Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa Annual Gathering 2017, April 6-9

Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa is a growing consortium of kiaʻi loko (fishpond guardians and caretakers) and stewardship organizations from loko iʻa (traditional Hawaiian fishponds) across Hawaiʻi. This network came into existence in 2004 as an opportunity for kiaʻi loko to empower each other and leverage their skills, knowledge, and resources related to loko iʻa restoration and management.

In April 2017, over 100 kiaʻi loko and supporters gathered in Waiākea (Hilo, Hawaiʻi) for the 2017 annual gathering. Hui Ho'olei Maluō, a community-based effort to care for Honokea Loko, graciously served the network as the community host for the four-day event. We gathered and camped at Kulapae in Waiākea.

Hui Hoʻolei Maluō: Manoa Johansen, Kamala Anthony, Nāhōkū Kahana, Kawai Soares

Day 1

After arriving in Hilo and settling into our campsite at Kulapae, we gathered into small groups for the first dialogue of the afternoon. We brainstormed skills and resources that groups (a) had or could provide to others, and those they (b) needed and wanted!

Check out the notes from this dialogue below! This will inform a resource site that is currently in development.

As the day cooled and the tide receded, we prepared for our time together and oriented ourselves to this ʻāina (land, place). Our journey began with a shoreline walk and ended with an opening ceremony at Laehala. Roxy Stewart, kiaʻi loko at Hale o Lono, introduced an oli (chant) that named the loko and geography of all those present: "Pāheahea Loko". This oli was composed in collaboration with Hui Hoʻolei Maluō.

Our holo along the Hilo shoreline was led by kamaʻāina (native to the place) Manaiakalani Kalua.

We walked, talked, and learned the names and rich moʻolelo of places such as Puʻuomilo, Puhi, Kulapae, ʻAuwili, Naulaʻa, Kokoiki, Keoke...

...Keonekahakaha, Kamokuna, Honohononui, Honumakapaʻa, Alaʻōpae, Kaumealani, Ulunui...

...and finally, our journey ended at Laehala. There, our host kiaʻi led us in an opening ceremony to welcome all loko iʻa and invoke the flowing of wai (water, freshwater) so essential to these places and practices.

Pāheahea Loko! Mai ke poʻowai, ka pūnāwai. He mai, he mai.

A call to all loko! From the headwaters, the springs. Come forward, we gather.


Day 2

Our second day together started bright and early with a trip along the Hāmākua coast to Lālākea Loko Iʻa. Uncle Kenrock Higa with support from the Hawaiian Cultural Center of Hāmākua, welcomed Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa to Waipiʻo Valley.

Over the past year, Uncle Rocky had shared his vision for the “reactivation” of Lālākea Loko Iʻa, which was devastated by tsunami damage in 1946. In the weeks leading up to the gathering, the Lālākea Loko Wai Hui constructed a kuahu (altar). This kuahu would hold pōhaku (stones) brought from other loko iʻa from across the islands.

On the day of the ceremony, over 80 representatives and supporters from 25 fishponds and wai ʻōpae across Hawaiʻi gathered at this kuahu to bless the restoration efforts at Lālākea to come.

Much of the ceremony honored the wai (freshwater) that flows from deep in the valley and the pūnāwai (springs) that flow alongside the kuahu.

After the ceremony, everyone enthusiastically jumped into the waters of Lālākea and worked together in high spirits to clear vegetation from inside the pond. We were so privileged to participate in the manifestation of Uncle Rocky’s vision and the rebirth of this sacred space.

Eō Lālākea!

Following our return to camp, we settled in for dinner and more small-group discussion facilitated by Chad Wiggins (The Nature Conservancy and Ka Loko o Kīholo). During the 2016 gathering, Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa solidified vision and mission statements that collectively describe their focus and work together.

VISION: perpetuate ʻāina momona through loko iʻa culture
MISSION: empowering a network of kiaʻi loko whose kuleana is to reactivate, restore, and cultivate loko iʻa guided by loko iʻa culture in pursuit of ʻāina momona for ʻohana and communities

To build upon the momentum of that collective vision, our evening dialogue focused on:

  • How can working together help us reach our vision?
  • How can we share with one another?
  • What do we want to share / know?

Before the evening closed, Hui Hoʻolei Maluō shared manaʻo (thoughts) on the theme they offered for the gathering:

Kaiāulu Hanakahi (the community who works together), which with further makawalu (examination from varied perspectives) can include Ka Iʻa Ulu (the growing fish).

By savoring the many rich layers of this manaʻo, we hoped to inspire and ground ourselves for the following day on the ʻāina of our host community.

Day 3

This day was spent strengthening our connection to the places and people of our host community. All within a few minutes' drive from our campsite at Kulapae, we split our time between Honokea Loko, Haleolono, and Waiāhole.

Our morning hana (physical work) was at Haleolono.

There we moved pōhaku out to the main kuapā (wall) to rebuild and fortify it.

Eō Haleolono!

After some brief hana removing California grass at Waiāhole, we gathered there with our hosts at Kumuola Marine Science Center for lunch.

Mahalo to Mōliʻi + PACRC for always sharing oysters at our gatherings!

For the next three hours of our afternoon, we split into groups for various workshops at Honokea Loko, Haleolono, Waiāhole, and the Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center.

Mahalo to our host groups for organizing these opportunities to learn and share loko iʻa culture and practice with one another!

Kaulana Mahina
Fish tagging

The last discussion of the evening finalized a Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa resolution titled "Kahe Mau Ka Wai Ola.” Initiated at last year's gathering in Kīholo, this document emphasizes the importance of wai (freshwater) to the health and functioning of loko iʻa, and asserts the need for clean flowing freshwater sources for kalo, limu, nearshore fisheries and all the stream organisms throughout our ahupuaʻa.

Day 4

On our last day together we broke down camp and reflected on our theme, Kaiāulu Hanakahi / Ka Iʻa Ulu Hanakahi.

We screen printed shirts, bags, pareo, and ANYKINE fabric with the 2017 Kaiāulu Hanakahi / Ka Iʻa Ulu Hanakahi Gathering design by Manoa Johansen of Hui Hoʻolei Maluō.

Our closing circle provided space to reflect on our time together. Sharing our thoughts on the theme Kaiāulu Hanakahi / Ka Iʻa Ulu Hanakahi, we focused on how we would contribute to kaiāulu and continue the growth of our communities in the coming year. In looking ahead, many saw the foundation for healthy community and families and functioning loko iʻa, abundant with fish.

"We need to empower ourselves and come from a place of knowing that we are the experts of our places."
"As we strive for ʻāina momona, [we] realize and fall into that function of us being that voice that really talks about the changes that are happening and ʻauamo that kuleana to vocalize that change."
"We need to make a better effort to have consistent community work days so kids can bring their ʻohana and lead their ʻohana in that place...we're trying to bring back the ʻono to our place."
"We set a strong foundation with the community growing and we're ready to tackle bigger challenges."
"We are the tip of the spear pushing through to make a better future. Each of us is a conduit through which knowledge flows, we are mākāhā and we are the iʻa."
Social media captures throughout the gathering

Based on results from the evaluation survey,

88% of participants said they learned new resource management information that they will apply in their loko iʻa work.

The activities most commonly named as "effective elements of the gathering" were active hana (physical work), networking/relationships/fellowship, and learning/sharing.

"The relationships gained, the knowledge learned will allow me to move my loko iʻa forward. Truly incredible and powerful."
"The workshop breakouts were very helpful, giving us the time to learn new or improve a skill needed to achieve goals at our own loko."

Mahalo nunui to the supporters who generously provided the means for Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa to gather this year:

Hawaiʻi Sea Grant, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Marisla Foundation, Keith & Judy Swayne Family Foundation, Sidney E. Frank Foundation, Hawaii Community Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Summary of expenses for the 2017 annual gathering

Mahalo palena ʻole...we have boundless gratitude for the hard work and vision of the host groups, everyone's wholehearted participation, and for the opportunity to continue gathering and advancing our work together...ka iʻa ulu hanakahi...

"The families I have because of this meeting are powerful."

Mahalo // A hui hou!!

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