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Episode 49: The founding of the Protect Kaho‘olawe ?Ohana with Walter Ritte

In the 1970s a small group of intensely committed activists from Moloka‘i set out to stop the U.S. military from bombing the island of Kaho‘olawe. Walter Ritte was among them.

“Kaho‘olawe developed not from some kind of a plan, it just developed from circumstances that were beyond control. The original purpose of going to Kaho‘olawe was to shine the light on the military use of the island, and after everybody got there, the purpose was not political any more, it transformed to a purpose of trying to save an island from dying. So that became the impetus for all of the energy that was happening on Kaho‘olawe.”

All of the activists who landed on Kaho‘olawe, says Ritte, felt an intense connection to the island itself.

“We dug deep down inside and said, ‘Why are we here?’ and it was because of the love of this island and the commitment not to let it be killed by the United States military. So aloha ‘?ina became the term that we used to describe what was the driving force for the Kaho‘olawe movement.”

The term, says Ritte, became a rallying cry in land struggles across the Islands.

“The whole idea of aloha ‘?ina just grew as a 1970s way of describing the movement that Hawaiians were involved with.”

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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