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Episode 63: N? Wai ‘Eh? with H?k?ao Pellegrino

H?k?ao Pellegrino is a kalo farmer on Maui in the region of N? Wai ‘Eh?, The Four Great Waters.

“N? Wai‘Eh? is the poetic name for the moku, or division, that encompasses four ahupua‘a—Waikap? being the first, Wailuku being the second, Waiehu being the third, and the fourth Waihe‘e. These four streams, pre-Western contact, encompassed the largest kalo growing region in all of Hawai‘i.”

When sugar became king in the early twentieth century much of the water of N?Wai‘Eh? was diverted to grow cane. But after cane cultivation dropped, the companies that controlled sugar lands began selling off those lands for development—and selling the water along with them. Community members cried foul, arguing that the water should not be further privatized but instead returned to the four streams from which it had been taken. They formed Hui O N?Wai‘Eh? and fought for a decade, all the way to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, where they won. Some water has now been restored to the streams, but they are still running at only about 50 percent of their original volume, says Pellegrino, and monitoring continues to be an issue. And because of the diversions, the stream that feeds his ‘auwai, Waikap?, still no longer runs all the way to the sea as it once did.

“When people say N?Wai‘Eh?, I always say N?Wai‘Ekolu because it’s only three of the four streams that are actually flowing mauka to makai. But I’m continuing to advocate for mauka to makai stream flow in Waikap? and I really do believe that we’re going to get there someday soon.”


researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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