A healthy land produces a healthy people: the importance of pilina (relationship) with place and community through ʻāina education for a more sustainable future

Dudley, M. Leilā
Canale, Lisa K.
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Hui Mālama i Ke Ala ʻŪlili (huiMAU) is a community-based grassroots non-profit organization started by lineal descendants of Paʻauilo with a passion to return to their ancestral lands and in doing so bring back a sense of community as well as abundance to their lands and people. The objectives of my work with huiMAU was to principally help our communities with building pilina (relationship) to place and one another. The way I went about this was through place-based and Hawaiian-cultural centered educational initiatives primarily focused in mālama ʻāina (land restoration) work and ancestral Hawaiian practices at our Koholālele work site. My work changed everyday, but the bulk of it centered in helping to host groups at our Koholālele work site and on some days at our KaHua work site. I also helped to piece together the microbe story of Paʻauilo by collecting fresh and saltwater samples in and around these sites to help huiMAU staff understand baseline data with water quality as an indicator of ahupuaʻa health in this region of Hāmākua Hikina (east Hāmākua). This microbe story may help us find connections between the microbes present or absent throughout the year and the arrival of different species such as the koholā (humpback whales) and the kōlea (Pacific golden-plover) as well as various environmental conditions including Poliʻahu (snow), winter storms, and drought. The water sampling and associated microbe analysis will serve as a way to assess the restoration work that we have been conducting as well as overall ahupua’a (small traditional land division) and ecosystem health. My project supported huiMAU and made more time available for huiMAU directors to focus on other aspects of the organization. In working with huiMAU I learned that to be able to care for a place, we need to first become intimate with that place, its history, its stories, its place names, its important characteristics, its plant and animal people, its winds and rains and become familiar with its many faces throughout different seasons. As a part of my internship, I also delved into ethnographic research of Makahanaloa, the ahupuaʻa I live in, to be able to first and foremost understand my home and additionally helped to generate ideas on how to best form a community-based grassroots organization, similar to that of huiMAU, but instead for the people and land of Makahanaloa located in the former sugar plantation town of Pepeʻekeo. Place and cultural-based education can have significant positive impacts on student achievement and well-being, student and teacher involvement in their communities, and can help increase overall community and ecosystem health. With Hawaiʻi being home to one of the most resilient indigenous communities with an ever-ongoing culture that can adapt to the many changes to come, centering education in place and its people is the best way to lead our communities to a point of thriving and becoming one with the land and one another. Through my University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences (TCBES) internship, I was able to fulfill my objective of learning how to engage with community as we do at huiMAU, and also learning about and implementing different techniques to carry out ʻāina education and various ways to assess restoration impact. In addition, I have learned that the interaction between people and culture is of utmost importance in returning a pono balance to ʻāina (land, that which feeds) rather than the typical western view of conservation with minimal human/ʻāina interaction.
A report submitted to the graduate division of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Professional Internship Track.
Traditional ecological knowledge, Environmental conditions, connection, microbes, ecosystem health, ethnographic research, community, indigenous knowledge, Hawaii
59 pages
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