Hui o Kuapā
Strengthening the foundation one stone at a time
A HAWAIIAN LEARNING CENTER


Education is the kua or backbone of the Hui o Kuapā mission. Hui o Kuapā educates the local and global community about Native Hawaiian resource management and innovations through hands on experience in the fishponds or loko iʻa as well as through advocacy of native rights and issues. The organization has been instrumental in raising awareness about the need to care for our planet and food security in rural communities. It proudly continues to carry out that mission today.

Hui o Kuapā works primarily out of Keawanui Fishpond, a site they saved from development and fully restored. Today it serves as a living laboratory and classroom.  In this learning environment, students are offered opportunity to learn science, engineering, technology and math skills, in additional to cultural studies, civics and history.  Hui o Kuapā welcomes and hosts numerous primary school groups, organizations and communities leaders from throughout the paeʻāina (Hawaiian archipelago).

A long-standing site for Kamehameha Schools extension education programs such as Ho‘olauna, Keawanui Fishpond is an important education site and programs’ ongoing success.  Over 14,000 students have participated in repair and construction of the loko iʻa at Keawanui and learned moʻolelo Hawaiʻi. Hui o Kuapā hosts over 1,000 people each year on the small island of Moloka‘i for education activities.

The Hui o Kuapā team also travels throughout Hawai‘i and the world to share their message of island innovation and sustainability with a wide range of diverse groups. From New Zealand to Washington D.C., the team inspires other rising leaders to champion environmental work in local communities. Few organizations can demonstrate having had the same social or cultural impact as Hui o Kuapā.

For over 25 years, Hui o Kuapā has championed traditional Hawaiian aquaculture.  By hosting community organizing events to teach about sustainable fishing practices and train local community members in advocacy, the fishpond movement garnered support from key officials like Governor John Waihe‘e who established the Moloka‘i Fishpond Task Force and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who took personal interest in the effort and helped to direct over $1.4 million in federal funds through the Environmental Protection Agency to support fishpond restoration and the study of their ecosystem services.

Watch: For the past 28 years, the Keawanui Hawaiian Learning Center has tirelessly worked to restore traditional practices and cultural pride in an effort to find sustainable solutions for the future.
RESTORATION






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years strong. Hui o Kuapā restores traditional knowledge and cultural pride, utilizing the wisdom of our kūpuna to build a resilient future for all of Hawai‘i.






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pokahu have been set by Hui o Kuapā staff, partners and volunteers at loko i‘a across Moloka‘i and Hawai‘i.






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haumana (students) and community groups have learn from the Hui o Kuapā team at educational events across Hawai‘i about the importance of traditional Hawaiian knowledge and sustainability.

Loko iʻa are meant to feed the people and with that purpose they are a critical resource to food security in the rural areas. Before western contact, there were over 400 loko i‘a in Hawai‘i feeding the population. In 1989, Uncle Walter Ritte began the first effort to restore traditional fishponds, a movement that continues to gain ground today. Keawanui fishpond is one of the first and most long-standing fishpond restoration initiatives. Communities look to it as an example, as it is the largest enclosed and fully operational fishpond in the Hawaiian Islands.

Working with the local community Hui o Kuapā, rebuilds and rediscovers traditional knowledge to build and manage loko iʻa. By working with the rocks, water, marine life and other natural resources Hui o Kuapā has established a fully functional loko iʻa. Since its establishment, Hui o Kuapā has travelled to neighboring loko iʻa across the islands to share their knowledge and expertise. Thanks to their long-standing dedication, numerous nonprofit organizations focusing on fishpond restoration have been formed following Hui o Kuapā’s model and a number of loko iʻa in Hawai‘i are in the process of being fully restored.

Hui o Kuapā also links environmental restoration to cultural restoration. The team teaches about the importance of cultural pride and the ingenuity of Hawaiian sustainability. By reinforcing how traditional Hawaiian natural resource management practices maintained a healthy population for 2,000 years prior to western contact, Hui o Kuapā helps to show community members in Hawai‘i today how food security can once again be achieved.

RESEARCH

Hui o Kuapā has been a leader in promoting ʻike Hawaiʻi, traditional knowledge, throughout their 25-year history. The organization plays a vital role in advancing Hawaiian innovation and engineering, as the staff and practitioners continuously refine practices within their environment discovering and rediscovering methods of maintaining traditional ecosystems and food systems while maintaining their fragile ecological surroundings. Native Hawaiians were ingenious in their ability to live with the lowest environmental footprint and through emulating their practice Hui o Kuapā is researching ways to make modern living more sustainable.


Loko iʻa represent one of the most advanced methods of fish farming of the ancient people of the Pacific. Hui o Kuapā works to promote traditional practices in food security and engineering while also participating in cutting-edge research and adapting modern techniques to compliment and enhance fishpond management. Through its years of experience, the organization continues to develop and teach people throughout Hawaiʻi the processes involved in fishpond construction, fish husbandry, conservation, and sustainable food systems.


As a leader in environmental stewardship, Hui o Kuapā recognizes the delicate balance between resource availability and our natural environment. As one of the only loko iʻa actively managed in Hawai‘i, the fishpond practitioners at Hui o Kuapā provide critical real-time climate change adaption by utilizing various bioshields and other proven fortification techniques consistent with those found throughout the Pacific Islands to help protect cultural resources and low-lying areas.


Through collaboration with local and national partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Oceanic Institute, Conservation International Hawai‘i, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Hawai‘i Pacific University, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Mālama ‘Āina Foundation, Kamehameha Schools and others, Hui o Kuapā is at the forefront of climate change efforts in the Pacific, aquaculture activities, promoting food security, environmental and cultural education, traditional landscape restoration, and engaging in advocacy efforts and environmental protection in Hawaiʻi.
VISIT
Come visit Keawanui to learn about this marvel of ancestral technology! The loko iʻa provides an outdoor learning environment for a range of educational experiences, and it allows educators to integrate all kinds of subjects with the expertise of our kiaʻi loko. Previous educational groups have integrated science, history, politics, art, math, and writing into their learning about the loko iʻa and surrounding ahupuaʻa.  We offer:

  • Field trips for Molokaʻi public school groups. Visits for Molokaʻi public schools are free and typically run between 3-5 hours, depending on the needs of the group. These visits are led by our kiaʻi-educators and include a welcome, tour, service learning project, and related educational lessons, if requested. We may also be able to help with providing bus transportation from your school. Contact our kiaʻi for more information about free ground transportation.
  • Day-visits allow community or school groups to use the outdoor and covered spaces on the grounds of Keawanui, where your own leaders can conduct lessons or other activities. Day-visits range from an hour to a full-day but are distinct from field trips in that they do not involve significant interaction with our kiaʻi-educators beyond an initial welcome. Contact our kiaʻi for pricing.
  • Field schools. Field schools are multi-day educational experiences that allow educators to co-design unique educational experiences with our kiaʻi. Field schools can include camping on the grounds of Keawanui and allow groups to have lengthier, more in-depth experiential learning at the fishpond. They allow our educational partners to more fully integrate their own knowledge with that of our kiaʻi. Contact us for pricing and planning.
  • Walking tours. 60-minute walking tours of the fishpond are led by one of our kiaʻi. Cost is $20 for up to five people, with $5 per additional person. Kids under 5 are free.

If you are a group leader interested in bringing a group to Keawanui,

  1. Check the calendar on this site to see if the dates you want are available.
  2. Contact Hanohano Naehu at (808) 336-0853 or alohaainawarrior@gmail.com, or Joseph Farber  farber808@gmail.com to confirm the date and type of visit.

Fill out the pre-visit survey at https://goo.gl/rvthFm

ABOUT
Welcome to Keawanui, a 55-acre marvel of Hawaiian ancestral technology over 800 years old. Welcome to the future. Keawanui is the largest loko iʻa on the island of Molokaʻi and the only one that has been restored to functionality on this island. Moloka‘i traditions tell us that centuries ago, thousands of people– probably a third of all the residents on the island– came together to pass stones hand-to- hand over the steep mountainous terrain separating the north and south shores of Moloka‘i. Like a lei adorning the island, they stood shoulder to shoulder, transporting the basalt rocks that would become the kuapā of the sixty-eight loko iʻa that once existed on the south-facing side of the island, the northern seas and shoreline being too rough for such structures. From a bird’s eye view, the fishponds themselves became like a lei gracing and adorning Molokaʻi, the island child of Hina. Long before the loko iʻa were built, Hina herself walked along the southern coast, creating fresh water springs by plunging her ʻōʻō into the soft earth. A few of these springs still feed Keawanui fishpond, which is located in the ahupua‘a of Ka‘amola.

The restoration of Keawanui fishpond is a product of one of the first Hawaiian community-driven efforts to restore loko iʻa in the contemporary era as part of a vision for food self-sufficiency using Indigenous cultural traditions and innovations. The vision for Keawanui began in the late 1970s when Walter visited Keawanui with kūpuna of Moloka‘i. They said, “this place has to be kept for the Hawaiians.” The land owner had been considering developing the area by dredging the reef and building hotels, but the powerful vision and determination of the Moloka‘i community prevailed.

Walter Ritte founded Hui o Kuapā, a non-profit organization, in 1989 and began restoring fishponds across Moloka‘i starting with Honouliwai and Kahinapōhaku. Molokaʻi youth were engaged in this process, which included both labor on the ‘āina and leadership training. Hui o Kuapā shifted to focus on the revitalization of Keawanui fishpond in 2001.

Since Hui o Kuapā began its work at Keawanui, the hui has taken responsibility to manage a total land and water area of 73.59 acres. Of this area, the kuapā bounds 54.5 acres within the loko iʻa itself. Much of the early work was in rebuilding the kuapā. By 2004, the team had fully repaired the wall and closed in the pond. Over the next several years, the team has also improved the surrounding infrastructure, reopened the pūnāwai and planted permaculture gardens on the land adjacent to the pond. In other words, we have just scratched the surface of what this cultural, historic treasure left by our ancestors can do for us in these present days.

Our Kiaʻi and Support Staff

Walter Ritte Jr, is the visionary and president of Hui o Kuapāʻs nonprofit board. He has been a leader of aloha ʻāina movements since the 1970s. As a native of Molokaʻi, he was initially involved in Hui Alaloa, which fought to maintain Hawaiian access rights for subsistence and cultural practices. He is the founder of Hui o Kuapā and has been working to restore loko iʻa since the 1980s. He lives the values of aloha ʻāina as a hunter, a caretaker of Keawanui, an educator, a father and grandfather. He is also a well-known advocate for food security and Hawaiian sovereignty.

Kalaniua Ritte is the lead kiaʻi loko and site director at Keawanui. He has been working on the restoration of this ancestral marvel of technology for over 15 years and has 20 years of experience in restoring loko iʻa. This work has included leading the reconstruction of approximately 5,000 feet of stone wall, or kuapā, and the rediscovery of an ancient fresh water spring. He leads educational groups at the fishpond, helping to transmit this critical indigenous knowledge and practice to new generations, and he manages the Hui o Kuapā staff in their day-to-day efforts to envision and restore food sovereignty to the island. Kalaniua has also been a long-time advocate in the fight for public health and safety against corporate agribusiness in Hawaiʻi. All this work is part of a lifetime commitment to aloha ʻāina.

Hanohano Naehu is the educational programs coordinator and a kiaʻi loko of Keawanui. Born and raised on Moloka‘i on lands his ʻohana has stewarded for countless generations, Hanohano has become the voice, the “talking chief,” of Keawanui. A gifted orator, poet and rapper, Hano combines the traditional stories of the place with contemporary beats and language, as a means to draw youth and other visitors into the vision and work of restoring ʻāina. He is the kiaʻi who typically greets visiting groups and welcomes them through educational tours at the loko iʻa. Hanohano has used his knowledge as kia‘i loko to lobby in D.C. for Marine Monument expansion and in various parts of Oceania, such as Rapanui and Tahiti, to help Pacific Islanders in their own environmental efforts and struggles to weave together scientific technology with traditional knowledge. As he likes to say, we should “modernize without compromise,” keeping aloha ʻāina as our guiding principle.

Joseph Farber, JD, MA, is the Director of Resource Management and Strategic Planning with Hui o Kuapā. He is an urban and regional planner by training, focusing on environmental land-use planning and permitting, watersheds, wetland and island ecosystems. Over the past fifteen years, Joe has provided legal consultation to the EPA, the state, and other entities
regarding permitting and procedures for fishpond restoration. He is also the author of Ancient Hawaiian Fishponds: Can Restoration Succeed on Molokaʻi (1997) and has been an active supporter of the work of Hui o Kuapā since the 1990s. His experience in community planning, meeting facilitation, strategic plan development and grant writing provide tremendous assets to Hui o Kuapā.

Kahekili Pa-Kala is an assistant kiaʻi loko and land utilization specialist. As a former student in Keawanui educational programming from 2002-2005, Kahekili is a product of Hui o Kuapā who has returned to contribute to the growth of our programs. He joined the staff as an intern in 2015.

Hui o Kuapā board members

Walter Ritte
Joseph Farber, JD, MA
Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, PhD
Pauline Castanera