A ghost moon floated in a sea of gray when Koko and I went walking this morning. The air was thick and still, the way I imagine it must be in places like Georgia, with only the faintest whisper of a breeze.
We passed the place where a row of ti leaves had been shorn by a bull that escaped from its pasture in search of a treat, leaving a cow pie in return, and met up with my neighbor Andy, who wondered aloud at Koko’s subdued nature.
I explained she’d been a bit under the weather since Friday night, when we went to the beach to watch the moon rise orange out of the sea, and as I enjoyed the spectacle, she enjoyed chasing crabs in the moonlight. But later, she had to purge a belly full of coarse sand, and spent most of Saturday recuperating.
Fortunately, she’d recovered to the point where she happily accepted a dog biscuit from the cache that Andy carries in his pocket and then he mentioned he’d appreciated the "Gathering Rights" post I wrote last week about my friend Ili’s thwarted fishing trip — even though reading it made him feel sick to his stomach.
“It perfectly expressed everything that is going wrong here,” he said. “People who come over here and say they love the place and the people, and then try to make it into something different.”
Folks don’t seem to understand that if they treat locals with kindness, they’re apt to get the same in return, he said, and one of the most effective ways to protect your property is to enlist their cooperation, rather than alienate them.
Now, it was interesting that Andy brought up the subject, because in one of those strange little twists of fate, or “coincidences,” if you happen to believe in such things (and I don’t), I got an email yesterday from a woman who lives in San Francisco. She had contacted a travel agent out of the blue to reserve a North Shore vacation rental, and it turned out to be the very same man who had turned back Ili from the river.
He started telling her about the area and mentioned that a lot of Hawaiians engaged in subsistence practices and was talking enthusiastically about the Native Hawaiians who live there. She expressed concern about the clashes that had been occurring in the region over development and burial grounds, and he said that such confrontations were not the norm.
However, he said, he'd had one himself just the other day. And then he proceeded to tell her the story of his interaction with Ili. It seems that a guest in one of his vacation rentals had something stolen from the lanai and something of his had also gone missing and he’d seen a young man passing by there several times before, so when he saw Ili, he thought he was the culprit and the two had what he described as a rather heated confrontation.
After Ili walked away and the man went into the house, he felt he should have handled it with more aloha, so when he saw Ili pause on the Wainiha bridge, he yelled after him that he’d lived there for 30 years and that the land there was his kuleana, but Ili just put his head down and walked away.
Then later, the woman stumbled across my blog post and realized it recounted the very same confrontation. She then felt moved to contact me, thinking perhaps she could help to bridge the gap between the two, and we talked this morning.
She felt like the man believes he is respectful of the native culture, “but maybe he doesn’t get he’s not as much as he thinks he is. You wrote at the end of your blog that you hoped something positive would come from this, and it seems like this is an opportunity to make a connection between the two sides.”
And perhaps it is. Because I forwarded the post to a very cool blog — the Ka`ena Cultural Practice Project — and a woman named Summer emailed back that she had sent it on to the woman who runs a Peacemaking program for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. She also offered to get in touch with Ili and his friends to offer aid and guidance and then she gave me a great idea for a story.
Meanwhile, the Hanalei to Haena Community Association has offered its support and assistance in the matter. The issue is especially pertinent as the vacation rentals in the area are now all coming up for permits, and the Association wants to ensure that traditional fishing rights aren’t lost in the process of turning that culturally rich region into a resort.
Ili and his friends are also talking about forming a North Shore Kanaka Council to deal with access rights and other issues, so suddenly they’re feeling empowered and excited, rather than bitter and beaten down.
All of this highlights the value of working together and being willing to speak up and take action. It also underscores one of my favorite things about writing a blog: I just never know who is going to read it or where the message will go.
So as folks on Oahu turned to the Lege for support in working out the clash between hunters and hikers on that island’s trails, Kauai people are taking their own steps to resolve an ongoing access problem in their community.
It’s only a seed right now, but I feel confident it will bear sweet fruit.