Sovereignty Restora­tion Day marked with kalo-pound­ing event


Staff Writer

KAHULUI — On a bright Sun­day in July, Kawewehi “Rusty” Pundyke was sur­rounded by the smack­ing of stone on kalo, the slosh­ing of wa­ter buck­ets and oc­ca­sional snip­pets of Hawai­ian lan­guage.

It was ex­actly how he wanted to spend La Ho‘iho‘i Ea, or Sovereignty Restora­tion Day.

“This is about peo­ple just coming to­gether and learn­ing and grow­ing to­gether,” said Pundyke, whose non­profit Lo‘iloa or­ga­nized the com­mu­nity ku‘i, or kalo pound­ing, at the Maui Nui Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. “Hope­fully the sound of the board and stone can just res­onate (with peo­ple), and it doesn’t have to be like a spe­cial oc­ca­sion” to ku‘i.

La Ho‘iho‘i Ea was es­tab­lished in 1843 af­ter a five-month Bri­tish oc­cu­pa­tion of the Hawai­ian King­dom. On Feb. 25, 1843, Bri­tish Navy Capt. Lord Ge­orge Paulet’s threats to use force caused Kame­hameha III to cede Hawaii un­der protest, ac­cord­ing to the Kame­hameha Schools Ho‘okahu Cul­tural Vi­brancy Group. Paulet then or­dered all Hawai­ian flags to be col­lected and de­stroyed.

When Rear Adm. Richard Thomas heard the news, he sailed to Honolulu, announced that Paulet had been dis­avowed and re­stored sovereignty to Kame­hameha III. On July 31, 1843, the Union Jack was low­ered and the Hawai­ian flag was raised in what would be­come Thomas Square in Honolulu.

Some Na­tive Hawai­ians at Sun­day’s event said that La Ho‘iho‘i Ea is not just one day, but ev­ery day, as they live to re­claim and em­body the cul­ture, lan­guage and land of their kupuna.

Re­claim­ing cul­ture

Be­fore he took on a large mound of kalo Sun­day, Hana res­i­dent Naihe Akoi re­cited an oli that spoke to the sa­cred­ness of kalo and the hope that “the peo­ple of Haloa” will one day emerge.

Akoi said La Ho‘iho‘i Ea “rep­re­sents us ev­ery day.”

“Us from Hana, we from the coun­try, so we live sus­tain­ably,” he said. “We do not rely on stores. We drink co­conuts from the co­conut tree. We hunt and fish from the ‘aina and we fight for our own. So to us La Ho‘iho‘i Ea is just an­other day of liv­ing the life.”

In Hana, Akoi works with Malama Haloa, a pro­gram un­der the non­profit Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike, which of­fers ku‘i ses­sions for stu­dents and the com­mu­nity and pro­duces about 300 pounds of pounded kalo a week. When a vis­i­tor Sun­day asked Akoi when the pounded kalo is ready, Akoi said it’s a gut feel­ing, some­thing you know within “your na‘au.”

“Every­thing is one feel­ing in the Hawai­ian cul­ture,” he said.

Mean­while, through his non­profit, Pundyke has a twofold mis­sion — restor­ing taro patches in Iao Val­ley and con­nect­ing at-risk youth to the land. About 10 years ago, Pundyke started clean­ing up the over­grown lo‘i. With the com­mu­nity’s help, he was able to clear 10 patches, one of which is cur­rently planted.

The non­profit pro­vides the cul­tural as­pect of the Maui Po­lice Depart­ment’s

ju­ve­nile in­ter­ven­tion pro­gram. Ev­ery Sun­day, up to 20 youths come to the val­ley to learn about the his­tory of the area and tend to the lo‘i.

“What they like is there’s a lot of metaphors that con­nect what we’re do­ing to things per­ti­nent in their life,” Pundyke said. “This is kind of about wak­ing them up.”

Cur­rently, Lo‘iloa grows dry­land taro, but Pundyke hopes to get wa­ter to the lo‘i some day. He hopes that if the county pur­chases the as­sets of landowner Wailuku Wa­ter Co., then maybe the non­profit can work out some sort of long-term lease.

Re­claim­ing lan­guage

With 2-year-old ‘Olena in her lap, Lei Ishikawa watched as her 5-year-old daugh­ter, Lauka‘ie‘ie, pounded poi. Ishikawa, a kumu at the Pu­nana Leo preschool in La­haina, speaks Hawai­ian lan­guage flu­ently, as do her chil­dren.

“Th­ese are the kind of things we want to teach them,” Ishikawa said, in­di­cat­ing the crowd of peo­ple pound­ing kalo. “We have to ed­u­cate them be­cause this is go­ing to help build their iden­tity.”

Off to the side, Ojai Daniels and Thomas Rodhe eas­ily car­ried on a con­ver­sa­tion in Hawai­ian. The two men come from dif­fer­ent worlds. Rodhe was born in Swe­den and moved to Maui in the late 1980s. Daniels was born on the Main­land but grew up on Kauai, where his mother is orig­i­nally from.

Both mar­ried Maui girls and have chil­dren in Hawai­ian im­mer­sion pro­grams, so they’ll take any chance they get to prac­tice.

Daniels, who has four chil­dren with wife Sheri, re­mem­bered how the Hawai­ian im­mer­sion pro­gram used to be “just a com­po­nent of Paia School.” Now, Hawai­ian im­mer­sion stu­dents are the ma­jor­ity, he said.

Daniels is glad to see the change. His great-grand­mother was a na­tive speaker but came from a gen­er­a­tion where fam­i­lies were scolded for us­ing Hawai­ian. When his mother was grow­ing up, teach­ers would go to homes and dis­cour­age par­ents from speak­ing the lan­guage. When Daniels was a stu­dent at Kame­hameha Schools Ka­palama, his par­ents en­cour­aged him to study a lan­guage that he could “use at the ho­tels.” His sib­lings took Span­ish and Ja­panese. But Daniels is the only one who uses his sec­ond lan­guage ev­ery day.

“My mom . . . has taken Hawai­ian lan­guage classes,” Daniels said. “See­ing her grand­chil­dren, us hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions and they want to be a part of it, that’s driven her. . . . We’re ac­tu­ally chang­ing that mind­set. Don’t be em­bar­rassed to use the lan­guage. Hawai­ian or not, just do it.”

Re­claim­ing land

Keeaumoku Kapu’s fa­ther, Paul, was the last liv­ing heir of Kauaula Val­ley when town au­thor­i­ties forced him out of his home in 1947. He lived with a fam­ily on Lanai, later served in the Korean War and came home to raise his kids on Oahu.

But, in 1994, Paul Kapu started hav­ing vi­sions of a woman look­ing out a win­dow, urg­ing him to re­turn home.

“I said, ‘Dad, you must be drink­ing too much,’” Keeaumoku Kapu re­called.

But when his fa­ther took him and his sib­lings to the val­ley, show­ing them im­por­tant sites and even pulling his old poi pounder out of the bushes, that’s when Kapu knew his fa­ther was right.

The de­ci­sion to come home would set off a nearly 20-year bat­tle with Mak­ila Land Co., which ar­gued that a per­son sup­pos­edly re­lated to the orig­i­nal 1848 awardee had sold the in­ter­est in the 3.4-acre par­cel to Pi­o­neer Mill in 1892. But the Ka­pus were able to trace their fam­ily claim back to the orig­i­nal awardee. On June 23, a 2nd Cir­cuit Court jury re­turned a ver­dict in fa­vor of the Kapu fam­ily.

Em­bold­ened by the vic­tory, Keeaumoku Kapu said Sun­day that he wants to help fam­i­lies put to­gether the doc­u­ments to re­claim their own lands. He and sev­eral other fam­i­lies meet at 6 p.m. ev­ery Thurs­day at the Na‘aikane o Maui Cul­tural Center in La­haina.

“The cel­e­bra­tion of La Ho‘iho‘i Ea is con­tin­ual for me. I never for­get about our past,” said Kapu, chair­man of Aha Moku o Maui. “It’s not iden­ti­fy­ing who you are as a kanaka, but it’s about iden­ti­fy­ing who you were and ap­ply­ing those things.”

Colleen Uechi can be reached at

The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI pho­tos

Maui High School stu­dent Kaimana Ben­jamin (left) and Maui Tem­peh em­ployee Charles Re­vard pound kalo into pa‘i‘ai Sun­day at the Maui Nui Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. The non­profit Lo‘iloa or­ga­nized the ku‘i, or kalo pound­ing, in honor of La Ho‘iho‘i Ea,...

Five-year-old Lauka‘ie‘ie Stills of Kahului cleans off a po­haku ku‘i ai, or poi pounder, along­side mom Lei Ishikawa and 2-year-old sis­ter ‘Olena Stills.

The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

Steamed kalo sits ready for pound­ing be­side a freshly made batch of pa‘i‘ai, the gluti­nous prod­uct be­fore wa­ter is added to make poi.

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