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Episode 58: Aloha ‘?ina with Hi‘ilei Kawelo

When Hi‘ilei Kawelo thinks about Hawaiian loko i‘a or fishponds, she marvels at the innovation that her k?puna brought to their relationship with the sea. The executive director of Paepae o He‘eia says she sees Hawaiian fishponds as perfect examples of aloha ‘?ina.

“Prior to the construction of Hawaiian fishponds, our k?puna harvested from the nearshore reef ecosystem, they went offshore and caught larger fish like ahi and aku but at some point in our history our k?puna decided that the construction of fishponds were the wave of the future. That is ingenuity, that is evolution of practice. Being able to respond to a changing environment to me is aloha ‘?ina.”

It is just that relationship with the ‘?ina that Kawelo sees as central to the future of aloha ‘?ina. When she thinks about that future she sees people out on the land and in the ocean, continuing to practice their culture and sustain their families. She also sees them—and this point is crucial for her—enriching the ‘?ina as they work upon it.

“At He‘eia fishpond we continue to access, we continue to sustain but we’re also enhancing the system through the restoration work of a pond.” And, of course, they are feeding people. “We look at the restoration work of our pond and all fishponds in general as a way to contribute to this food security and food sovereignty movement that’s happening in Hawai‘i.”

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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