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Waipiʻo Valley kūpuna want more say in reopening road, educating public

Waipio Kupuna.jpg
Kū Kahakalau
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Waipiʻo families have set up a "kūpuna checkpoint" at the top of the road into Waipiʻo Valley to educate motorists desiring access to the valley. The valley road was recently re-opened by Hawaiʻi County after nearly seven months of being closed to the public because of road safety concerns.

Waipiʻo Valley kūpuna, farmers and longtime ʻohana have set up a “kūpuna checkpoint” near the valley lookout, urging drivers wishing to access the valley not to do so at this time.

Hawaiʻi County reopened the road to Waipiʻo Valley this week after nearly seven months of being closed due to road safety concerns.

The county is allowing access for permitted tour operators, Hawaiʻi Island residents, and Native Hawaiians claiming traditional rights.

But lineal descendants of the valley like Jeremiah Kaholoaʻa want a better plan in place before the crowds return to Waipiʻo.

"The way it is now, no more respect, those that come. Unless we take the time to educate them," says Kaholoaʻa. "What did you do to give back to the valley? You guys would have a lifetime pass if you go down aunty's, uncle's house in Waipiʻo and go jump in the loʻi with them. Go pull some weeds. Go pull some taro. Go plant some kalo."

Kaholoaʻa, 72, was born and raised in Waipiʻo, and can trace his genealogy back to Līloa, a 15th-century ruler of Hawaiʻi Island whose royal compound was located in the valley.

Longtime Waipiʻo families met several weeks ago to discuss what they’d like to see in the valley’s future.

"Going get some families, going get some guys like want to totally shut down Waipiʻo to everybody. All we want to do is take care of our valley," says Kaholoaʻa. "If in the long run, if it's going to be open then we want to be responsible to how we going open our valley."

Waipiʻo families have organized a kūpuna checkpoint near the entry to the valley road to raise public awareness about their desire to better steward the valley they have called home for generations.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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