but ensured that that quasi-political organization would support the Master Plan.

Machado’s clearly staked-out position and her power as an OHA trustee stirred up a history of long-simmering grievances and resentments between her and many of her former warrior comrades, Ritte and Holt among them, especially as the island’s opposition to La’au Point solidified. By her own reckoning, Machado estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the island’s residents have come to oppose the Master Plan, because of La’au Point. She credits “Ritte dem” with leveraging what they had available to them. “The thing with Walter is he gets free media coverage. That helped them a lot. “But still, the opposition

worked very hard,” she acknowledges. “You know, it was all the old guys, my guys that I worked with to stop the cruise ships coming to Moloka’i, my guys that I organized in the past.” There is pride in her voice, and bitterness. “The difficulty for me is that they treated us like we were the military or something. It became a very hostile environment.” In the days following the news of the ranch’s closure, Machado says she received several phone messages from R itte asking for her help as he scrambles to come up with a new plan for the island. “Now,” she says ruefully, “Walter wants me to sit at the table. I say, Walter, I cannot turn my cheek now. You folks were rude to my trustees, you booed

us, you swore at us. I was humiliated the whole time. “And Karen Holt, when I look at the past, we were like this, we were best friends! … In fact, she once offered me an olive branch, but the lines were already drawn.” I ask Machado, whose bloodlines go deep into Halawa Valley on the East End and deep into Maui history with her Kahekili genealogy, how she would describe the people of Moloka’i. “Resilient,” she says simply, “resilience. “I’m so proud of how they articulated some of their strong positions, unlike any other island over the last 25 to 30 years. They know to be vocal, do the homework, work hard, no back down.” n

Kukakuka on the lanai
At the beachfront Mowat homestead just east of Kaunakakai at Kapa‘akea, a group of veteran island activists gathers just before sunset under a big free-standing lanai to talk story. They are all at least 50-ish, and all allies in the La’au Point fight. Wayde Lee is a longtime youth counselor with Alu Like; Mahealani Davis is a social worker with the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center while husband Glen Davis is a taro advocate who works the lo’i in Hälawa Valley; Mervin Dudoit is a retired fisherman and fishpond educator with Ka Honua Momona International, a non-profit; and Bridget Mowat, our host, has worked in the state welfare office for 20 years. The Mowat homestead is steeped in recent Moloka‘i history. The earliest meetings of Hui Alaloa, one of the first organizations in the state to stand up and fight for traditional Hawaiian ways, were held here in 1975 under the auspices of Harry James Mowat, Bridget’s late brother-in-law. A little bit later, Moloka‘i organizers of the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana regularly met here. Following are excerpts from the conversation. Bridget: People have got to know that it was the Ranch managers who messed up. We don’t have to justify our actions. We just brought out the facts. If they nuha, they nuha with the whole island, because the whole island was behind us. We don’t need the Ranch or it’s off-shore business-minded managers. It was Moloka‘i that was running that place all the time anyway. Mervin, in response: The akua took care. Bridget: I know we’re going to survive this. Hawaiians take care. It was the wrong people who came here. They didn’t want to listen. They wanted to bring in their Westernized ways when Moloka‘i is not that kind of island. You look around, we are unique. Not everybody can live on Moloka‘i. Wayde: To me, this island is beautiful because the people are beautiful. Mervin: We may be poor, but we no get homeless.
Photo by Leo De AzAmbujA

Signs everywhere gave voice to the island’s visceral opposition to plans for a 5-mile ribbon of luxury waterfront homes at La‘au Point.

Glen: People from off-island, we really blow their minds when we go on the reef and catch a fish or go up to the mountains and get guavas. Mahealani: There are people who say give tax breaks to the rich, and all that money starts coming into the economy, and pretty soon everybody’s lifestyle is better, but the life everybody here enjoys isn’t connected to money. Mervin: Us guys, we happy with what we have. We survive with what we have. If we have no more money, eh, we no more money. That’s the people of Moloka‘i. Mahealani: You know, some people come here and think, oh, Moloka‘i’s so cute, it’s like the old Hawaiian days, like back in kahuna days, whatever, but no, it’s right now, it’s real. I don’t always remember that until something happens, or just in a real quiet moment, you hear the voices that tell you what to do, which way to go. I think Hawai‘i is like that, but it’s so noisy most of the time you don’t hear it too often. If nothing else, I’d like Moloka‘i to stay open and quiet so that people can come here and hear it for themselves. So they remember they’re spiritual people as well as economic widgets in the factory out there. Mervin: That’s what this island is for, to heal people. It’s the healing place. Everybody’s gonna focus on this island—the fishponds, the taro … they can learn from this island. Bridget: I have great respect for Walter [Ritte], because he doesn’t falter. To me, he’s been on a straight path, always on the up-and-up and straight.

Mahealani: Walter’s sound bites are always right on the money, so I appreciate that he’s in there. He’s a natural politician if there is such a thing. If he hadn’t taken on La‘au Point — I can’t think of anybody else who could have organized the community the way he did. But it’s sometimes hard to talk to him when he’s made up his mind about something. He’s a catalyst, he knows how to motivate crowds, how to put just the right edge on things. Real effective. Mervin: If not for him, I wouldn’t know a lot of things that were happening. You gotta talk story with him. I ask him things. [Talk turns to future of the island.] Glen: I believe that the 30-yearolds gotta be the backbone of the future. Mahealani in response: Yeah, they’re thoughtful, they’re educated, they’re asking the right questions. Todd and Matt, Kauila and Kahua, Kainoa, Hano and ‘Ua … Our generation was always fighting, grabbing at grant monies, scooping it up. Wayde: To get to the next level, we bring all our practitioners together and start talking. They’re the ones who can pa’a the culture. All we gotta do is put all the pieces together and take care of our place. My grandmother once told me that the most powerful thing in America was the military, and if the Hawaiians can beat the US military at Kaho‘olawe without firing a single shot, then everyone can go home and take care of their place. George Helm said it best—‘Aloha ‘Aina.’” —C.S.

April 9-15, 2008


Honolulu Weekly