space traveling warriors tier list : ‘Last learning trip’ to Kaho’olawe for UH students


HU Students at Mānoa College of Social Sciences spent four days in March in Kaho’olawe, giving back to the land and collecting research for their fundamental projects. (Photo courtesy of Mahie Lee)

A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kaho’olawe resulted in a great learning and bonding experience for a group of hawaii in Manoa Faculty of Social Sciences students.

Under the guidance of Prof. Dave Beilmannine top students in Department of Geography and Environment spent four days volunteering on the sacred island with a controversial story. Kaho’olawe it was first used as farmland and later by the US military as a training ground and bombing ground. The latter led to protests in the 1970s and was the beginning of Native Hawaiian activism that continues to this day.

people planting plants in the ground on an island
Students plant native species Kaho’olawe (Photo courtesy of: Jordyn Poyo)

Students gathered information such as analysis of satellite imagery, photographs and historical aerial documents and archaeological sites for their final cornerstone projects, as well as performing vegetation and road maintenance work.

Kaho’olawe is at the intersection of hawaii history, social justice, and environmental devastation and restoration. It has been extremely rewarding to learn and give back to the island with the students,” said Beilman.

During the trip from March 11th to 14th, Skyler McMachen and other students helped remove invasive species, native plants and performed general maintenance.

“Participating in such a special and unique trip with my colleagues was definitely a bonding experience. My most memorable moment was planting native plants in the northern part of the island and looking out over the water and being able to see lanai, Moloka’i, Maui and little glimpses of the Big Island, all from a different perspective than most people,” McMachen said. “For my project, I’m looking at radiocarbon dates for archaeological sites, so being able to see the island and the actual areas where the sites were located was really helpful. It became easier to visualize the area and where it is in relation to other sites.”

Student practical research

people pose for a photo while planting plants
Students pose for a photo while planting native species Kaho’olawe (Photo courtesy of: Jordyn Poyo)

Beilman and the students worked closely and received approvals for the expedition of the Kaho’olawe Island Reservation Commission (KIRC) and protect Kaho’olawe Family (PKO). KIRC was created by the state legislature to administer the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve while being held in trust for a future Native Hawaiian sovereign entity. KIRC it is administratively linked to the State Department of Land and Natural Resources. PKO is a grassroots organization dedicated to Kaho’olawe and the Aloha Principles Earth over hawaii. PKO strengthens your relationship with the land and respects the spirits of the land.

Mahie LeeThe research project is in To see kūpuna (ancient insights, experiences and perspectives), and includes a compilation of an archive of Hawaiian newspaper articles, songs and chants about Kaho’olawe. Lee knew about PKO and his activism, but was unaware of the current land agreement and the role of the State. She was very interested to see how KIRC operated on the island.

“The people on the island were great. They were welcoming and kind, and went out of their way to answer all of our questions and take us to different locations on the island. It was evident that they respected culture, history, and their roles as stewards, not owners, of the land,” Lee said. “This was the best learning trip, and I will remember and talk about it forever. I hope future geography classes will experience this as well.”

person in orange shirt holding a plant
Professor Dave Beilman planting native species in Kaho’olawe (Photo courtesy of: Jordyn Poyo)

Christian Lamer-WolfewiczThe company’s project involves using satellite imagery and geographic information systems to determine how El Niño and La Niña weather events are affecting the health of vegetation in Kaho’olawe.

Kaho’olawe It will be a very memorable experience for me. The KIRC team was very welcoming and they all had a wealth of knowledge that really showed that this commission really wants to preserve history and heal the land so future generations can continue the work,” said Lamer-Wolfewicz. “Going through this experience, I want to answer my research question and give some useful information to KIRC. After noting the lack of vegetation in some areas and the efforts KIRC to revege, it helped me narrow down what I needed to analyze.”

“The projects these students developed are an amazing example of the kind of learning that can be done in Kaho’olawe,” said Maggie Pulver, a public information specialist at KIRC. “The Reserve, and its many cultural, environmental, historical and geographical resources, provide a large classroom for students of all ages and disciplines. In fact, one of the goals outlined in the I Hello Kanaloa!the current strategic plan that guides active projects ‘on the ground’ in the Reserve, is to honor the natural environment and the revitalization of cultural relationships through Kaho’olawe establishing learning programs. These types of student partnerships directly contribute to that goal and help us see what is possible when we look for a place and a culture for knowledge.”

This work is an example of HU Manoa’s four goals Becoming a Native Hawaiian Learning Place (PDF), Improving student success (PDF), Excellence in Research: Advancing the Enterprise of Research and Creative Work (PDF) and Building a Sustainable and Resilient Campus Environment: Within the Global Movement for Climate Sustainability and Resilience (PDF), identified in Strategic Plan 2015–25 (PDF), updated in December 2020.

To read more about how Beilman and a visiting researcher were Kaho’olawe in February, see Faculty of Social Sciences website.

-In Marc Arakaki

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