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Capturing Stories: Looking to the Past to Chart a Way Forward 

HERB: With me today is Kaʻohua Lucas and part of the journey of Waikalua Loko Iʻa over the last 26 years have been just phenomenal and Kaʻo and I and the others have been on this journey for a long time.  And I’m happy that she’s sitting with us today. We’re- We’re in October 2021.

We are 19 months into this Covid pandemic in the world and what I wanted to share was some thoughts about looking to the past, to chart a way forward. And how do we take the wisdom of our ancestors, the wisdom that we’ve learned at Waikalua over the last 26 years and help to inspire the next generations and probably more immediately, hopefully, communicate a message about healing and understanding in the context of places like these. And not just Waikalua but many of our other cultural sites throughout Hawaiʻi that are really important to us, as individuals, as family, as community, in terms of empowering us to move forward in a positive way, even though we have these challenges.

And we- And there have been many, and there are lessons to be learned in this process of capturing some of the stories of people that have helped us in this journey and taking some of that power and aloha and mana to be able to, hopefully, transport that into the future and- and give hope for our children especially, because, you know, we’re getting older, and this is an opportunity for us to, hopefully, share some of our manaʻo. We don’t have all of the answers, but we have some wonderful experiences and probably most importantly, relationships that we’ve been able to discover and build and nurture over the years that have brought us to this place. In the history of Hawaiʻi, you know, we know that, through our research, there were almost 500 of these fish ponds that were built from 800 years ago. They are a feat of Hawaiian engineering that is unprecedented in the world. The local kuapā has not been duplicated anywhere else on the planet. And so, you know, 26 years ago, we didn’t know that.

Unfortunately, in the 21st century, you know, there are about maybe 10 or 15% of their loko iʻa that are left in all of the major Hawaiian islands.  So you know, unfortunately, you know, in the 21st century, the Hawaiian loko iʻa, or the fish ponds, are on the verge of vanishing, but there’s been a whole collection of nonprofits, in addition to ours, Pacific American Foundation, and many others that have been, you know, investing in trying to restore some of these places. But none of us have been successful as we speak right now in terms of actually propagating fish as a loko iʻa was originally intended to become.

Inspiring Generations to Come and Curriculum 00:03:03.600 –> 00:05:03.400

And maybe that’s not going to happen for another generation, but in the last 26 years, in the restoration process and the preservation and the revitalization process that we’ve been going through, with many partnerships to help us get there, it has been about not just the physical restoration and not just about the ability to grow food again from these places, but it’s been about taking a step back and really nurturing relationships in a way that could empower how we pass on knowledge from the past into the future so that we have a clear idea of where we need to go in the generations to come. And so part of these stories that we’re sharing with you from some of these wonderful people that have been on the journey with us has been a phenomenal experience in itself for us to capture some of this, so that we can share this with people throughout Hawaiʻi and the world, and more importantly, hopefully, to be able to inspire the generations to come.

When we started this in 1995, we had no manual. Nobody told us, you know, “This is how you do it.” We basically had to do our own studies, our own research, our own ma ka hana ka ʻike, right? And the knowledge came as we started doing it.  And we’ve had wonderful partnerships with the Department of Education in Hawaiʻi, the University of Hawaiʻi, private schools, home schools, charter schools, and many others that have now come to visit the pond. And- So Kaʻohua, you’ve been, you know, you were part of that original, I call them the dream team of people that helped to, you know, develop that very first curriculum called Kahea Loko, which we titled ‘The Call of the Pond.’ You want to share some thoughts and ideas about the importance of that in terms of this journey? Looking at the past to chart a way forward?

Pipipi Story from Ka‘ohua’s Grandma in Ka‘a‘awa about Kuleana 
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KAʻOHUA: Yeah, and maybe- maybe, I’d love to start off with a little story, I was- well, I was just kind of thinking about, you know how we’re looking at the past, trying to learn from the past, to bring it forward, so that it can inform us on what we need to do for the future, so we can perpetuate this legacy that we have here.

And I was just thinking about when I was a- a small thing, I was about 9 years old. I remember distinctly, my grandma, we lived on the ocean. I lived in Kaʻaʻawa. I was raised in Kaʻaʻawa.  But, she would have me go out, and I don’t know if any of you guys know this, but there’s pipipi. Anyway, she would make me go out and pick out pipipi. Pipipi’s about this- I don’t even know what the common name is, but it’s about that big. And so, you know, we would always joke around like “What? There’s nothing- Like, why are you going to get pipipi? There’s nothing there to eat.” You know? But she would make me go out and, myself and my brother, and we’d have to harvest the pipipi. And- But what was really cool and what I learned from her, and of course, this is much later, but what I learned was that if you are picking the pipipi you’re gonna make sure that you don’t take it all. You’re gonna leave enough for the next, you know, for the next time you need.

And- And- And so, I thought that was a really cool kind of teaching. Was that I learned that, you know, even though I brought it in and she made us- Oh, my God, she made us boil the water, and put the pipipi in, and then we had to take it out. And then we had to get a needle, I mean not everybody remembers this but, get the needle and dig out the meat, and then she would fried in butter. And anyway, I think for me, what I learned from that exercise was this idea about, you know, kuleana. And that I had a kuleana to this- to this land, to this ʻāina. Not only to Kaʻaʻawa where I grew up, but to Hawaiʻi and the world.

Kahea Loko Curriculum
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That had kuleana to make sure that I absorbed and practice those teachings that she- that she gave me.  And I feel like that’s kind of what we’re doing here, really, is that we have all of these practices, these ʻike kūpuna, you know? So we’ve learned a lot from our kupuna. We learn stories about this place and so now what we’re trying to do, and I think that’s what the Kahea Loko curriculum did amazingly, was to take these stories, and then now share them with the next generation and- and even beyond that, I think we were also able to not only take those moʻolelo, but also include, you know, the- the science part of it, which was always such a- It- It’s a big part of what we do here, and it’s amazing cuz we have so many wonderful scientists that are part of Kahea Loko- or part of Waikalua Loko.

But anyway, I just saw this kind of connection and this bridge between mo’olelo, our science, and our standards, and being able to get that into our classroom so that the kids that maybe struggle, sometimes, in the classroom- When they came out here it was like a whole different- It was a whole different experience for them.  And I believe that many of them had already- It’s already in innate in them.  Their kūpuna already gave them that knowledge and it was just taking- taking them- giving them a chance to come here, get dirty, go in the fish pond, pull limu, harvest fish, whatever, but it- it kind of brought that to the surface, I think, for many of them.  And I feel like that’s what we’re going to do down the road as- Our kuleana is to ensure that those stories live on and that our kids are reconnected to this land. It’s- It’s important for us to do that and I feel like we’re doing that right now. So anyway, I don’t know if I answered your question. *laughs*

Sheila Cyboron’s First Class Brought to the Pond and Impact 00:09:03.800  –>  00:15:33.000

HERB: No, that’s great. That is great.  I love that. And we do have- You know, kuleana is something that you know for me, too, you know, it’s- once we took on this kuleana, and I grew up right up the street over here, and I didn’t know this place existed until I was 40 years old. But, you know, it is a life- It’s a life work. You don’t ever walk away from it, right?  And it stays with you forever. Now, just as you were talking, I just kind of reminisced about that first class that Sheila Cyboron brought from Castle High School, over here way back in 1998. And, you know, what we took away from that was we thought “Wow… You know, these kids have become so disconnected from places like this.” You know? And they- And we saw this amazing transformation in the kids over a nine-month period, right, where they became, now, the teachers, not just the inspired students. You know, they were teaching other people, you know, adults and other- their peers about their loko iʻa, and I thought that was so wonderful.  And you know, for many years we thought it was about aloha ʻāina, trying to connect kids to ‘how do you do,ʻ you know, ʻcare for- how do you love the land?’  And, you know, what I’ve learned over the years is that, you know, it’s difficult to malama ʻāina, which is the hard part, unless you have aloha for it. But we also learned that aloha ʻāina was really the fourth step because kids over the years ask us “Well, how do you aloha ʻāina?”  “Where do you get that aloha from?” Right?

And for me, as a person of faith, you know, that aloha comes from Akua. That’s the first step. Then he indwells that in us, that’s the second step. And then the third step is the aloha ke kahi i ke kahi.  And that is reminiscent of the many thousands of circles that we’ve made over the years. When everybody comes to understand that no one of us can do this kuleana alone. That it takes a village, it takes many people, it takes aloha ke kahi i ke kahi. Sharing that power of aloha, so that we can do the fourth step in that is aloha ʻāina, and then actually practice that and malama ʻāina, in whatever form/shape it takes.

And I remember, you know, Kahea Loko, when, you know, and shout out to the memory of Maura O’Connor. You know, she was a huge influence for both of us, because she was the genius that helped us to figure out, and yourself, you know, how we bridge that language of education with cultural kuleana, and be able to do it in a way where, you know, we had to help tell that story and be aligned to standards *laughs*

KAʻOHUA: That’s the tricky part.

HERB: Yeah, I mean, you know. Shoots! I mean, I had no clue how to do that. You guys taught me all about that. And you know, it has been a wonderful process to now continue to build these bridges, you know. Looking to the past to chart our way forward because that journey never ends, right?

KAʻOHUA: Yeah… Well, and the- just- I was just thinking, as you were saying that. Just to see the different groups of people that would come out here, and to hear stories from- from kids about how much the place impacted them. And it may- They might not have not been able to articulate it, maybe, in a- in the way we articulate things, but you know, for them to say I remember when I used to go to my grandfather’s house and he had a place where I could work on the land, you know?  And so, when you’re hearing those stories, it’s that you can see that kind of relationship or that understanding. That there- there is still something there. That they- they feel connected to a place like this and not, you know- not- not everybody does, but I felt like there was- there were a lot of stories like that, and it was this idea of connection, and I feel like that- Once you can get kids and community and ʻohana here, and once they see this place and can touch this place, and be part of it, it’s a- it’s a place that helps them connect, but it’s also like eating place, I think. It’s really a place of healing, so..

HERB: And especially in this pandemic time, you know?

KAʻOHUA: Exactly, exactly.

HERB: We need places like this, and now people are beginning to realize that, you know, being outside is a safe place. But, it’s always been a safe place.

KAʻOHUA: Right.

HERB: And in Hawaiʻi, I always say this, you know.  We live in the greatest community classroom on the planet, because our weather allows us the opportunity to take kids outside and immerse in the ʻāina so that they understand the relevance of what they’re learning in the classroom. We need it all, we need both of it. And where I’m hoping that these stories will invigorate and inspire the next generation and many other nonprofits that are doing amazing things in Hawaiʻi today in the 21st century to inspire their own communities, you know, in whatever way, shape, or form, to do the same thing. The last thing I want to say is, you know, as you were talking, I remember, maybe about the 15th year that we were doing this, we had teachers that came and brought their students, that came here when they were students at Pūʻōhala [Elementary School].

KAʻOHUA: Oh my…

HERB: And they said- And they came up to us and they said “Uncle, do you remember me? I was in the fourth grade or sixth grade.” and now they’re a teacher and they’re bringing their own students, and they said “Wow! This place looks so wonderful!”  And I- I basically fell on my knees and I knew that, you know, we were on to something in terms of providing that succession and understanding, really, what our kuleana was to continue that legacy going forward, right?  And, hopefully, these stories will continue that legacy and- and that sharing of, you know, real-time, real, you know, human stories of how the pond has touched people and communities in different ways. Do you agree?-

KAʻOHUA: -I love it. I totally agree. *both laugh*

KAʻOHUA: Success *both laugh*

HERB: I mua! Holomua!

KAʻOHUA: I mua. Holomua.

HERB: Mahalo. Mahalo for coming

KAʻOHUA: Thank you. Thanks for-

HERB: Look forward to the journey ahead-

KAʻOHUA: Me too.

HERB: And look forward to seeing more of your- your pictures and your- your genius and manaʻo.

KAʻOHUA: Cool. Thank you

BOTH: Mahalo

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[end of interview]