pauole-Ahakuelo said the workshops encourage Molokai sustainability through entrepreneurial empowerment and the ability to work and provide for one’s self.

There were five different workshops that 163 inquisitive islander’s participated in. “Some sessions overflowed with more people than chairs,” Pauole-Ahakuelo said. The only complaint attendees had was “craving more,” and requesting longer workshops, each session averaged 45 minutes.

The practical workshops were: Grant Opportunities and Writing, Basic Home and Business Strategies, How to Write a Business Plan, Starting a Business in Maui County, and Outside the Box Business Opportunities.

“The workshops were a hit, I went to several myself. They had thorough hand-outs that were easy to digest,” Pauole-Ahakuelo said. “All the facilitators are really compassionate about what they do.”

Pauole-Ahakuelo could not express enough appreciation for all the volunteers who helped facilitate the workshops and to Tessie Juario, an administrator at the Kuha`o Business Center. “Tessie really worked hard on this; she was instrumental in the organization and deserves much of the credit.”

For business resources and entrepreneurial ideas, contact Kuha`o at (808) 553-8100, stop in at 2 Kamoi St. Suite 6 across from the Molokai Drive-In, or send an email to

Molokai Represents

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Molokai Represents




District 13 Democratic delegates Lynn DeCoite, Danny Mateo, Beverly Pauole-Moore and Lawrence Joao

An insider’s look at the Hawaii Democratic Convention.

An editorial by Brandon Roberts

As we stepped into the Hilton Convention Center, a wave of Democratic excitementwashed over us. We felt official, important – knowing that our weekend was one of change. We were to shape the blue team, mold the future of the party platform, and vote our conscience.

I had the honor, by default mind you, of attending the Hawaii Democratic Convention as a Molokai Delegate over Memorial weekend. Aunty Beverly Pauole-Moore and Aunty Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo made me their hanai for the weekend. We were there for Molokai, we were there for Barack Obama.

We were not the only ones there to support Obama. By the convention’s close the presidential hopeful would collect three more superdelegate votes and carry 21 of Hawaii’s 29 pledged delegates to the national convention.

“Maui County will have great representation at the Democratic National Convention,” Pauole-Moore said with a beaming smile.

District 13, which consists of Molokai, Lanai, and East Maui, had some of the highest Obama support in the nation with 85 percent. The unprecedented turn out broke records, leading many to believe the democratic philosophy is best for the Hawaiian Islands.

Senator Kalani English had nothing but pride for the Friendly Isle delegates, “they always represent, and Molokai never ceases to amaze me.”

And Molokai definitely represented – bringing 10 spirited delegates, the only island with 100 percent delegate representation, as well as one of the youngest delegates in attendance, 19-year-old Caroline Kahue.

The lack of `opio surprised me though. Obama has a connection with the country’s youth, registering 30,000 new voters in Hawaii alone. I do not mean any disrespect; however, the youth need to get involved, and the party leadership needs to reach out and nominate more `opio. They need to prepare us because it will soon be our turn to lead.

Nearly 1,000 Hawaii Democratic delegates took a step in this direction by electing 35-year-old Brian Shatz as the new party chair. Pauole-Ahakuelo said the election of Shatz was one of her convention highlights. Reflecting on her experience, she said she has not seen enthusiasm like this for a long time. “Everyone was just so hyped, pumped up, and we all came together to get a Democrat in the office.”

Molokai Veteran and delegate Larry Helm, has always been an independent, but believed in Obama’s message and potential early on. He has dropped the “I” and adorned a “D,” this election year. “The recipe the country is following is wrong, we need to consider a way that is equal, we need change.”

One of the most exuberant Molokai delegates was Lawrence Joao. He has attended four other democratic conventions and could not hide his Obama support. Jaoa, along with the Molokai Democrats, participated in an Obama parade, holding his sign high and chanting “Yes we can!”

Pauole-Moore is the president of the Kaunakakai Democrats, and organized the Molokai delegates. She shared the privilege with Councilman Danny Mateo of presenting convention attendees with a memorial on the life of dedicated Democratic Party member, Wilma Grambusch, who passed away in April.

“She was my mentor, and welcomed me into the Democratic Party,” Pauole-Moore said. “On Molokai, Grambusch and party politics are synonymous. She was a mover and shaker.”

“Grambusch was the Democratic Party of Hawaii,” Mateo said. “It is such an honor to have the state acknowledging one of our own.”

Mateo believes the Democrats are rebuilding, but he said “the interest is there, and this convention will catapult us into the future.”

Molokai’s 2008 Democratic delegate team was Pauole-Moore, Pauole-Ahakuelo, Joao, Helm, Lynn DeCoite, Rosie Davis, Walter Ritte, Kulia Peters, Kahue, and I.

The next step is the August Democratic national convention in Denver, and Molokai – look forward to more Democratic events here on Molokai as the campaign season continues to heat up.

Homesteaders Confront MIS

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Water scarcity and increasing demands raise concerns.

By Brandon Roberts

Delinquent homesteader accounts remain a top priority for the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS). Board members said they are following the 2007 audit recommendation to take a more active role in obtaining overdue payments. However, homesteaders question the legality of being charged for water, and are asking the MIS board to put equal energy into all audit recommendations, not just homesteader accounts.

Homesteader Glenn Teves said the Department of Agriculture (DOA) has a fiduciary responsibility to the homesteaders with the system profits. He said if homesteaders were to get kicked off their lands, or be forced to quit farming, there is the “potential for the situation to get volatile.”