Rep. Mina Morita's Blog

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Posted in Education,Environmental Protection,Events,General,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on November 6, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of giving Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier a ride to a friend’s house for a dinner party.  Although on sabbatical this year, he is feverishly organizing to launch a volunteer drive to typescript Hawaiian -language newspapers to make the entire collection word-searchable.  No language skill is necessary and forgive me for not using okina and kahako in my blog.

I don’t have a scanner so I’m going to practice my typing and accuracy, the desired skills needed for this project, by retyping parts of the brochure describing the project:

Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Over 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed from 1834 to 1948, equaling a million or more typescript pages of text.  Perhaps the largest native-language cache in the western world, the newspapers were an intentional national repository of knowledge, opinion and historical progess as Hawaii moved through kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territory, yet only 2% of that collection has been integrated into our English-speaking world today.

75,000 of the newspaper pages have been converted to digital images.  15,000 of which have been made into searchable typescript, but 60,000 pages remain unsearchable.  For a decade we have used OCR and paid operators to make quality searchable text, educating every person connected with the process.  The 15,000 pages showed the world the importance of this resource, but funding has continually dwindled.  We face closure of the project or export of the work to Asia.  Instead, we are enlisting an army of volunteers to type those pages word-for-word and make them all searchable.  We plan to liberate knowledge from the archival dust because knowledge liberates everyone.

Volunteers Needed – Be a part of this historical Hawaiian legacy effort

No Language Skill Necessary!

Mounting a locally-based volunteer drive will be a massive effort, with thousands of volunteers and a central coordinating hub to engage volunteers and guide production for reliability and accuracy.  The cost is higher than exporting the work and the effort is daunting but this allows for community engagement, personal investment in Hawaiian knowledge and Hawaii-centered kuleana in the product, supported by hands around the world.

Ike Kuokoa launches on November 28, 2011 (La Kuokoa since 1843) and will finish 60,000 pages on/before July 31, 2012 (La Hoihoi Ea).  Up and web-searchable by La Kuokoa 2012.

For pre-registration and more information go to:

My understanding of the volunteer effort is that a volunteer will “check-out” a newspaper page.  The volunteer will then typescript each article and return the page to the archive when pau.  The articles from the page will be reviewed for accuracy and, if necessary, returned to the volunteer to make corrections.  When completed the typescripted newspaper page will be credited to the volunteer as an acknowledgement of the volunteer’s participation and the volunteer may then “check-out” another page to be typescripted.

Puakea tells me that the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Classes, hula halau from around the world are among the groups challenging each other to amass volunteers for this effort.  He estimates that at least 3,000 volunteers are needed.

Most importantly, this cache of over 100 newspaper publications helps to reveal various viewpoints of Hawaiian life during a 100 year period.  Such insight has been invaluable.  For example, of particular interest to the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) are articles touching on marine ecosystem management in Hawai‘i, traditional and introduced fishing practices, climatic conditions, and storms and other significant weather events.  Read more about this particular project here.

I excitedly signed up, hope you will too.

No Fishes, No Fishermen

Posted in Environmental Protection,Issues,Kauai,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on October 15, 2010

Reacting to the convoluted discussion surrounding the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary management plan review, a fisherman asked me if I was for or against fishermen.  My simple answer to that question is I am for the fish – no fishes, no fishermen.

I understand that fishing is a significant factor in keeping our island lifestyle and culture but this important resource is dependent on maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem.  Unfortunately, indiscriminate fishing, the absence of comprehensive marine management and sensible regulations and enforcement have put our marine resources in jeopardy not only in Hawaii but throughout the world.  Kupuna Louis “Buzzy” Agard describes the situation we now face:

In our oceans today, too many people are fighting over a diminished resource. I have been fishing in Hawai‘i for more than 60 years. I remember when there were dense schools of fish in Hawai‘i. But I can tell you from experience, times have changed. Our food fish are now a commodity, and when a limited natural resource becomes a commodity, you have the tragedy of the commons – everybody keeps taking, but nobody takes care. If we learn to take care, and to take only what we need in a responsible manner, then maybe we can be proud of the future we pass on to our children.

Our best efforts have to be brought forth to ensure a thriving fishing community.  It was not long ago that our nearshore waters were managed through a konohiki with strict rules and serious consequences.  Our Hawaiian ancestors truly understood that having a thriving fishery was a matter of survival and responsibility.  Rebuilding our fisheries can only happen through a thoughtful discussion and acknowledging our kuleana as an island community dependent on our ocean, not through rumors, fear and speculation.  Hopefully, the Hawaii Humpback Whale Sanctuary management plan review can be seized as an opportunity to redirect federal and state resources not to focus solely on target species but to identify what it will take to restore a thriving and diverse marine ecosystem to enhance the quality of our island lifestyle.

Navigator Nainoa Thompson says, “It’s time for us to recognize the value of our ocean, and understand that we are in a time of decline . . . We must rebuild a culture of an ocean community. This will require a partnership among scientists, government, and those who use and love the ocean like I do. It’s about values and responsibility, and is truly a matter of survival.”

House Bill 1808 Now Act 160, SLH 2010

Back in April I posted an update on House Bill 1808 when it passed the Legislature.  This morning Governor Lingle signed House Bill 1808 into law as Act 160.  This is the bill that will prohibit an adjacent property owner from planting and cultivating salt tolerant plants to block lateral shoreline access or pushing the vegetation closer to the sea to manipulate the shoreline certification process.

For more than a decade, concerned community members have been painfully aware of the abuses happening along our shorelines.  In previous sessions I introduced similar bills to clarify the definition of shoreline and to prohibit planting in the shoreline area without success.

The new law requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to maintain beach transit corridors by prohibiting land owners from planting vegetation that interferes with the corridors.  It also establishes access to the corridors as a policy within the Coastal Zone Management Program.  Notice will be given to property owners adjacent to the corridors if vegetation from their property blocks access to the shoreline.  The department has the authority to take enforcement action if the issue is not resolved after 21 days.

The passage of this bill will help to enforce Hawaii’s long standing policy to protect as much of the beach as possible as a public trust resource, and to maintain the dynamic nature of our beaches to prevent shoreline erosion.  I cannot thank enough dedicated Kauai community members like Harold Bronstein, Caren Diamond, Beau Blair and Evelyn de Buhr who challenged so many shoreline certifications all the way up the Hawaii Supreme Court to keep this issue at the forefront and people like Lucinda Pyles, Carol Wilcox and the Kahala Neighborhood Board who patiently met and worked with various governmental agencies, as well as beach experts, to help address this issue through legislation.  Senator Clayton Hee helped to carry the ball on the Senate side and my House colleagues, Representatives Ken Ito and Sharon Har and Speaker Calvin Say, allowed me to chair the House-Senate conference committee as the deadline approached.  Representatives Barbara Marumoto worked with her constituents in the Kahala area and Cynthia Thielen worked with her constituents in the Kailua area and helped to stress the importance of this bill to Governor Lingle.  There were so many environmental groups and individuals who came to the Legislature to testify on this issue and lend their support.  It was a team effort.  Mahalo.

Protecting Our Shoreline

Posted in Environmental Protection,Legislation/Capitol,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on April 27, 2010

With the exception of one Senator (former surfer Fred Hemmings), the Legislature passed unanimously House Bill 1808 to protect lateral access along our shoreline.  The purpose of this measure is to make it explicit that the public has a right to transit along the shoreline and that the Department of Land and Natural Resources shall maintain access within the beach transit corridor.  This measure will require that private property owners whose parcels abut the shoreline keep the shoreline passable and free from the landowner’s human-induced, enhanced, or unmaintained vegetation that interferes or encroaches in the beach transit corridor.

Hawaii’s land laws are unique in that they are based on ancient tradition, custom, practice and usage.  Until the Great Mahele of 1848, under King Kamehameha III, title to all lands subject to tenant rights, including coastal lands, was the sole property of Hawaii’s alii.  The Mahele changed this by creating a western system of fee simple property ownership.  However, throughout Hawaii’s history, our Hawaiian ancestors’ and our present day relationship with the sea has provided a venue for sustenance, transportation, religious practice, cultural, and recreational passions. 

In the matter of Application of Ashford, 50 Haw. 314 (1968), the Hawaii Supreme Court explained that the majority of titles were conveyed in the 1850’s even though the government had no knowledge of tidal datums or benchmark elevations.  Therefore, there was no intention to use elevation in establishing coastal deed boundaries.  In most cases, the government relied, instead, on the high water mark of the waves.  In Ashford, the State of Hawaii successfully argued that traditional rights of public access existing under the monarch land tenure system, prior to the Mahele, extend to present day and include the right to traverse along the shoreline to swim, fish, and seek other varieties of seafood.  The Hawaii Supreme Court decision in Ashford that “the location of a boundary described as ‘ma ke kai’ is along the upper reaches of the wash of the waves, usually evidenced by the edge of vegetation or by the line of debris left by the wash of the waves” serves as the foundation of the present legal definition of Hawaii’s shoreline and a long standing public policy of extending to public use and ownership as much of Hawaii’s shoreline as is reasonably possible.

Unfortunately, in the past two decades or so the state surveyor, who processes over two hundred shoreline certifications each year, experience at least half a dozen applications per year which are contested.  These applications usually involve the manipulated planting of salt-tolerant plants to confuse the identification of a natural vegetated shoreline that in the past have evidenced the upper reaches of the wash of the waves.  As a result of this abuse, a manipulated, vegetated shoreline may represent a loss of ten to one hundred per cent of beach width for public use and deter lateral access seaward of the shoreline.

This bill acknowledges the foresight of our Hawaiian ancestors and policymakers long before us and reaffirms and strengthens Hawaii’s longstanding public policy of extending to public use and ownership as much of Hawaii’s shoreline as is reasonably possible by ensuring the public’s lateral access along the shoreline.  And, hopefully, with this more explicit language in statute, people like Caren Diamond and Harold Bronstein who have been guardians of the shoreline fighting in court these kinds of abusive planting and cultivating practices can get the much deserved rest from this battle.

Blue Oceans Day and Papahānaumokuākea

Posted in Events,Issues,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on January 15, 2010

Thanks to many committed individuals and organizations, Blue Oceans Day at the Hawaii State Capitol was a success.  The biggest challenge of the day was the video message to President Obama and getting the group to say in sync:  A-lo-ha Pre-si-dent O-ba-ma (pause), our ocean (pause) is the blue heart (pause) of our planet (pause) please protect (pause) our ocean (pause) ma-ha-lo, then the shaka sign.

Despite challenges, like marine debris, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a prime example of a complex and robust ocean ecosystem.  Several months ago the United States announced its nomination of Papahānaumokuākea to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre for consideration for inscription on the World Heritage List.

Last year I had the opportunity to honor the joint managers of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in a ceremony conducted in the House Chambers.  Here is an excerpt of my speech:

Mr. Speaker, I have a special affinity for the National Wildlife Refuge systems and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.  First of all, I live just beyond the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.  Many of you are familiar with the Hanalei Valley scenic overlook, with its acres of kalo loi.  Each Friday when I return home and cross Hanalei bridge, I turn left into the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge to drive the last two miles home where the refuge ends 1000 feet from my home.  And, just before I was first elected to office, I was the business manager for the Kilauea Point Natural History Association, the non-profit cooperative association for the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which has some long historical ties to the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge because it is the most northern point in the main Hawaiian Islands and jumping off point to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  Needless-to-say, Mr. Speaker, the National Wildlife Refuge system has played an important role in my life.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I attended a meeting several years ago where the naming of the Marine National Monument was discussed.  That meeting truly gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  And, although these Kupuna Islands are so remote and far away from us, they ground us, in the main Hawaiian islands, in our cultural heritage.

I know I cannot give justice to the way kumu hula Pua Kanahele described the genesis of Papahānaumokuākea in her poetic way but I hope my description can help to transform how you all will view images of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the future — not as a snapshot of a specific time but a visual and vibrant continuation of an ancient Hawaiian tradition tying genealogy and the formation of the Hawaiian Islands to acknowledge the dualisms of life.

In Hawaiian mythology, Papahānaumoku is a mother figure personified by the earth and Wākea is a father figure personified in the expansive sky.  Their union resulted in the creation, or birthing, of the entire Hawaiian archipelago––therefore, the naming of the monument is to honor and preserve the role of Papa and Wakea in our collective memory, to strengthen Hawaii’s cultural foundation and to ground Hawaiians to an important part of their genealogy and history.

Taken apart, “Papa” (earth mother), “hānau” (birth), “moku” (small island or large land division), and “ākea” (wide) translates best into a fertile woman giving birth to a wide stretch of islands beneath a benevolent sky. Taken as one long name, Papahānaumokuākea can be seen as a symbol of hope and regeneration for the Kūpuna Islands and the main Hawaiian Islands. And through the mana (spiritual power) of Papahānaumokuākea’s name, it encourages abundance and acknowledges the procreative forces of earth, sea, and sky, and the hope that the cultural, spiritual and physical health of Native Hawaiians will grow as well.

Papahanaumokuakea is an important and tangible asset we share with the rest of the world to demonstrate, through responsible stewardship, what a healthy eco-system can accomplish in perpetuating not only environmental well-being but also economic and cultural prosperity.  And, I am pleased today to commemorate the initial action taken by President Roosevelt in 1909 and to honor the special stewards that actively manage the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

More On World Oceans Day at the Hawaii State Capitol

Posted in Events,Issues,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on January 10, 2010

Blue Oceans Day Press Release

World Oceans Day or Blue Oceans Day?  Same event.  Just come, wear blue and learn more about our oceans and marine life.

World Oceans Day on Wednesday, January 13

Posted in Events,Issues,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on January 9, 2010