Author Archives: Bree Ullman

Protesters Picket Kulana Oiwi

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

The doors were locked and the lights were off at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) Kulana Oiwi offices last Wednesday, but that didn’t stop over 100 picketers from rallying outside their doors and waving signs on the street.

In the latest event organized by the Save La`au `Ohana, La`au Point development resisters gathered at daybreak Sep. 26 to demand a response from the organizations they feel have betrayed the Hawaiian people. “They’re supposed to be helping us guys,” said homesteader Yama Kahaloa`a. “They’re supposed to be supporting the Hawaiians, but they’re supporting the Ranch.

“If people cannot reach their institutions then all our generations, all our posterity is at risk.”

The OHA trustees passed a unanimous resolution in support of the Ranch’s Community Based Master Plan more than a year ago. DHHL has not taken an official position on the Master Plan, but Molokai DHHL commissioner Milton Pa has spoken in support of the plan and appeared in an MPL video promoting the master plan.

Pa, along with Collette Machado were the primary targets of protestors, who weren’t shy about naming names. “Milton Pa: Selling our water, Colette Machado: Selling our culture” read one hand-painted sign. Many variations of the theme could be seen lining the highway at the peak of the protests around 7:30 a.m.

Machado, an OHA trustee, was part of the Land Trust Committee who approved the Plan and president of the Land Trust Board that will govern the community land trust – some 26,000 acres placed in conservation plus other easements – if the Master Plan goes through. Machado is also part of the EC board that helped engineer the Master Plan alongside MPL.

After the protests Machado released a statement to the Maui News in defense of her support of the Master Plan, which she believes has the support of many residents. “I believe this is a reasonable and balanced plan that reflects the values of the majority of the Molokai community,” Machado said.

She called the plan “fair, reasonable and right” and explained that “Molokai will remain rural, and its unique lifestyle will be preserved.”

While activist leader Walter Ritte has in the past accused Machado of duping the OHA trustees into voting for the resolution. Machado denies this completely. “The meeting was public and right here on Molokai,” she said when questioned about the matter earlier this year. “I resent Walter for portraying me as someone who goes backdoor. I would never put my trustees up to something like that.”

The homestead associations on Molokai plan to intervene in the “quasi-judicial” meetings of the State Land Use commission who will ultimately determine whether La`au Point will be rezoned for development. MPL CEO Peter Nicholas has said that “the Plan and anything that its partners propose will continue to support Hawaiian preference rights for water.”

According to Ritte, the conflict has reached a point where it is up to the people to hold their leaders accountable for working with developers. “The people will get what they deserve,” said Ritte. “The longer they hide, the more they lock the doors…the louder we will have to speak.”

According to an OHA spokesperson the office was closed Wednesday morning because staff members were attending a workshop in Honolulu, not because they were hiding from protestors.

At a brief meeting following Wednesday’s protests, participants discussed strategy for ousting Pa and Machado. “We should ask for their resignation,” said Mililani Hanapi. Ritte said he doubted they would resign on their own and expressed frustration that no current law allows the people to impeach either of them.

“If we can impeach the president, we should be able to impeach these people. There has to be a way for the people to remedy the situation when their leaders stop working for them,”  he said.

“If we have to go to the legislature and push a “Collette Machado/Milton Pa Law” then we will. We cannot let them join the developers to the detriment of their Hawaiian constituents.”

Charmaine Tavares makes one last Molokai Stop

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Mayoral candidate Charmaine Tavares does not hate chickens. She does not oppose funding for the new fire station, and despite her roots in a famous Republican family, she does not belong to any political party in the state of Hawaii. In front of a large crowd of supporters gathered at One Alii park last Thursday, Tavares cleared up a couple of rumors in a lighthearted public speech, and in a later interview discussed everything from her party affiliation to her feelings on La`au Point development and affordable housing. Tavares explained that Maui would not be affected by a proposed bill banning roosters and other specified fowl from residentially zoned Maui county areas. Hana, Molokai and Lanai are exempt from the bill, which has been introduced in the council in various forms for the past 15 years. Regarding the new fire station funding, Tavares said she voted for it – in fact the council vote was unanimous – and got a bad rap for asking a few questions about ways to reduce building costs. The mayor’s race has received much public attention this year, explained Tavares between bites of the chicken heke served at her community dinner, her “first real meal in days.” “I’ve never before seen so many forums and debates,” said Tavares. “It shows that people are really interested in the issues. But unfortunately I also have a day job…I’m on the council!” Tavares says she sees one of the biggest issues in the county as growth or the regulation of permits to allow for it. “The question for me is always ‘Who are we growing for?’” she said, noting that the question applies very much to development issues on Molokai and affordable housing concerns. Regarding the Ranch’s Master Land Use Plan, she declined to take an official position. “I don’t have any opinion about La`au because it’s for the community to decide,” she said. But she did offer some general commentary on the issue. “I hate to see issues that split the community like this. It’s sad to see that kind of stuff. In cases like this you have to consider whether it makes sense to find some kind of activity or industry that better matches the lifestyle of Molokai.” Tavares said she respects Molokai’s agricultural tradition. “I would like to see agriculture be a bigger part of the economy here,” she said, and added that she would like to see an investment in biofuels and alternative energy using non-GMO crops. When asked where she differs from the current mayor, Tavares stressed her commitment to affordable housing. “The Mayor believes we don’t need any more affordable housing,” she said. “But when you have people standing in line two nights to get a lottery number for a house that costs 400 or 500 thousand dollars then you have a problem.” Tavares, who in Hawaii belongs to no party officially, says it is hard to walk the non-partisan walk. “It’s hard when you come from a very famous Republican family…with a very Republican father,” she said. The Maui News recently reported that Tavares voted for democrats Al Gore and John Kerry in the last two elections. “I try to focus on the issues, because that’s what’s important,” said Tavares. “You don’t have a Republican pothole or a Democrat pothole. It’s just a pothole.”

Buying back Molokai

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

As the battle over the Molokai Ranch master plan rages on, a newly formed group is working on a plan to ensure that BIL International’s investment portfolio will never again concern the Molokai community.

They want to buy the ranch.

Yes, all 65,000 acres of it, including the Kaluakoi Hotel, the Lodge, the tentalows, the Mo`omomi dunes, the Naiwa Makahiki grounds, the Nature Conservancy preserve, the industrial park, the town of Maunaloa, the ballfield in Kaunakakai, numerous wells and reservoirs, the burial grounds at Kawela, the birthplace of Hula, and La`au.

Molokai Ranch should stop antagonizing the press

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

By Bree Ullman

At the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) meeting two weeks ago, I noticed Molokai Ranch CEO Peter Nicholas and his wife – both wearing green “Support the Plan, Support Molokai” buttons – standing at the edge of the crowd. I snapped a quick picture or two at a comfortable distance before Nicholas stormed over and demanded that I ask permission before photographing him. “You people are very rude,” he said. I was somewhat startled – though looking back, I probably shouldn’t have been.

The Molokai Ranch pulled its last remaining advertisement from The Molokai Dispatch two weeks ago, and several sources have said that the ranch’s community affairs manager, John Sabas, has been badmouthing the newspaper at events such as meetings of the Chamber of Commerce. My last phone conversation with Nicholas went something like this.

Rethinking Resolutions – Many ask OHA to rescind support of the Master Plan

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

haven’t heard. None of us are against the jobs they are providing. None of us are against the land trust. That’s why so many of us spent so many hours, days, years working on the plan. We are not here to fight each other we are here to solve a problem. The problem is La`au.”

The perhaps only ugly moment in the evening came in the form of a brief standoff between anti-development activist Hanohano Naehu and Molokai Ranch cattleman Jimmy Duvauchelle, who asked Naehu to put his “This is War” sign down during Duvauchelle’s turn to speak. “I cannot have that sign, Hano,” said Duvauchelle. “Please, I no like war.”

“I can’t” said Naehu. “It’s for my freedom. It’s for my survival.” For a few moments, Duvauchelle refused to speak and Naehu refused to take down his sign. After a long silence Duvauchelle again pleaded with Naehu and the crowd became restless. When Duvauchelle finally spoke, he said that it was “his family out there” that he had to protect. “We want jobs. We want to keep people here. Read the plan…. Stop fighting.” Naehu, who had is own turn to speak shortly after, also stressed values of family and culture. “I hold this sign not because I hate anyone,” said Naehu, “but because development is like bombs to me. They’re going to build on my papa’s bones.”

The Master Land Use Plan was developed two years ago in collaboration with The Molokai Enterprise Community (EC), a government-funded planning group. The Plan was then approved by a committee of volunteers, which included several current MPL executives and employees and members of the EC.

The development package comes with several incentives for the community, including an offer to preserve over 51,000 acres of land in the form of a community-based land trust and agricultural easements and a promise to bring 100 new jobs. In creating the Master Plan, the ranch held over 150 meetings with over 1,000 total participants. They describe it as an unprecedented new model in community-based planning.

The ranch’s video began with the testimony of Clara Sabas, who praised the efforts of the ranch to reach out to the community in a way it never had before. Attorney Isaac Hall, who has in the past represented environmental group Hui Ho`opakele `Aina in a different anti-development battle with the ranch, is now representing MPL in regards to the Plan and is featured prominently in the video. He said that what impressed him most about the ranch’s plan “was the fact that the community had come together in advance for two and a half years and had come up with a plan together.” Stacy Crivello, recent interim EC director, explained that the ranch had overcome the “mind-blowing…gulf” that existed between itself and the community. “We based this on cultural and spiritual values,” she said. “It’s something that no other community plan can say.”

But it is the nature of the process itself that has left much of Molokai crying foul. “I participated in the community process and I have to say that this was the best

flim-flam process that I’ve ever been involved in,” said Kim, the homesteader, who believes that at this point the only solution to the conflict between the community and MPL is for the community to buy the ranch. It was not the first time the idea had been brought up during the meeting, and at each mention, the crowd went wild. Kim explained that the first of the EC’s 40 ideas for Molokai’s future was a plan to raise enough money to purchase the entire MPL property. Earlier in the week Karen Holt sent a letter to the community explaining that the Molokai Community Service Council is gearing up to start a community-based campaign to achieve the original EC goal of buying Molokai Ranch. The proposal, among other various alternatives, will be discussed at the EC meeting this week.

La`au Point OCCUPIED: Molokai Anti-development group digs in for the long haul

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

In an act reminiscent of Kaho`olawe-era protests, a new generation of Molokai activists have set the stage for an extended occupation of La`au point, an area that would be sold as a luxury subdivision under the Molokai Ranch’s “Community Based Master Land Use Plan.” Supplied by a small flotilla of fishing boats, over 50 people spent shifts building a Hawaiian hale on this contested land over the last week.

The hale will serve as base camp for the opposition movement and will be the final destination of a community protest march planned for Oct. 7. Activists plan to practice subsistence hunting and gathering for the duration of their indefinite stay. Their slice of land has been nicknamed Shipwreck Beach after a marooned sailboat half-buried in sand 30 feet ashore.

“We want to do the things we’ve been saying we must do if we are to keep our culture – our families – alive,” said Walter Ritte, an opposition leader who has spent the past 30 years fighting development on Molokai. “We stopped the bombing of Kaho`olawe, we stopped the cruise ships and we will stop gentlemen’s estates from going up at La`au.

“This occupation is a tactic for the warriors. I am hoping that this becomes for the young people here what the land use battles of the 70s were to us.”

Members of the group Hui Ho`opakele `Aina had been harvesting mangrove and bamboo for the past several weeks in preparation for the event. But when it came time to break ground on the La`au Point Hale, Ritte says he shunned the idea of a set strategy. “You can plan these things but they’re going to have a life of their own.” La`au means plant in the Hawaiian language, and Ritte says the hale suits the name. “This is our plant right here,” he said. “This is our seed. The people of Molokai are the ones who will decide what happens to it.”

The occupation planners did their best to make sure the stars were aligned in their favor: Aunty Clara Ku, one of the strongest elders in the effort to stop “friendly fire” test-bombing on Kaho`olawe and leader of a six-hour access march from Mo`omomoi to Kawakeu believed 13 was a lucky number – every major opposition move of that era happened on the 13th. “So what if it’s the middle of the week?” said Ritte. “If we go on the 13th, Auntie Clara will be with us.”

In a stroke of good fortune the north and south swell lulled simultaneously on the big day and the loading and unloading efforts went smoothly. But it was the arrival of a “busload of young, strong fishermen” that made construction efforts possible, according to Ritte, who was thrilled to see that the original occupation crew was not just the usual suspects.

“We’ve been going to meetings for two years, talking and talking. I never saw these guys at the meetings, but when the 13th arrived, they were here. These are the guys who actually spend time in La`au, and they were the only ones who could have pulled this off.” The men are calling themselves “frontliners” and they spent much of the first day chasing sinking mangrove logs to the bottom of the sea. The occupation organizers had brought ropes and floats and hoped for the best, but the effort came down to the strength and skill of the Molokai boys who had grown up in the water. “They don’t realize how amazing their skills are,” Ritte said.

MPL CEO Peter Nicholas and MPL Community Affairs Manager John Sabas organized a Hawaiians-only meeting between the ranch’s “employee’s council” and the occupation crew the day before groundbreaking, but the meeting ended in a stalemate. The groups agreed to disagree.

Molokai Ranch has made no physical attempt to stop the occupation. At press time activists and visitors were moving in and out of the camp freely despite “No trespassing” signs dotting a well-defined trail to La`au. A 1.5 hour hike from the hale leads to Dixie Maru Beach, the nearest place to park.

Locals call La`au “the icebox” for its abundant game and proximity to the Penguin Banks, the best fishing area on the island. Ancient burial grounds and other important archaeological sites give another nickname – “the leaping place of spirits.” Kaipo Kekona of Maui, who traveled to the occupation site from Maui in an outrigger sailing canoe, said developers must not understand the significance of the area. “If they try to take La`au then they have a lot more coming to them – physically and spiritually – than they could ever know.”

Molokai Hawaiian Homesteaders and other supporters of the vocal “Save La`au” movement also say that the Molokai Ranch’s development plan will threaten their limited water supply and devastate important cultural resources on the only island where native Hawaiians still have a majority.

Molokai Ranch insists that the land use plan was developed in collaboration with the Molokai community and that it is a socially and culturally responsible project. Indeed, the development comes with several incentives for the community, including an offer to preserve nearly 55,000 acres of as a community-based land trust and a promise to revamp and reopen the old Kaluakoi Hotel.

MPL worked with the Molokai Enterprise Community (EC) to involve the community in building the plan. It was later approved by a volunteer committee in a 19-to-6 vote. Some longtime anti-development activists are even on board, including EC director and OHA trustee Collette Machado, who calls the plan “a realistic settlement of a thirty-year struggle.” John Sabas, who led activist efforts in his youth, now works for Molokai Ranch as its Community Affairs Manager.

Land Use attorney Isaac Hall, who once defended the anti-La`au group Hui Ho`opakele `Aina in a successful battle to stop the development of a high-end country club on the ranch’s lands above Kualapu`u, is now representing the ranch in regards to its Master Plan. He believes the master plan has broad support and “offers more to the community than the land use struggles that have been going on for years.”

But Steve Morgan, who played an instrumental role in the La`au Point occupation at Shipwreck Beach, said Molokai does not want to sacrifice some land to preserve other land. They want to preserve all of it – and they will stop at nothing to do so. He noted that for the past 30 years no developer has managed to touch the land offered to the trust, and that anyone who tried would have to go through the same difficult land use process that the ranch is going through now.

“The ranch knows they could never develop on those lands,” he said. “That’s why they’re offering them up.” He added that the size of the offer means that Molokai’s refusal to accept the deal will set a precedent. “It will tell them whether we will compromise who we are.”

Ritte, who has in the past fought alongside those who now support the Master Plan, says that some of Molokai’s activists have bowed to political pressure that encourages compromise and that others simply do not trust the next generation to carry on the battle. “In order for the activists to come to a split, people have to be tired of fighting,” Ritte said on the first day of La`au occupation. “But anyone who doesn’t think the young people here have what it takes to continue our battle should have been out here this morning. If they could have seen the commitment, the pure energy of the young guys who came out here today, they’d be changing their tune.

Spirits are high at Shipwreck Beach, where activists have seen a steady flow of supporters hike in to bring supplies and lend a hand. Just before setting up camp at La`au, Ritte spent a day at the UH Law School consulting lawyers Denise Antolini and Casey Jarman who have agreed to help Hui Ho`opakele Aina and say there will be opportunities for legal intervention at three levels in the state approval process the ranch must pass to develop the land. Appeals could stop the process for several years or more. “At this point it would be a miracle if the ranch’s plan goes through,” said Ritte. “If we don’t win on the home turf, then we’ll win in the courts.”

Locals pound kapa to enshroud ancient bones

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

At the Kewanui fish pond last Sunday, 44 international students learned the Hawaiian craft of kapa-making from Mililani Hanapi as a lesson in the making of traditional clothes, but the Wauke bark they pounded will not be worn by anyone living. Hanapi, along with Terrilee Kekoolani-Raymond of Oahu and several other volunteers, are preparing the kapa for the traditional burial of the largest collection of skeletal remains in the pacific – the bones of Mo`okapu on the island of Oahu.

The kapa prepared on Molokai will be used to wrap the individual bones for reburial. The skeletal remains of 1500 individuals have been stored at the Bishop Museum since 1942, when they were extracted from the Mookapu sand dunes to clear the way for a military airstrip. The US Marine Corps has been in control of the area since 1952.

Although she agrees that University of Hawaii archaeologists have learned invaluable information about Hawaiian history from the remains, Kekoolani-Raymond says that the excavation of the bones represented an assault on the Kahiko of Mo`okapu. She is part of a group of families and organizations who have come together to take responsibility for the proper reburying of their ancestors.

The bones have been released for reburial because of movement led by people in the Oahu community who are federal claimants under the NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation) Act. NAGPRA is a federal law that requires federal agencies to allow federal tribes to obtain culturally affiliated human remains and artifacts. “It is a matter of respect,” explained Kekoolani-Raymond, “This is our way of saying we are sorry. We are so sorry for allowing this to happen.

Kapa-making is a time-consuming and arduous process. Kapa-makers must first cut the bark the whole length of the Wauke (mulberry) stick with a sharp serrated shell, and having carefully peeled it off, roll it into small coils with the inner bark on the outside. After several days, the strips of bark are unrolled and laid flat. The outer bark is scraped off with a large shell and the remaining inner bark is rolled up again and soaked in sea water for a week to soften it and remove any resin. In the first of two beating stages, the softened strips are laid across a stone or a piece of wood and beaten with a round beater (hohoa) turning them into long thin strips called mo`omo`o. Next, the strips are bleached in the sun and soaked again to soften the mo`omo`o for the second stage of beating on a wooden anvil (kua kuku) with a square beater (kuku).

Hanapi, a Molokai resident and expert Kapa-maker, said that the Mookapu case is part of a “terrible pattern throughout the islands.” “The ancestors are out and they’re being mistreated,” she said, explaining that in some cases, the “historic preservation” of remains means being put in a cardboard box in a trailer. At the Keaumoku Wal-Mart on Oahu, for example, the bones of entire families who died in a smallpox epidemic are being exhumed to make way for the Wal-Mart loading dock. “They found a father with a child on top of him in his arms….his wife next to him and several other children at their feet,” she said. “They can move a loading dock…these were people.”

Defining Rural Land: State Seeks Public Participation

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Swimming pools, shopping malls, gambling casinos, and La’au Point development were but a few of the several dozen things Molokai citizens listed as potential threats to their rural existence at a high-attendance  roundtable discussion held at Mitchell Paoule center on August 15.   At a Rural Land Use workshop led by Executive Officer Anthony Ching of the State Land Use Commission, participants had a chance to weigh in on potential changes to the State Land Use Law (chapter 205, Hawaii Revised Statutes) governing rural lands.  

Ching explained that the primary purpose of the meeting was to gather information on what Molokai Residents think defines a rural community—what they like about their rural community, what changes they fear might compromise it, and how they might go about preserving it. 

Linda Lingle Endorses Master Plan; Criticizes La’au Opposition

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Linda Lingle Endorses Master Plan; Criticizes La’au Opposition

jobs?” What is your plan for the community process?”




Native Votes Count!

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Hawaiian Homesteaders in Ho`olehua, Kapa`akea, and Kalama`ula received visits from volunteers last week offering bumper stickers, tee-shirts and voter-registration forms.  “I am Hawaiian and I Vote,” “Native Votes Count” and “Voting is my Kuleana” are the slogans of the year for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s 2006 voter registration campaign, said Rosalee Puaoi. Puaoi came to Molokai last Tuesday as part of a statewide campaign to help remedy what has long been a disturbing lack of democratic participation by Native Hawaiians.  Only 20% of Native Hawaiians voted in the last election season, compared to a 50.8% overall participation rate—itself low by national standards. 

            Puaoi believes that the primary problem for Native Hawaiians has been accessibility.  “Either people don’t have a mailing address,” she explained, “or they live in a rural area where they have trouble getting to the polls.”  A lack of faith in the process, and a feeling of powerlessness are also issues, she explained.  “They just feel like their one vote just doesn’t make a difference,” said Puaoi.  “That’s why we say ‘Native Votes Count.’  We need to get that idea out there.”   Puaoi is encouraged by the positive response she has received here on Molokai and elsewhere.

             “A lot of people want to vote,” she said, explaining that certain procedural changes will make it easier for them to do so in upcoming elections.  If you don’t have a mailing address for example, the registration form now allows for a physical description of where you live.  “I live next to the grove of trees across from the pond, eight miles east of town,” is a perfectly acceptable address, says Puaoi. 

Absentee ballots have also become more widespread, making the problem of getting to the polls on Election Day less of an issue.  New this year is the presence of 15 deputy-voter-registers statewide who are licensed not only to pass out registration forms, but also to collect them as part of a non-partisan “get out the vote effort.”  Volunteer Kammy Purdy, President of the Molokai homesteaders’ association, Ahapua`a, expressed pride over the efforts of volunteers, who aimed to canvass hundreds of homes last week. “We’re not out there for the Democrats or the Republicans,” she said.  “We’re after that Native vote.”