Hundreds March to Save La`au Point
Daybreak, Saturday, Oct. 7: Molokai Ranch cultural advisor Anakala Pilipo Solatorio stands in traditional costume at Kaupoa Beach gates fighting back tears. The entrance to the La`au Point trail is marked “La`au Point this way. No trespassing.” but the gate remains open, allowing hundreds of protestors to make the four mile trek to the disputed stretch of pristine land on the southwest corner of the island. “I saw the spirit of my ancestors in the people who walked through those gates,” said Solatorio.
“They walked the way I have seen night marchers walk in Halawa Valley,” he said. When you see them marching, you move aside. Don’t be in their way. They are doing what they must do.”
About 250 people from keiki to kupuna hiked from Dixie Maru Beach through Kaupoa and on to La`au as a protest against the development of up to 200 residential lots there. Several boats carrying protesters in red “A`ole La`au” shirts drove out to watch the marchers when they reached their destination.
Theopista Purdy, the oldest kupuna to make the trek on foot to La`au Saturday, knitted her own “Save La`au” pin for the march. This is her third protest march, she said, because wants to show her “aloha for the `aina.”
Solatorio said that this was the first Molokai protest march to follow traditional Hawaiian protocol. March leaders Hanohano Naehu and Josh Pastrana blew conch shells from Dixie Maru beach, and Solatario sounded his welcome from inside the gates of the sacred Napiko site at Kaupoa beach. Naehu chanted; Solatario answered.
Senator Clayton Hee, a part-time Molokai resident who has served in the state legislature for 24 years, then opened the march with a speech and a prayer. “This is an island that refuses to be homogenized,” he said. “This place is a refuge. On other islands people in need are stealing copper wire from the highways to survive. Here, they are hunting from the mountains. They are fishing from the sea. I try to close my eyes and look 50 years into the future. Our footprints today will make the path easier to follow for the next generation.”
After a group chant, marchers took to the trail for Kaupoa Beach. Many said they appreciated that Molokai Ranch chose to open its gates along the route for the protest. “While we don't condone trespass on private property, we are working with the group to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of our employees and our guests,” said Molokai Ranch Community Affairs Manager John Sabas in a press release made public the day before.
Protesters reached a seemingly vacant Kaupoa Beach Village after 20 minutes. The group drank water provided by the Ranch, passed a canopy near the beach under which ten ranch employees sat observing and found Solatorio greeting at the gate to La`au. Solatorio said he was happy, sad, and hurt. “Happy,” he said, that “you could all come out like this, sad that it has had to come to this and hurt that the community is being torn apart.”
The march continued for about half an hour until the wide dirt road ended. Protesters regrouped and surveyed pristine Kamaka`ipo Beach to the south and the rough waters of La`au Point to the north. The trail became wide enough for only one at a time, and the eighty degree heat and direct sun started to show wear on the marchers. Spirits remained high, however, and the group was rewarded with an awesome view of waves smashing lava boulders at La`au Point. A group of three pulled up nets with lobsters while six boats whizzed back and forth across the water.
Three bays over, a Hawaiian hale with a ten-foot-wide “Save La`au” banner became visible. Children were already there jumping off rocks and playing in the water at what has become known as Shipwreck Beach. Piles of white coral marked a trail across the bluffs forming the south side of the island, and a final steep decline led into the 500-yard-long sandy cove, where protesters took to any available shade and drank water.
A good place to survey the action was behind terraced rock walls built in the style of a Hawaiian fishpond. Fifteen-year-old Halelu Sibayan spent three days at La`au constructing the wall with eight other students. “We are learning how to save our land and put our mana into it,” she said. “Our kupuna left this legacy to us for a purpose.”
After lounging for an hour the group posed for a photo. Some stayed for a feast of lobster and 50 pound ulua and others trickled back out on the trail. By 3:30 that afternoon most of the group had left Shipwreck Beach. Surf continued to beat lava rocks, a monk seal bathed in sunlight and a Hawaii flag atop a hale of mangrove and palm leaves flapped in the October breeze.