By Leimana Damate, Pohakuloa Training AreaFebruary 22, 2010
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii - Native Hawaiian elders, called kupuna, and community leaders from the Island of Hawaii spent the day meeting with staff, here, Feb. 10, to discuss the importance of understanding the Army training mission at PTA and understanding the Native Hawaiian culture on the island.
Lt. Col. Warline Richardson, commander, PTA, explained the Army mandate of protecting and defending the U.S. with training critical to the welfare of the Soldiers.
"It is equally important to understand the two distinct cultures and how each could work towards strengthening the existing benevolent relationship between us," Richardson said.
Similarities between the Army and the Native Hawaiians include the inherent need to protect "ohana," or family, and the strong warrior ethos cultivated by both the Army and the Native Hawaiian.
For the past year, the Army has been working toward a better understanding of the Native Hawaiian culture by actively reaching out into the Hawaiian communities to dialogue.
"Protecting the Hawaiian natural and cultural assets and resources on Pohakuloa land used for training has always been of the highest priority to the Army," said Richardson. "
This protection comes in the form of strict monitoring of Hawaiian endemic and indigenous flora and fauna and identified cultural sites and areas known to be held sacred to the Hawaiian people. With the protection comes a deeper insight into the heart of the Hawaiian.
The group visited the Natural Resources facility where biologists and anthropologists protect and preserve some of the most endangered endemic species in Hawaii.
The kupuna shared mutual insight about how these species were used in traditional healing by the Hawaiian culture.
Some of the plant species are only found at PTA and Mauna Kea mountain, and are on the verge of extinction. Other examples of protected native species at PTA are the endangered Nene goose and native Hawaiian bat.
"Now, I see the effort the Army is making to work with us and our ohana," kupuna Kuluwaimaka said. "This is the beginning of a stronger group (hui), and I look now to a closer and stronger relationship with our military."
Many kupuna and community leaders attended the meeting, including Arthur Mahi, a decorated war veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars and a noted kupuna from Kona - directly descended from Kamehameha I; Daniel Kawaiea of Kawaihae, superintendent of Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site; Lorna Akima, leader in the Waimea Hawaiian community and a member of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs; Fran Sanborn of Kohala, representing Na Aikane; Blossom DeSilva, president of the Hawaiian Civic Club; Elizabeth Kuluwaimaka of Kahuku, historian and genealogist of the Kau moku; Betty Lau, Native Hawaiian versed in Laau Lapaau Hawaiian medicinal practices and whose rich family history was immersed in lands now occupied by PTA; and Leimana DaMate of the Aha Kiole Advisory Committee and Aha Moku councils.
(Editor's Note: Leimana Damate is the Native Hawaiian liaison for PTA.)