Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa 2019 Annual Gathering May 16-19, Kahina Pōhaku, Molokaʻi

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.

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

Soon after the 2018 gathering on Lānaʻi, Uncle Leimana Naki knew that he wanted to host the Hui on Molokaʻi at Kahina Pōhaku. The 2019 gathering was convened and organized by the nonprofit Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo, which has facilitated the network since 2012. This year we camped at the Waiālua Church Pavilion on the shores of the pond Hoʻokamakea in the ahupuaʻa (traditional land division) of Waiālua.

First circle together; all photos by Scott Kanda unless otherwise noted

This gathering report is meant to share our experiences and takeaways with everyone involved, including all our surrounding ʻohana and supporting community who make it possible for us to gather, to record and tell the happenings and history of Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa.

...i mea e maopopo ai i keia hanauna; a ia hanauna aku ia hanauna aku...so that this generation and each subsequent generation will understand… S. M. Kamakau.

Day 1

We arrived in waves over the course of nearly 8 hours, with some Kauaʻi folks even having to transfer airlines to get to Molokaʻi!

We set up our tents and as the last group of people arrived, we shared our first meal together. Uncle Leimana introduced his vision for our work over the next two days, which included three projects: kuapā (wall), hale (traditional thatched structure), and umu (aboveground oven).

Day 2

While some participants visited Kahina Pōhaku the previous afternoon in preparation for our work there, this morning was the first time we all crossed from Waiālua into Moanui, the ahupuaʻa of Kahina Pōhaku.

To prepare the work project, Uncle Leimana spent the past year gathering stray pōhaku (stone) from inside the pond into 21 piles that awaited our collective hands that morning. Over the years of gathering, we have learned that the work moves smooth and fast when materials are on-hand and ready to go, and when we put our collective hands and energies into a project.

The hale crew planted their posts and started constructing ʻolokeʻa (scaffolding). The umu crew had their foundation stacked and fortified with cement the day before so they jumped into laying fire bricks with special mortar for the inside of the umu.

Left photo by Brenda Asuncion

After lunch, we spent a few hours in dialogue building our collective understanding – our first attempt – of shared measurement for Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa.


February 2018: about 30 poʻo (heads, leaders) of various loko iʻa gathered to plan the ways that Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa works together to achieve their vision and mission.

April 2018: during our gathering on Lānaʻi, participants reviewed and affirmed the ideas from the poʻo. They agreed on names for six topical “areas” that encompass the collective work of the Hui: Loina Welo, Education, Iʻa, Hoʻāla Hou, Hui Sharing, and He Hui Hoʻokahi. Following the Lānaʻi gathering, we piloted questions in KUA’s annual survey to try understanding our collective movement in these six areas.

May 2019: this afternoon was the first opportunity for participants to review the annual survey results together and discuss what could be learned from this KILO process of shared measurement.

An outcome of the second annual poʻo gathering in March 2019 was the idea to share mea ʻai (food) from our various loko iʻa and ʻāina as a tangible expression of our relationship to the places we mālama. Each year we will strive to deepen our understanding of these beloved and sacred places and the multitude of ways they feed us!

“Let's continue to do what we're doing tonight. Continue sharing our food, this is something we should always do. Make sure we continue the pū ʻai action (iʻa or other ʻai). We have work to do but main thing is we have physical sustenance coming from ponds and that we can be proud of.” - 2019 gathering participant

Day 3

Before leaving the pavilion, we warmed up our bodies with movement and laughter to learn a #BOSSdancefriends piece with Dr. Kiana Frank.

We spent the rest of the morning back at the loko iʻa, raising the remainder of 1200 square feet of kuapā and moving several piles of hakahaka -- smaller stones of all sizes -- to serve their function of filling space.

The hale and umu also continued to grow and take their forms as the day went on...

Photo by Brenda Asuncion
Photo by Tiana Henderson

Our closing pule (prayers) and oli (chants) added layers of protection to keep the wall standing beyond what our physical skills might have enabled.

“The loko ia facilitates the role of the Hawaiian people, but acknowledges that it is the people [that] are needed to fulfill the role of loko. Mo Betta!!” - 2019 gathering participant

Of course, we filmed our #BOSSdancefriends video!

After lunch, our discussion built on yesterday’s manaʻo. Participants were encouraged to freely circulate around the pavilion to share questions and ideas in each of the six areas.

All this manaʻo will inform the movement, action, and deepen our collective understanding of our loko iʻa practice in the coming years and far into our future!

Day 4

On our last day together we looked ahead to the next year-ish. We shared ideas for Hoʻokua projects which activate mobile volunteer work between islands, and our vision of how our Hui could participate in the World Aquaculture Society conference in February 2020.

Our last practice of sharing was in a closing circle to offer one word of what was on our heart and mind.

Based on results from the evaluation survey completed by 2019 gathering participants, 98% of participants* said they learned new resource management information that they will apply in their loko iʻa work. (*percentage of participants who answered this particular question)

Some examples of what participants thought were the most effective elements of the gathering:

“Hana, networking, keeping the hui as a collective and how we all can grow, talking about how we can move forward.”
“The gathering immersed participants in kuleana and practice”
“Narrow down actions for cluster. Assign kuleana. Develop timeline.”

Mahalo a nui loa...we are so grateful for the opportunity to offer our mana together at Kahina Pōhaku. Mahalo to ʻOhana Naki for hosting us as their own ʻohana. We honor them as kuaʻāina of Kahina Pōhaku and all the wahi important to their ʻohana.

Mahalo to Uncle Leimana for teaching us lessons that no other could teach us, in ways that no other could teach.

Mahalo nunui to the supporters who generously provided the means for Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa to gather this year: University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Hawaiʻi Tourism, Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Swayne Family Foundation, Sidney E. Frank Foundation, and Koaniani Fund, and Young Brothers for in-kind materials shipment as part of their Community Support Program. The numbers shown below solely represent KUA’s contribution to the gathering. Importantly, this does not reflect the contributions of KUA personnel, gathering hosts and all the kiaʻi loko as volunteer participants in Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa.

"Someone had mentioned that this experience was their first and that it has changed their life to return home to get more involved...that is a great measure of kuleana.”-2019 gathering participant

Before one of our meals together, Hui Hoʻoleimaluō reminded us of the origins of Pāheahea Loko, an oli composed for the 2017 gathering. The oli invokes the flowing of water essential to the health and functioning of loko iʻa, names the loko iʻa and their physical lineage rooted in ʻāina, and activates our intention of coming together as a hui in support of our collective efforts. Mahalo to all the participants in the 2019 gathering of Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa: