STAR-BULLETIN / 1987
"Auntie May" Helm and "Uncle Harry" Mitchell dedicate plaques to George Helm and Kimo Mitchell on Kahoolawe.
Gathering to mark leader’s life
Activist George Helm disappeared in 1977
About 200 to 300 people are expected to gather Wednesday on Molokai to mark the 30th anniversary of the disappearance of George Helm Jr. and Kimo Mitchell as they tried to swim from Kahoolawe to Maui.
Helm was a young Hawaiian musician, orator and leader whose activities led to the return of Kahoolawe to civilian control and contributed to the formation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
He was at the heart of a group of Hawaiians who formed Protect Kahoolawe Ohana in 1976, seeking to end military shelling and bombing of the island since World War II. Members of the Ohana, including John Waihee III, who later became governor, went on to create the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as part of the work of the 1978 Constitutional Convention, said Jon Osorio, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"He was a deeply spiritual person. He was in fact a philosopher and a leader," Osorio said.
He was also a strong swimmer, a factor that led him to attempt to paddle a surfboard seven miles from Kahoolawe to Maui on March 7, 1977. A boat that was supposed to return Helm and brothers Kimo and Billy Mitchell to Maui failed to appear.
Helm was injured going into the water. The three continued on but only Bill Mitchell reached Maui. Helm and Kimo Mitchell disappeared. Helm was just short of his 27th birthday.
A "blessed celebration" for Helm and Mitchell will be held at Coconut Grove Park on Molokai starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Helm's brother Larry said. Ministers from all churches on Molokai have been invited, he said.
Serving as masters of ceremonies will be Dr. Emmett Aluli, who took part in the first protest "occupation" of the island in 1976; Aluli's wife, Davianna McGregor, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa; and Collete Machado, the Molokai trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and an early member of the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana.
On March 23, which would have been George Helm's 57th birthday, up to 40 family members will sail to Kahoolawe on three catamarans to pay their respects at two monuments to Helm and Mitchell that were erected on a previous anniversary, Larry Helm said.
The early 1970s saw "generalized discontent" among many Hawaiians, said Ian Lind, then an educator with the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee.
Helm lifted Hawaiians out of an ignorance that was imposed on them, Helm's brother Adolph said. "We were naive. He helped to educate us," he said.
He had a magnetism, Osorio said. "People came to listen to him speak as much as to hear his music," he said.
With Aluli and George Ritte, Helm was developing a new concept that he learned from his aunt, aloha aina, love of the land, Osorio said.
Larry Helm summed it up last week. "Peace, love and justice is less expensive," he said. "Stop the bombing and take care of the land."
Helm died still expressing aloha aina for Kahoolawe.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush ended live firing at the island. The Navy transferred the island back to the state in 1994.
"He is still alive," said Larry Helm. "You mention his name and people know."