"We'd love to share with our Hawaiian community and everybody out there all our plans, and share all our dreams, and you know, we like you guys feel us back here, feel the wind in our face, feel the sun on our skin, but feel us. Because it's all out here for us, just make the move. Because we all doing the same thing on all the different islands, eh, braddahs and sistahs out there, because we all wen' learn from each other. We all get different mana`o, but we all going the same route, and it's all towards sovereignty, and our rights, eh. And we know that our kupunas are in back of us, we know that our ancestors are in back of us. Come home, it's all here, come home."
- Mo Moler of Ka Ohana O Kahikinui, on the "Ku`e" CD by Sudden Rush
Monday, March 17, 1997
By Meki Cox / Associated Press
HONOLULU -- It's a simple stone house without running water or electricity on a slice of land that runs from the dormant volcano Haleakala to the sea on the island of Maui.
But for Donna Simpson and her 9-year-old daughter, Kawehi, this is their dream home.
Here they can hunt and farm and gather just as their Hawaiian ancestors did centuries ago.
By the end of the year, 125 families will have resettled 23,000 acres of barren land known as Kahikinui, set aside by Congress in 1921 for native Hawaiians but never distributed.
"My ancestors are from Kahikinui. That's why we want to go back home," said Simpson, a single parent.
The families will live primitively under the old Hawaiian land concept, known as ahupuaa, in which the land, which runs from the forest to the ocean, provides people with game, building materials, water and garden plots.
Kahikinui is part of 200,000 acres Congress reserved under the Hawaiian Home Lands Act.
A waiting list was started with the names of all people who had at least 50-percent native Hawaiian blood. Many people died while waiting decades for the state to put in roads, running water and other improvements, as required by law. The list today has 16,000 names.
Now, for the first time, the state is letting a native Hawaiian group develop land themselves, said Aric Arakaki of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which administers the 200,000 acres.
A chronic shortage of money has slowed state plans to develop the land, most of which is in the poorest, most remote areas, where the costs of preparing land for homesteading is highest, Arakaki said.
But some Hawaiians say they will be satisfied with living on bare land.
"Hawaiians just want to be caretakers of the land again," said Mo Moler, spokesman for the native group Ka Ohana O Kahikinui, some 30 people who have volunteered to get the land ready.
The name means "The Family of Big Tahiti."
Kahikinui is thought to be the place where the original Polynesians came ashore in Hawaii.
"These people don't want to live in the city, but in the country where their ancestors used to live," he said. "This is about going back to the basics, culturally, physically and spiritually."
A yearlong survey has uncovered thousands of clues that a large population of Hawaiians once lived on the area. Among items found were religious shrines, house and burial sites, fish bones and stone tools, Arakaki said.
Under the new program, the state is letting native Hawaiian families lease undeveloped areas for $1 per acre annually for 99 years.
Water will be collected from mountain fog in catchment systems. Energy eventually will come from solar power, Moler said; a transmitter will provide communications.
The homes will use solar heating, composting toilets, wind energy and water-saving techniques, he said.
If the program proves successful, Arakaki said, the Home Lands department will lease additional plots of undeveloped trust land to the next native Hawaiians on the waiting list.
Ka Ohana O Kahikinui also is working to restore the nearby 7,000-acre Kahikinui Forest, which was damaged when Westerners' goats, pigs and cattle over-browsed the area.
The replanting efforts are showing some sign of hope.
"Old-timers now drive by and say to me how amazed they are that Kahikinui has life again," Moler said.
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