Niihau -- Island at a Crossroad -- Special Report

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
The Navy's unmanned radar installation can barely be
seen atop this cliff on the east side of privately owned Niihau.

On the cusp
Stories by Catherine Kekoa Enomoto
Photographs by Ken Ige

NIIHAU basks in the Pacific -- the last land mass on Earth where only the Hawaiian language is spoken.

But now it is being considered by the Navy for one or more test-missile launch sites and a 6,000-foot runway. The missile proposal is raising questions about the future of the privately owned island and the 150 to 200 people who live there.

Some believe that the island's owners, the Robinson family, are protecting the island and its people. Others in the Hawaiian community see the island as a last precious stronghold of their language and culture and seek to give its residents self-determination. Still others view the Robinsons as colonialists -- two suggesting a radical move, that the state condemn Niihau and remove it from the Robinsons' hands.

There is little doubt that the pressures of the modern world soon will intrude on the insulated island.

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By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
The skulls of rams are remnants of an old
sheep-shearing site at Nonopapa.

Time Line

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