Words transcribed from a panel at the Aha Pawalu O'ahu:

Topic: What is the role of traditional knowledge and practice in natural resource management?

Traditional practice is based on 'ike [knowledge], coupled with what our na'au [gut] tells us is pono [right]. But as wise ones such as Judge Richardson tell us, each of us today lives in two worlds, so when we pull on 'ike we look to not 'ike Hawai'i alone, but ke akeakamai o ka honua a pau [the learning of the whole world].

We live in a world where we can see the face of Kumu Ka'imikaua and listen to his words again, scant months after his passing, made pa'a [steadfast] in modern technological media. It is a way to extend the oral tradition to touch not only us here, but generations to come.

So too the puke [books] that great Hawaiians such as Kamakau, Malo, Kepelino, Papa 'I'i, and others made pa'a for us the leo kupuna [ancestor's voices], so they could be heard. And 'ae, add to that, the puke of Fornander, Emerson, Kelsey, and other po'e haole [foreign people] who likewise valued the huge richness of 'ike in the oli [chants], mele [songs]and mo'olelo [stories]of ka po'e Hawai'i [the Hawaiian people].

They all contribute to 'ike, just as in this so-called age of information we are surrounded by books, blogs podcasts & web pages competing for attention and striving to influence. So we must recognize that there is 'ike in many forms, and some is good and some is trash and whatever form it takes, when it is pono, take it and malama [cherish], and ina 'a'ole, e kapae a'e – [if not, let it go].

The important step is to ho'olohe [attend] – i mea e a'o ka na'au a ho'ona'auao – [in order to get enlightenment] and make decisions based on enlightenment.

But ho'olohe is a matter of choice – the next question is: Ho'olohe ia wai? [Who to listen to?]

In matters of malama 'aina [land stewardship], ua pono e ho'olohe: [it is right to attend to:]

i ka hu, ka maka'ainana [to the masses, the common people]

i na mea no'eau, mea akeakamai [to the wise, the learned]

i na kupuna [to the elders]

i na ali'i [to the chiefs] – and in these times, these are the accepted decision-makers in government and elsewhere

and in this sequence of rank comes the highest group, requiring the most attentive ear:

'o ka leo kupuna loa, leo 'aumakua, leo kini akua. [the eldest voices, voices of ancestor spirits, voices of the myriad gods] -- the voices that we have largely lost contact with, but which still guide many of us:

'o ka leo 'i'iwi i ka maha lehua [the voice of the 'i'iwi in the clusters of lehua blossoms]

'o ka hae li'ili'i o ka owali'i makali'i [the small banner of the owali'i makali'i fern] poking out of the hinehine'ula moss at Pepe'opae.

The sigh of the honu ne'e i kahakai, ne'e i uka [sea turtle crawling on the beach, crawling landward]

When I listen to them and attend to their needs, I know it strengthens all of us now and seven generations forward.

So what does it boil down to in community process?

It means consciously seeking 'ike from the expanding rings of communities that extend outward from each place, the people there, the stakeholders, the knowledgable, the historians, the caretakers.

It can be grueling, but it makes all the difference between failure and success., Two examples come to mind where efforts such as this, to call in stakeholders, decision-makers, practitioners, the learned – to envision together the desires to heal; to revive simultaneously the place and the people.

The two examples are the Kaho'olawe natural and cultural resource management plan of the KIRC and the restoration and management plan for Keauhou, Ka'u of the Kamehameha Schools.

Both pulled in community, experts, and managers and built a foundation of shared knowledge, visions, and methods to address the challenges of realizing our goals at a place. Structured communication was established – networks of the participants who would continue to feed their mana'o into the process as it was implemented, adding detail as detail was needed.

I hope the same for the Aha Moku Councils, but the challenge remains: can they effect the same kind of process? Perhaps, if their focus is place-based, their membership is rotating, and if the advice balances cultural rights with the huge cultural responsibilities to protect the resources of the land and sea generations forward. That is a heavy responsibility indeed!

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