My Turn

By Catherine Kekoa Enomoto

Saturday, March 8, 1997

By Catherine Kekoa Enomoto, Star-Bulletin
Restoration efforts have turned the once-barren island into
a field of green. Yesterday marked 20 years since
George Helm and Kimo Mitchell disappeared off Kahoolawe
protesting the island's use as a Navy bombing target.

Kahoolawe trek
provides peace and renewal

E ho mai ka ike mai luna mai e,
No na mea huna noeau, no na mele e,
E ho mai,
E ho mai,
E ho mai.

(Grant us the knowledge from above
Concerning the hidden wisdom of songs,
Grant us these things.)

-- By Aunty Edith Kanakaole

Ninety-two pilgrims intoned this chant at least a dozen times during a five-day access to Kahoolawe Jan. 22 -- weeks before yesterday's 20th anniversary of the disappearance of Hawaiian activists George Helm and Kimo Mitchell.

The two men had disappeared at sea off Kahoolawe during efforts to repatriate the tiny island, a former Navy bombing target. A presidential order halted the bombing and conveyed the island back to the state May 7, 1994.

On the third day of the access, we hoisted backpacks and embarked on a 14-mile cross-island trek. En route we mounted Moaulaiki, the island's second highest peak at 1,444 feet above sea level. Archaeologists say the tiny plateau at its summit was the site of a navigators school. There ancient Hawaiians learned to read the winds, currents, skies, clouds and stars to voyage to and from Kahiki -- Tahiti -- and foreign lands.

George Helm

On this peak I spoke with Dr. Emmett Aluli of Protect Kahoolawe Ohana, recalling Helm's disappearance, wondering about the circumstances, reveling in his legacy.

On the summit's north face, I sat in the "navigator's chair" -- a low, dark, smooth rock shaped like a seat with arms. The trades whipped dust from my soul. The sun beat gently through a cloudy haze.

I peered out over the intersection of the Kealaikahiki, Auau and Alalakeiki channels running between the islands of Lanai, Molokai and Maui. I gazed at the sun-speckled slopes of Haleakala. On that promontory one convenes with gods and ancestors, their visions and aspirations. One sees where one is, and where one is going.

The pilgrimage continued past Puu Moiwi, a low rise whose skirt is littered with rough rock shards shaped like axes and chisels. Moiwi is the second largest adz quarry in the Hawaiian archipelago.

The Hawaiian word for adz is koi and my grandmother Annie Kekoa Dagampat's maiden name was Kekoi, meaning "the adz." The koi is the most important woodworking tool in Hawaiian culture. Here, a story of my genealogy sprang to life.

Finally, the arduous trek ended at Kealaikahiki Bay. The next day I awoke cold and damp on the beach after my fourth night in a sleeping bag. I rolled over and opened my eyes to a pink-streaked sky.

My heart sang at the sight. We had just walked across island, safely, together. Each of us had achieved a measure of sovereignty in the act, and the glorious predawn sky affirmed the fact.

Today, members of the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana and others met at dawn at Makena, Maui, to chant, E ho mai ka ike mai luna mai e, No na mea huna noeau, no na mele e. They were marking the 20th anniversary of the March 7, 1977, disappearance of Helm and Mitchell, whose legacy continues as people experience Kahoolawe.

Now the formerly barren island is greener than ever from ecological-restoration efforts. The pu (conch shell) sounds regularly, announcing educational and cultural activities during visits by hundreds of students, teachers and interested members of the public.

With no electricity or running water, hardy pilgrims bathe in muddy offshore waters, warm themselves at smoking bonfires, pick kiawe thorns from slippers and shoes, and appreciate the most "lavish" of desserts -- a fresh, juicy navel orange!

Persons interested in making the three-to five-day Kahoolawe accesses each mid-month, starting in June, can call Davianna McGregor at 956-7068.

Catherine Kekoa Enomoto is
the Star-Bulletin food writer. My Turn is a periodic
feature written by Star-Bulletin staffers.

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