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The Nation of Hawaii carves out a home

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Dec. 28, 1994

By Pat Omandam

The Independent Nation of Hawaii was at a crossroads six months ago when its members were forced from state-owned land at Makapuu Beach to higher ground in Waimanalo Valley.

Today, the people of Pu'uhonua o Waimanalo have turned the area at the end of Waikupanaha Street into a new beginning. Their leader, Pu'uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele, offered a glimpse at their world yesterday.

"I think what's most important is how families here have worked together (toward) the commitment of sovereignty and the commitment to all peoples of Hawaii of what we are trying to do," Kanahele said.

Nation of Hawaii members have carved out a home for themselves in the rough, hilly terrain, conquering the forest and brush. Those who have witnessed the transformation -- with its emphasis on sovereignty, education, restoration of taro patches and reclamation of stream waters -- say working at the 65-acre site is a reward in itself.

"Generally, when the Hawaiians make the news -- unless it's a cultural event -- it's on what's not working," said David Po, a Nation member since about 1990.

The state-owned land, leased to the Nation, is now home to 22 small wooden houses, a few larger buildings and a handful of makeshift tent sites along the dirt road that begins where Waikupanaha Street ends. Electricity and water are limited, and portable commodes are used in lieu of a sewage system.

Yesterday, the campsite buzzed with activity as workers erected a wooden house frame and a truck replaced the portable commodes. A child played in a swing at a newly created playground -- a Christmas gift built by the community -- while turkeys and chickens gobbled and clucked in cages at the upper end of the road.

From that vantage point, members also have a clear view of Waimanalo and the ocean.

Po said the nation has plans for a self-sufficient village where all food and energy, as well as a cottage industry to earn money, will be produced right on the land.

And he expects things will only get better next year.

"It's working because of Ohana's own resourcefulness. Self-determination is creating a success story for the Hawaiians," Po said.

"This is a peaceful process to restore the rights of the people. We're going about it in a right way, in a way that makes sense.

The success has attracted two movie producers interested in taking the story to the big screen. North Tower Films owners Steve Staples and Robert Watts expect to begin shooting within six months.

"We think its a fantastic thing that's going on here," Staples said. "What's happening here on a human level is very much the subject matter of the kinds of stories we want to produce in film."

Watts, who helped produce films such as the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" trilogies, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Alive," has been living with Nation members for three weeks.

"The producers, along with Honolulu resident Matthew Kresser, have contributed more than $100,000 to the Nation in supplies and donations," Kanahele said.

Kanahele said any movie based on the sovereignty movement will serve to promote the plight of native Hawaiians. Also helping their cause is the group's Internet tie-in, through which millions of computer users learn about the movement.

"When you start to create something like this that's good, then you start to bring in people who are inquisitive about what's going on," Kanahele said.

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