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