Quality of Life on Lāna‘i


INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I presents a series exploring the quality of life on each island, with residents from each island driving the conversations. What issues matter most to each island? These episodes are a precursor to our upcoming Election 2018 coverage. Our Quality of Life series continues with a focus on the community issues that are of most concern for Lāna‘i residents.


Join us during our live discussion by phoning in, or leaving us a comment on Facebook or Twitter. INSIGHTS is also live streamed on and Facebook Live.


Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.




Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.


Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights



Lānaʻi, Hawaiʻi ‐ Venison


Cultural pride can be found everywhere in world but on the tiny island of Lanaʻi, one woman makes it a way of life. Hula dancer and sustainable hunter Anela Evans is remarkable in many ways but it is the memory of her father and her love of all things Hawaiian that keeps this young woman committed to championing the land she walks on.



Family Ingredients Season 2




The six-part series airs Wednesdays at 7:30 pm through November 15.

Repeats air Wednesdays at 11:30 pm and Sundays at 4:30 pm through November 19.


In the second season of Emmy Award-winning series, Family Ingredients, host Ed Kenney continues celebrating Hawaiʻi’s diversity through food and untold stories. Join us as we explore food memories and family tales that open up stories of the human experience, one recipe at a time.


Showcasing how cuisine can profoundly unite cultures, communities, and families, Family Ingredients celebrates the diverse cultures that make up Hawai‘i’s melting pot throughout the series.


All photos  © Renea Veneri Stewart


FAMILY INGREDIENTS, Season 2. Host Ed Kenney


Broadcasts of Family Ingredients on PBS Hawai‘i are sponsored locally by:


FAMILY INGREDIENTS: California - Smoked Fish

California – Smoked Fish

Premiere: Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 pm
Encores: Wednesday, October 11 at 11:30 pm and Sunday, October 15 at 4:30 pm

In the Season 2 premiere, singer-songwriter and surfer Jack Johnson shares memories of his father on a road trip along the California coast. Enjoy the music, smoked fish and tales about early surfer migration to Hawaiʻi.


FAMILY INGREDIENTS: Philippines – Adobo

Philippines – Adobo

Premiere: Wednesday, October 18 at 7:30 pm
Encores: Wednesday, October 18 at 11:30 pm and Sunday, October 22 at 4:30 pm

“Top Chef” fan favorite Sheldon Simeon makes his first trip to the Philippines. Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Simeon credits his dad for his love of Filipino cuisine.



Wisconsin – Fiddlehead Fern

Premiere: Wednesday, October 25 at 7:30 pm
Encores: Wednesday, October 25 at 11:30 pm and Sunday, October 29 at 4:30 pm

Kauaʻi farmer Valerie Kaneshiro tells a story of loss, rediscovery and lessons learned while sharing an ingredient in a dish found in Wisconsin and Hawaiʻi.


FAMILY INGREDIENTS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City — Pho

Vietnam ‐ Ho Chi Minh City, Pho

Premiere: Wednesday, November 1 at 7:30 pm
Encores: Wednesday, November 1 at 11:30 pm and Sunday, November 5 at 4:30 pm

Vietnamese-American Chef Andrew Le is friendly, carefree, fun and funny. He is also passionate about his work, family and mother who is keeper of all the secret broths! In this episode we learn about how the Le family immigrated to Hawaiʻi after the Fall of Saigon in 1975 and became an American success story. Today they own one of the most popular restaurants in Hawaiʻi.


FAMILY INGREDIENTS: Vietnam, Hanoi — Pho

Vietnam ‐ Hanoi, Pho

Premiere: Wednesday, November 8 at 7:30 pm
Encores: Wednesday, November 8 at 11:30 pm and Sunday, November 12 at 4:30 pm

If you’ve been to Honolulu there is a good chance you have eaten at the Pig & the Lady in Chinatown.  One of the most popular dishes on the menu is Pho.  In this episode host Ed Kenney and the Le family travel to Hanoi to explore the origin of this simple noodle soup and end up tasting  many bowls.


FAMILY INGREDIENTS: Lana‘i, Hawai‘i — Venison

Lanaʻi, Hawaiʻi ‐ Venison

Premiere: Wednesday, November 15 at 7:30 pm and 11:30 pm
Encores: Wednesday, November 15 at 11:30 pm and Sunday, November 19 at 4:30 pm

Cultural pride can be found everywhere in world but on the tiny island of Lanaʻi, one woman makes it a way of life. Hula dancer and sustainable hunter Anela Evans is remarkable in many ways but it is the memory of her father and her love of all things Hawaiian that keeps this young woman committed to championing the land she walks on.


This series is made in Hawai‘i, by Hawai‘i talent:

A co-production of Rock Salt Media, Inc. and Pacific Islanders in Communications.

Ed Kenney – Host

Heather H. Giugni – Executive Producer

Renea Veneri Stewart – Producer

Dan Nakasone – Producer

Ty Sanga – Director


For more information:

Family Ingredients on Facebook

Family Ingredients on Instagram

State House District 14 and State House District 13


INSIGHTS hosts live candidate discussions for two hotly contested neighbor island races:


–Kaua‘i State House District 14 incumbent Derek Kawakami has opted out of running for re-election, choosing instead to run for Kaua‘i County Council. Kaua‘i County managing director Nadine Nakamura and activist Fern Rosenstiel are vying for this seat. Both are scheduled to discuss how they’d tackle local issues, including Kaua‘i’s rapidly growing population and the effects of agricultural pesticide use.


–State House District 13 includes East Maui, Lana‘i, Moloka‘i and Kaho‘olawe. After the late Rep. Mele Carroll resigned last year for health reasons, Governor Ige appointed Lynn DeCoite to the seat; she is now running for election. Opponent Alex Haller says he sees a lack of financial savvy among elected officials, particularly in land appraisals. DeCoite and Haller are scheduled to appear for this discussion on how they would handle local issues including East Maui water rights and equitable funding for rural areas.


Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.


Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.




Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights


Lessons on Leadership


This special edition revisits conversations with Hawaii’s business and community leaders as they share their thoughts on leadership. Featured are: Maenette Ah Nee-Benham, the late Skippa Diaz, Glenn Furuya, Hokulani Holt, the late Daniel Inouye, Thomas Kaulukukui and Colbert Matsumoto.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Jan. 31 at 4:00 pm.


Lessons on Leadership Audio


Download the Transcript




I had my responsibilities as the platoon leader. And we had this code in the regiment; Don’t expect your men to go up if you’re not willing to go up. In the so-called book, the training book, it’s never led by the officer. Patrols go out. Scouts out, or something like that. The leader stays in the back. But in our code, as the boys would say, You go first, buddy.


Don’t ask anyone to do something—




—you’re not willing to do yourself.



The late Senator Daniel K. Inouye learned the intricacies and demands of leadership on the battlefields of World War II. He took these lessons with him into the world of government and politics, where he became one of the most powerful and influential leaders not only of our state, but of our nation. In this edition of Long Story Short, we will look back at some of our previous Long Story Short guests and their lessons on leadership, including how the nuances of local culture helped to shape their … leadership styles. Lessons on Leadership next, on Long Story Short.


Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Master navigator Nainoa Thompson defines leadership as “stepping up….knowing … the right thing to do,,, and making it happen regardless of the consequences.” Doing the right thing can sometimes require an extraordinary amount of conviction, courage, and the ability to inspire others. In this special edition of Long Story Short, we revisit some of the stories and challenges shared by Hawaii … leaders. We begin with Thomas Kaulukukui, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Managing Trustee of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, who, like Senator Inouye, picked up many of his first lessons in leadership on the battlefield.


I went into the Army in 1968.


You went to Vietnam?


I went to Vietnam for a year, 1969, ’70.


What’d you do in Vietnam?


I was a platoon sergeant in the paratroopers. Uh, did well in training, because I had the Kamehameha School ROTC background. And I ended up leading a platoon of men in … uh, basically jungle fighters.  Young men, at the time, uh, um, they’re like a pack of wolves. And they will do whatever the pack wants to do, unless there is an alpha wolf that keeps them on track. And um, if you’re not that person, they will get rid of you and get somebody else. So, you know, you really have to learn to step up.


Was there any particular event or moment when this all came clear to you, when you had any epiphanies over there?


Well, it was clear to me from the beginning. It’s uh, it’s—you know, when you’re with a group like that, it’s really clear. Uh, I’d never been in a fight in my life. I was in three fights in the first month I was there, because the men decided to test me. You have to realize, this is Vietnam War—


And you—


–and look at the way I look.




You know, I’m not a six-foot uh, uh, fair-skinned, round-eyed person. Uh, I was brought in to lead them, and I was obviously Asian. So I looked more like the enemy, than I did look like them. So it was an interesting experience, because um, I was in three fights with my own men, um, shortly after I got there, because they wanted to test whether or not I was tough enough to lead them.


And part of it was your culture?


Part of it was what I looked like. Uh, part of it was there was another leader there who they wanted, who had been there a month longer than I was, and they weren’t sure about me. So …


So you saw no—you had no—you had to fight. There was no—


Gotta fight.


–other way to do it?


Yeah. Fortunately, I was a black belt in taekwondo by then.


Before I got there, so without having to really hurt anybody, I guess they kinda … got some religion and said, Well, I guess he can beat up everybody else, so he’s all right.


We were someplace where uh, another unit got in trouble, and they called us and said, You need to go help them. Uh, there’s a battle going on, you need to go help them. And you need to get from Point A to Point B, right now. The trouble was, to go from Point A to Point B, you had to go between two hills. General rule, bad idea to go between two hills, because if the enemy is up on both hills, they’re gonna ambush you, and you’re gonna—you’re never gonna get there, you’re gonna be dead. So I called my squad leaders together. I ran a platoon of about thirty-five men. And I said, We have to go from Point A to Point B. They looked at the map, they said, We can’t go through there. I said, We don’t have a choice, because if we don’t go through there, by the time we take an alternative ro—route, our … people will be dead. So I gave an order. All the people kinda sat around, and they looked at me when they figured out where we were going. And they said, We’re not going. Now, think about the magnitude of that problem. Battle commander, give an order, people won’t go. Okay. Squad leaders, gave an order, they wouldn’t go. I tried to exhort them to move, they wouldn’t move, because … you know, the consequences were deadly. Uh, so finally, at that point, I got my radio telephone operator, made him saddle up, put on his backpack. I put my mine on. I said to everybody else, If you’re afraid, I’ll go save them myself; will fight this battle by myself. But you better hope I get killed, because if I’m not, I’m gonna come back and fix this. Off I went. Took the longest, slowest, smallest ten steps of my life down the trail waiting for—to hear if anybody else got up. And—and—and fortunately, I started hearing people getting up. They got up, and … they followed me, and off we went, and we—we made—we made it all right. Difficult experience, um … I’m not sure what would have happened if they didn’t follow. But one of the things I learned from that is, you gotta lead in front; can’t just tell people to go, especially if it’s difficult. You gotta be willing to pick up your rifle, put on your pack, and lead in front.


And be willing to go it alone.


And be willing to go it alone, if you have to.


So do you have a, you know, 25-word nutshell definition of leadership?


I have a … three-word definition, a three, word definition of leadership. My definition is that leadership is influence; nothing more and nothing less. If you have influence, and can influence, people and their thoughts, and emotions, and, actions, then you have leadership ability. That says nothing about your morality, because Hitler had leadership ability. But in—in a very … condensed, sense, I think leadership is influence. And—and learning to, influence in a positive way people’s thoughts, and emotions, and actions, were what—are the core of leadership, I think.


A wartime battlefield can shape leaders. So can growing up in a rural environment, where shared values help to create community well-being…. Colbert Matsumoto, born and raised on the Island of Lanai, is the Chairman of Island Insurance Companies. He also is a community leader in Honolulu, serving on … nonprofit boards in addition to corporate boards. Glenn Furuya, President and Chairman of Leadership Works, a leadership-training company he started more than 30 years ago, grew up in Hilo, on Hawaii Island. At the heart of the leadership style of each of these men is their understanding of local culture, and how being an effective leader in Hawaii can be very different from anywhere else.


Being local is not about where you were born. You know, it’s really about the kind of values, you embrace and the kind of philosophy that you use to guide your life, and the decisions you make in your life. So, there are many local people that you know, who were born and raised here that, you know, I don’t think espouse local values. You know. But on the other hand, there are many people that have moved here that clearly you know, the things that make, I think, Hawaii special resonated with them, which is why they chose to, come here and live here, and stay here.


This whole idea of local culture and what works; it used to be that certain positions in Hawaii guaranteed authority and respect. But that’s less and less true now; isn’t it?


Uh, yeah, I think that’s, definitely the case. You know, I think that you know, when I grew up which was when, you know, I think in the 60s, the plantations were still uh, very influential … forces in shaping our—our—our community. And there tended to be, you know, informal, leaders within those communities that people looked up to provide leadership. So in like the time that I grew up in, well, the principal of the school was, considered a very important figure. Some of the union leaders were considered important figures. Some of the, plantation bosses were also—




— looked up to as being, you know, important, community leaders. And so, um, people gravitated to them, and as they would in turn communicate, different, you know, projects or, concerns, you know, people would rally around them. And so, I think that those days have passed. I think that it’s harder to get people to align behind uh, different initiatives. In my experience, you know, run across, two different kinds of leadership. One—one is, implied leadership; leadership that is the result of the position that you hold. And most people fall into the category of having power because of, you know, the implied authority associated with them.   Whereas, you know, there are other people that, you know, have I think real power; a power that, you know, it generates from, they are able to assert themselves and the kind of vision and their ability to art—articulate concepts and ideas in a way that makes people feel like it resonates with them.


Definitely, you know, leadership requires a level of trust and confidence. It all starts from that. And if you don’t have the ability to engender the trust of the people that you’re trying to reach, you cannot lead them, you cannot convince them to move in any particular direction. That’s why, you know, great leaders have a certain special ability to engender that kinda trust.


You know, you have to be able to stick your neck out, because that’s how, you know, you progress. And, so asserting leadership involves taking risk, being willing to stand apart from the pack. And that takes a level of courage.


And so, you know, those kinds of leaders are fewer and harder to come by. But—but those are the kinds of leaders that I think exercise real, ability to move people, to affect change. And I don’t know why. I mean, it just seems that I don’t find as many of those kinds of people around as I think used to exist in the past.


I really do believe that the upbringing in Hilo— one thing it does is, you know, you’re humble. You you grew up humble.


Do you think humility … we prize humility—


M-hm, m-hm.


–in the Hawaiian culture—


M-hm, m-hm.


as well. But humility is seen as a weakness, other places.


Yes, it is. It’s viewed in many Western cultures as a weakness. But to me, I think that’s strength, when I can stand in front of my group and say, You know what, guys? I’m really sorry; I messed up, forgive me. You know, and just lay it out there. What’s the—what’s the alternative? What, blame people? Make excuses?


I do a lot of work on island style leadership, because I do believe it is a distinct and unique form of leadership. There’s this thing I call the same-same equilibrium; the same-same equilibrium. And it roots back to ahupuaa, where it was—society was an egalitarian society, where everybody in the society had a role, and everybody did their part. But all of the contributors within that society were viewed as equal, so everybody same-same.




Right? Okay. So, here’s the deal. Centuries later, the same-same essence mentality still is—is embedded in all of us. You’ve got to stay in this equilibrium, same-same. Everybody same-same, everybody does equal in their contribution. What’s very interesting is, whenever you break same-same, okay, and you think you’re—you act as if you’re better, right—‘cause if everybody’s same-same, then nobody’s more important or better than anybody else; right? But the minute you break it—and this is where a lot of times people who come from away, good people, they don’t understand this equilibrium. They break it. As soon as you get to this I’m better than you mentality, through your tone of voice, through your being too direct, not listening—




–showing everybody how smart you, the immediate response always is, Who the heck does he thinks he is? Who the heck does he think is? Immediate response.




And once that response comes out, you can’t lead in Hawaii. Who the heck you think you are? And they don’t tell it to you in your face. It’s—Hawaii is—


They just turn away.


I always say—




–to my leaders that I work with, Hawaii is the world capitol of passive aggressive behavior.


I do a lot of work with mainlanders coming down, to try to help them understand some of these little nuances of this place. Do not break the same-same equilibrium. Because as soon as those words come out, that question pops, it’s really hard to recover. The other thing with island people; they don’t—they don’t forgive. They—they take forever to let go.


The way I teach it is this. There are two types of leaders, Leslie. There’s circular leaders. These are people are who are very collaborative, they’re relationship-oriented, they’re kind, they—they really engage people.




Circular. Island people are generally more circular.




Okay. And that’s because in Hawaii, we’re a three-way blend of cultures. We are influenced heavily by Eastern culture, ‘cause in the 1940s, forty percent of the population of Hawaii was Japanese. So, heavy bushido code influence here.


The one element of the—the bushido code is this; you always operate from a sense of imperfection. You always come from a state of dissatisfaction. ‘Cause—


Oh, I didn’t know that.


Yeah. So, if you’re always dissatisfied, and you’re kinda imperfect, you always gotta work harder. You gotta try harder, you gotta study harder, you gotta go to school, you gotta learn. I never got praised by my parents; they never, ever praised, said, Good job, Glenn, won—you did a wonderful job. Nothing. And I think, bushido. They didn’t want me to get all big-headed and arrogant, and thinking I’m better than anybody else; right?




So, they kept—they kept it really, really restrained, the praise and things like that.




And yet, we’re all Americans; that’s the Western influence. We’re all Western educated folk. But at the same time, the host culture here is Hawaiian.




We have a major Polynesian influence. And there’s no place in the world these three forces come together like it does here in Hawaii. So, the Polynesian and the Eastern, Asian, right, give us the circular. We understand circular; that’s why people are so collaborative and warm, and aloha spirit, and ohana. Western culture is much more linear. You know, there’s the goal, here’s the plan, now do it. Now, move—


And if you have to run over somebody—




–to get there—




–it’s okay.




‘Cause that’s the goal.


Right, and there are a lot of island people who are just very linear, too. The biggest mistake you can make in Hawaii is take your linear approach, and slam it on the circular. Right? And then, that equilibrium gets broken. Who the heck does he think he is?


You’ve gotta be both. Circular, collaboration, involvement, build a relationship. But at the point of execution, we all gotta go linear; we’ve gotta get the job done.


I’ve always believed, Leslie, that whenever you impose things on people, when you just shove it in, you’ll get compliance. They’re gonna do it, because I’m afraid if I don’t do it, they’re gonna scold me or fire me, whatever. When you inspire people bottom-up—




–you get commitment. That’s real leadership.


Teachers are among our most important leaders. They have the power to influence and shape the minds of young people who will … become the next generation of leaders. Kumu hula Hokulani Holt, who is also the Cultural Programs Director of the Maui Arts and Culture Center, and Dr. Maenette Ah Nee Benham, Dean of Hawaiinuiakea at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Hawaiian Knowledge, are two such leaders. Their career paths are based on kuleana, the responsibilities handed down to them from their families and ancestors….


Hula has always been in our ohana. My grandmother was a kumu hula, she had seven daughters. Of her seven daughters, three became kumu hula. And of her granddaughters, first just me, and now my sister. And then of her great-granddaughters, my cousin Melia.


When did you decide you’re gonna be a kumu? Or—


Oh, I didn’t.


–did you decide?


I didn’t.


I guess that’s nothing you decide on your own, right, in the hula world?


Yeah, yeah; I didn’t decide. My mother decided for me.


She said, Well, I think it’s time for you to—to begin teaching. And I went, no, that—that belongs to other people, that doesn’t belong to me. And she said, No, I talked to your auntie, and I think it’s time for you to begin teaching. So I went kicking and screaming, but I went.


What kind of a kumu were you and are you?


I believe that I’m—I’m pretty strict. I hope to instill in my students a love for hula, but also a love for this place that we call home, and for all the many generations of people that came before us that created the—the chants and the songs, and the movements that we use. What a kumu hula is, is we want things our own way. And we demand that.


It is your world.


It is my world. I always tell my students, This is the world according to Hoku within these four walls.


And as a kumu hula, you get very involved in other people’s families.


Oh, yeah.


They become your family.


Oh, yeah.


So you’re privy to a lot of the struggles that—




–people go through.


Yes. You know, you get parents coming and saying, You know, my daughter’s not paying attention to school, Kumu can you please talk to her? Or, you know, someone’s marriage or passing; you get involved in your students’ lives, and it’s a good thing.


Halau provides, focus, it—it really gets you to appreciate every little thing, I believe. And halau is not only learning hula, but it also teaches you about yourself. How to push yourself a little bit more, how to think about the welfare of others within the halau, and then that translates to others outside of halau, how to practice or do Hawaiian values, because that’s what you must have in halau as well, how to get past pain and tired, and late hours for a goal that you would like to reach. So those are all life lessons also.


So you were possessed at an early age of a conviction you wanted to lead.






Because I was always told that I would. I was always told. My grandmothers— both my Grandma Ah Nee and my Grandma Padeken explained to me when I was very young about my name, Kape‘ahiokalani. And it is a name of—of one of my great-great aunts, who was a chanter in King Kalakaua’s court. And basically, what they said to me was that because I held this name, I had the responsibility of—of remembering the moolelo of our family, and I had the responsibility of contributing to … the health and wellbeing of my family. That was it. That’s what they told me. And … you know, I said, Okay. Because that’s what you do. Your kupuna tell you that, and you say, Okay, so what do I need to do?


And there are all kinds of ways to accomplish that too.


Yeah, there’s all kinds of ways to do that. And I just found this to be my journey, you know, in educational leadership. I just found that to be what really gets me excited, um, what really inspires me is—and it all started because um, in fifth grade at Koko Head Elementary School, Mrs. Kwon made me do flannel board stories for the kindergartners. And I loved it. I loved just telling stories, creating stories and telling them to young kids, and watching the light bulbs go off. So my first job was as a kindergarten teacher. What a great job, you know, where you get unconditional love every single day.


And I know you’ve said you always want to be a teacher.


I always—


No matter what else you do, or how you do it, you want to be a teacher.


Yeah. Always; always. And that came from the stories and teachers over the years. You know, and good leaders are great teachers.


The genius of leadership is living into grace. And it’s—it’s that—that idea of creating a space where people can feel really safe, even though you say the worst things. I want you to feel safe here, I just want you to feel safe. And no matter what you have to say, no matter how angry you are, go ahead, go and do that. And when you’re pau, let’s get to work. You know, cause otherwise, we’re not gonna get it done, we’re not gonna—we’re just not gonna do it. And that’s how I—that’s how I lead. You know. And I try really hard to listen; listen, listen, listen. And as I listen, you know, I try to move it back to the core issue, as you said. Ask more questions about how that has to do with the issue, keep moving it, moving it, moving it.


But sometimes, there is no consensus.


And sometimes there’s not.


And then you have to figure out—somebody has to call it.




This is not gonna be solved this way.


Yeah. And I do that. I do that too. You can ask the people who work for me. You know, it’s very open, we’re safe, we’re gonna talk about it, and this is how—this is the road we’re gonna take. I’m not afraid to do that. No; I’m not afraid to do that. It’s—it’s nice to know— I want people to know that everybody has a voice. You know, everyone has a voice. It’s a labor-intensive process, but everybody has a voice. And in the end, you know, there will be – everybody will know that there will be uh, a direction we’re gonna go. You know, and move on.


Because people want closure. I mean—




You can’t talk everything to death.


Yeah. In a microcosm, yeah, you know, we have a lot of diverse perspectives, but across the United States, across the globe, you know, there isn’t one way to do anything. But I do think that we’re reaching a time where there—there are more young people and young leaders who are seeing the promise and the potential of bringing together different groups, and really talking about hard issues, of renewable resources, about food safety, about education and wellbeing that’s very issue-oriented. And doing it in a way that is grounded in our religion, our stories. I think we’re ready at that point to do that, and I—I think that’s—that’s our work at the University to help prepare, you know, my community leaders to be able to do that.


I learned that, you know, you do good work. You have good intentions, you know. Doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how much I can tell you about what I wrote, or what I studied, or what whatever, right? What matters is that I have good intentions, and I work really hard, and I try to be fair in everything that I do. And I try to be kind, you know. And I—and I lead in grace, developing a space where people can feel grace and welcome, you know. And then, we’ll move forward. Ohana does not always mean that we are of the same blood, ohana means that we can agree on a set of principles and a mission for the work that we’re doing, and we’re gonna be innovative and entrepreneurial, and we’re gonna work together really hard to get there. That’s ohana.


Humility, trust, listening, fairness, influence… all important qualities that Hawaii’s leaders say are critical to good leadership. These are values that we can use in our own lives, whether it is how we act with our families, in our jobs or how we conduct ourselves in the broader community. Our closing words of wisdom will be from the late Skippa Dias, legendary football coach at Farrington High School in Honolulu.


Mahalo to our Long Story Guests who have shared their stories and insights with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha a hui hou.


I developed um, an acronym. And the acronym was spelled out HEART, H-E-A-R-T. And—and each letter represented a basic tenet and belief that … you want the other person to acquire and mind for the young kinds. And the word HEART, the five five words are H refer to humility, the ability to … you know, to … listen to another person and … bite your tongue if—if he’s saying something that’s different than what you want. But being humble is a quality that is really, really … sought after for a lot of people, but never acquire. But humility is a good one. E, education. That one was very, very significant in my family’s upbringing. A, attitude; a positive attitude, making sure that, you know, whatever the goal, whatever the project, you set yourself out to be positive and g—and get the darn thing done. R, responsibility. You gotta be responsible for all the things that you do, and sometimes for the things that your friends and your loved ones are doing. But being responsible in that manner has—has some beautiful connotations that—that grow from it. And then T, of course, stands for team.




Kepa Maly


Part 1


Original air date: Tues., June 12, 2012


A Sense of Connection



Part 2


Lāna’i and the Spirit of Place


The executive director of Lanai Culture and Heritage Center reveals how he became fluent in the Hawaiian language as a Caucasian boy growing up on Oahu and Lanai. Once an alienated child, this cultural researcher now makes connections with people and places throughout the islands.


Download: Kepa Maly, A Sense of Connection Transcript


Original air date: Tues., June 29, 2012


Lanai and the Spirit of Place


Leslie Wilcox continues her conversation with Kepa Maly, executive director of Lanai Culture and Heritage Center. Throughout his years as an ethnographer, Kepa gathered stories from kupuna. Here, he passes on local legends and stories behind place names that capture the essence of Lanai.


Download: Kepa Maly, Lanai and the Spirit of Place Transcript




Part 1: A Sense of Connection


I believe—and I say this honestly and with respect to my blood family that it was the ohana and the extended families like that, that they’re the only reason I’m alive today. They filled … a void. That sense of spirituality, that sense of connection, that we’re a part of something. And they gave me that.


He’s a researcher who connects the dots of places, and people, and cultures. Kepa Maly, executive director of Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short With Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Kepa Maly’s remarkable story begins as a youngster living on Oahu, feeling disconnected. He had a different first name then. As a teenager, he was adopted by an elderly Native Hawaiian couple on the Island of Lanai. Taken under the wing of the Kaupuiki’s, who had already raised sixteen children, Kepa learned the Hawaiian language. He welcomed a new first name and a new sense of belonging, and he fully embraced the cultural practices and values of his hanai family. As an adult, Kepa Maly adds to the knowledge that his elders shared with him. For the past three decades, he and his wife Onaona have been documenting the stories of people, places, and history of Hawaii.


Just circumstances in family arose, and I was actually blessed. You look at it in that hindsight. And I had this opportunity to go to Lanai, and actually ended up being cared for as—keiki hookama is the real word. We use hanai all the time now, but hookama means where someone takes on the responsibility of caring for someone’s child. And of one of the preeminent families of the Island of Lanai, and that’s what started my whole life.


So not a legal adoption.


No, no.


But a … a full embrace.


Yes; yes.


And in fact, that’s where your name comes from?


You’re right. Tutu folks called me Kepa, and when I inquired about it, they said that it’s to surround, to embrace. And it’s actually part of a little longer name, but you know, what a blessing.


What is the longer name?


Kepaleiohukaahe [PHONETIC]. Because I was also a single child, yes. And lei is the garland, ohu adorning, kahe, the single or the one adoring child.


That’s not a name I’ve ever heard before.


No. Yeah; I was blessed. These were people who were the embodiment of what Hawaiians are, that love. It didn’t matter. In 1924, a group of Filipino fishermen from Maui got … capsized the boat, they washed up nearly dead on the shore of Lanai. Tutu Papa, young man at that time, goes and takes them, brings them to their home. Helps restore them to life, Tutu Mama them, and they returned them to Maui to their own families. Japanese, Filipino, whatever. That was their way of life. You aloha unconditionally.


Tutu folks; how old were Tutu folks?


Tutu Papa Daniel Kaopuiki was born in 1819. His wife, Tutu Mama Hattie Kaenaokalani Kaopuiki, was born in 1892. And so, they were these incredible people that bridged two worlds. They were competent in English, but of course, Hawaiian was their olelo makuahine, their mother tongue, the language of their naau, what they felt, yeah? And so, from them and their cousins on Lanai, I gained some skills with the Hawaiian language. Tutu Papa was also the kahuna pule of our little Hawaiian church. And so, it was a part of the daily life, yeah, between church, between home and just hearing stories that were told about places and how people connect to place, to resource, to practice, yeah?


Did you know Hawaiian before you got there?


No. Not a … sukoshi, nothing.


What were you like as a boy when you began living on Lanai?


I think I was always odd man out. Plus, hard to tell now, I was very introverted. You know, pretty shy. I was definitely the novelty. I was the only Haole in my class, only Caucasian in my class. Class of ’72, thirty-two students.


Oh, throughout the time you were there?


Yeah. I believe—and I say this honestly and with respect to my blood family, that it was the ohana and the extended families like that, that they’re the only reason I’m alive today. I know that for a fact. And they filled a void. And also, I know some people don’t like to talk about it, but that sense of spirituality, that sense of connection, that we’re a part of something. And they gave me that. And it is because of them, and years of working with kupuna from Niihau through Hawaii, and not just Hawaiian elders, but of all different ethnic backgrounds. People that were willing to share a little bit of their aloha and their time. You become family. I know that they didn’t set out to have me go on the path that we’ve ended up traveling in our careers and life. But again, it’s a way of life, not a job. But they inspired me, they filled that need. They gave me something to connect with.


Kepa Maly’s deep fascination with the special places and the people of his adopted island led to his appointment as the executive director of Lanai Culture and Heritage Center. Besides housing priceless artifacts, the nonprofit organization operates an oral history program to help tell the story of Lanai’s multicultural community. After high school, he would travel and work in a number of other places before returning to Lanai, to Oahu’s Kualoa Regional Park as a park naturalist, to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where I met him and saw him mesmerizing visitors as an interpretive ranger, then off to the Continent on assignment at the Grand Canyon. He also worked as a curator and exhibit designer at Kauai Museum. Along the way, he encountered many of Hawaii’s cultural leaders who shared their knowledge and traditions handed down from their own kupuna.


We’re over there at Honaunau, and there’s this old Hawaiian gentleman sitting on the porch of his home, right down at the puuhonua. And I see this man, incredible face, this kanaka. And I look; I say, Oh, aloha mai, pehea oe. And the old man looked at me, and then he just turned around and went inside the house. I thought, Auwe. I felt sad. I said, Oh, well, here’s one ‘nother Haole, he just thinks. But it was so funny, ‘cause I continued walking around past his house, and from the back of his door, he called, Hui, hele mai, hele mai. This old man was Apelehama Kauokaumaha [PHONETIC] Moses. Pure Hawaiian, but took the Haole name Moses because in that mission period time, the name Kauokaumaha could have had not a positive meaning. And so they took the name Moses. But Tutu Apelehama … mai, mai, mai. We sat down and spoke. I actually went and stayed with him for a week afterwards, he and his wife. But what he said was, I heard your voice, you have a mana in your voice that other people won’t have. And he said, What your people took away, you can help give back. And this is ’75. That meant a great deal to me.


What your people took away, you can give back.


Yeah. And actually, I think that it’s true, but we can’t live our lives as victims also. There are kuleana and pono, the responsibilities and the rights that Tutu folks, all kupuna talk about. But there is something about Hawaii. I have no college education, I’ve taught at UH. My wife and I, Onaona and I do ethnographic studies. We do the equivalent of seven or eight PhD dissertations a year for historic preservation programs. But it roots back to our teachers, who were the people who wrote the books or who the books were written about. Onaona’s kupuna was Mrs. Pukui. I knew Tutu Kawena before I knew my wife Onaona. Mary Kawena Pukui, Tutu Kawena … as you know, was this incredible woman, Hawaiian historian, bridging late 1800s through the 1980s. She was a mentor of Auntie Maiki Aiu Lake, who in 1973, I met. I had come from Lanai to listen to a lecture that Auntie Maiki was giving with Robert Cazimero as the dancer at that time, at Maui Community College. I was already engaged, I loved the mele and hula, and I wanted to take. I wanted some formal training. I had had training on Lanai a little bit. And after the program, I went up to her, introduced myself, and in that Auntie Maiki style, she just embraced me and said, If you move to Honolulu, I will teach you. She gave me everything. I graduated uniki from her, Papa Ilima in 1975. And in that process, she introduced me to Tutu Kawena. She said, I can teach you what I know but no one knows everything. She also said, Take credit for what you create, don’t say it was old. I like that. But she said, Here is a saying. People said, Oh, that Kawena thinks she knows this and that, and she’s this and that. She said, from her kupuna … I learned this saying, and this is how I live. [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE] Don’t go peering and peeking around everybody else’s doors, just stand and speak from the door of your own house. And she told me, That’s all I have done. An incredible woman. Without her Hawaii would be so much poorer. There’s … incredible lessons that we have, that we can learn by just listening to the voices around us. We’re no longer talking story the way we did before days, yeah?


We’re too distracted, right?


That’s correct. And so we need to have this with people that can share the nuances, the beauty of life, and those things that make us stronger. I think the most important saying that I learned from Tutu Papa and he must have been inspired to tell me this. Or maybe it was just the way I acted; who knows. The first saying, and the one that has lived with me throughout my life, and I’ll take it to the grave with me is, O ka mea maikai malama, o ka memea ke oli hookawale haku [PHONETIC]. Keep the good, set the bad aside.


Easier said than done.


It is, isn’t it?


But great advice.


It is incredible advice.


Did you figure out how to do that?


I believe I have. But of course, I also have a heart problem, and it really surprised me when I had my first episode. So I thought, Well, maybe I’m not doing as good a job as I thought I was, but—


Of keeping stress away from your life?


But genetics too. So I can blame it on that. But yes, I believe, ‘cause like you imagine today someone driving down the road, and they left late. That’s their problem to begin with, right? And now they’re rushing to get somewhere, they’re gonna be—all that stress that builds up, and it’s useless, right, to get irate about it. So Tutu folks keep the good, set the bad aside.


And they could do that?


They did. Yeah. I think they had to. Lanai was a stressed island, particularly after Western contact. So if you became the victim, you know, pau, waste time, yeah? And look at these people, they raised and they touched so many people’s lives. Tutu folks told us, Mai kaulai ka lima i ka la [PHONETIC], don’t put the palm of your hand up to the sun. Huli ka lima ilalo a hana, alo ao i ka ae [PHONETIC], turn your hand down and work, and you will have food to sustain yourself. What a simple, basic value. And our children aren’t getting that; we’re all learning this. Yeah? Put the palm up. I want to share with you three cute twists on a saying. On Lanai, Tutu Papa taught me … maikai ka hana a ka lima, o nono kai a ka waha [PHONETIC]. When the hands do good work, the mouth has good food to eat. Cool, yeah?


I like that.


It is. You think about it. Then, I’m working with Tutu Kinoolu Kahananui, later years, yeah, in Kona District. And wonderful old man, native speaker, great, great historian. His tutu taught him, hana inu ka lima ai i nono ka waha [PHONETIC]. Do dirty work with your hands, you going eat dirty food. Same idea, right? But a whole different twist.


Other side of it.




The facet.


Yes. And then, we go with Tutu Mahiula Hashimoto at Haena on Kauai. Nice man, wonderful fisherman. His tutu, his saying was more simple. Hana ka lima ai ka waha [PHONETIC]. Work, you going eat. [CHUCKLE] You know.


I know people who are skilled in Hawaiian arts like to share, but they don’t share with everyone. So they chose to share with you.


Mahalo ke Akua. That’s all we can say. You know, somehow that gift from God of a little Haole boy being off on the side somewhere, but coming up and being at the right place at the right time. I don’t think it was an accident. We do work now—you know, Onaona and I, in our oral history, we’ve done close to a thousand oral history interviews across the state, recorded interviews from Niihau through Hawaii.


What’s the best question you ask? What elicits the best responses?


O wai kou inoa? What is your name? O wai oe? Who are you? Where do you come from? Who are your kupuna? And I’m sorry, it can be one, but the next one is, and What is your aina? That aina is what connects everybody, yeah?


You hardly have to ask more questions after that.




What is your aina? Has it become Lanai?


In my heart, it is Lanai. For years, Onaona and I have worked around the state, and I was telling her in 2005; I says, Kinda shame though, yeah? I’ve never had the opportunity for us to do an ethnographic study on Lanai. And in 2005, after I said that, the first opportunity arises. And then we get asked by members of the community who were involved in a memorandum of agreement, this development was being proposed and then developed on Lanai. I get asked by the community members, Come home and help us make a museum. So Lanai is the home of my heart.


And what is ethnographic? I’m sorry, I don’t know.


Well, it’s the collection of the stories of people. So archeology. And I sometimes even disagree, when we were working on the state process, when they say, Oh, this is an archeological site, this is this. I say, Uh-uh, it starts first as a cultural site. Archeology looks at the biggest piles of stones and bones, those are the things that are significant. But I can tell you that just a named puu, a named point … every place that is named has a story to tell.


But sometimes, you don’t get the right story. Later generations tell a different version.


Oh, yes.


How do you get the right version of why it was named that?


And I humbly say this, is that … well, Tutu, yeah, and Auntie Maiki or Tutu Pukui folks, aohe pau ka ike ka halau hookahi [PHONEITC]. That not all knowledge comes from one school. So maybe my right—not mine, but the right that I’ve been taught may not be someone else’s right. But the bottom line is, you go through the historical accounts, the native language newspapers, and incredible resources that have been collected. I believe that those kupuna were writing so that future generations would know the stories. So, what we do is you connect those historical resource materials with the stories of people who were living on the land, and who are descended of the land. And they could be Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Haole. But people that interacted with people Tutu’s generation and older, yeah? And we present it as this is the story that they tell, this is their pono, their right. And you let it speak for itself. This is one of the reasons that sometimes archeologists today, they say, Well, Kepa and Onaona are doing this work, but they’re not making judgments on it. And I said, It’s not my right to make a judgment on it. The people speak for themselves, the land for itself. And you can also see where … Tutu Kawena, I asked her at one point. We were talking about John Papa Ii’s fragments of Hawaiian history, which is a product of one of the preeminent Hawaiian historians, right? So I said, Tutu, pehea oe o no a kela inoa [PHONETIC], fragments of Hawaiian history. I always had a hard time understanding what that meant. And she looked at me and said, Na Ii nu, it was Ii himself who called it that. [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE] moolelo Hawaii, fragments of Hawaiian history. His own title. And so what I take from that, and when I speak about it today is, I say that if John Papa Ii, who was born and raised as an attendant to the Kamehameha children, as a steward to those children, he witnessed the last human sacrifice at Papaenaena Heiau, on Leahi, on Diamond Head. He traveled with the Kamehameha family back to Hawaii. If it was fragmented for him in his time, how much more so for us today. So those fragments that we have left are treasures. It will speak for itself. And you can see where the connections go. You can see where this tradition, even if we’ve never heard this before, you can see does it fit comfortably with this body of knowledge that has been gifted down to the generations. And in some instances, you can see where if someone’s out there changing a whole genealogy, mm, a na hui kaua [PHONETIC], maybe it’s a little confusing there.


I notice that you use the word Haole.




And I know that there are some people in the public who say … that’s not appropriate. If they’re Caucasian, it makes them feel like an outsider, it seems pejorative to a group. What is your feeling about the word Haole?


Well, and I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. But, it’s very interesting. In the oldest context of the word a Haole is anyone who is not Hawaiian. Only Hawaiians are kanaka. So the original context now, this is a good example of stories being passed on. So one of the families that’s well known on Lanai was that of Charles Gay. And he married a pure Hawaiian woman, and his last surviving child, Auntie Venus Gay Holt, just passed away the later part of last year at a hundred and six. While talking with Auntie Venus, and then her older brothers, there’s a story about how the word Haole even came up. Two versions of the story.


Oh, I’d love to hear.


Okay. And these were family traditions, and I can’t tell you that this is really what it means, because as we said, if you go to the dictionary, you go to old language resources, Haole was anyone who was not Hawaiian. But, Captain Cook arrives off of Kauai in 1778, and this is from Roland Gay and his brother, Lawrence. And the chiefs, the people, they’re off of Waimea, they see this floating island, right? Ah, ua hiki mai o Lono, Lono has arrived, yeah? And the chiefs of Kauai sent canoes out to greet these people and begin to offer them mele, chants, the genealogy. [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE] Your body is Lono there in the heavens. It was Lono [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. It was Lono who caused the stars to be strung through the heavens. And the people on the boat, Captain Cook folks, sat there with no response. And the Hawaiians were puiwa. First thing, they run back, ‘cause they see them hemo their clothes, yeah, take their clothes off like that, and all white skin underneath. They run back. One story is, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE], skinless people. Yeah? The other one was, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE], people who had no breath of life. Because these life- giving chants that had been offered went unresponded to.


That’s where the no breath of life comes in. I see. So now, you use Haole to mean Caucasians? Or do you use it for anybody not Hawaiian? Filipinos, Samoans.


Yes. I do. Sorry, ‘cause that’s what I was taught the word means. And I don’t mean it in a negative way. It’s just that we’re not as lucky.


At home and at work, Kepa Maly’s partner of over thirty years is his wife, Onaona. Their business, Kumu Pono Associates, mirrors the efforts of Onaona’s grandaunt, the renowned Hawaiian scholar, Mary Kawena Pukui, whom you heard Kepa mention. Since the business’ establishment in 1995, it has completed more than three hundred ethnographic studies and conducted more than five hundred oral history interviews. Lots of stories. And then, there’s the love story of Kepa and Onaona Maly.


Well, Onaona actually is descended from the Pukui and Mahoe lines in Kaiapa. Those are the main lines. But what’s interesting, like her great-great-grandaunt was Queen Liliuokalani’s adopted daughter, Lydia Aholo. And we knew Tutu Aholo up ‘til she was a hundred years old to hear these stories of her upbringing and how she would play hide-and-seek with the Queen’s other children before the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center was made. But when she would play hide-and-seek, Auntie Lydia would go hide under the Queen’s dress. And no one, of course, would go seek for her under there.


Oh, good one.


Yes. So what happens is, now I’m working at Kualoa. We’ve opened Kualoa, and Onaona’s mother is a teacher at Bingham Tract School. And we’re, of course, working with schools from around the islands, right, thinking about doing camping programs, canoeing programs, back country programs with these youth who often would have no other opportunity to do anything like this, yeah? So this is God’s truth. I hear the car arrive. I know the group is coming. I hear a car arrive, I step out of my office. It’s Onaona and her father. Onaona opens the door of the car, steps out. Kanehoalani is the highest peak of the ridge above Kualoa, and the sun is setting above it. And I swear, this ray of light comes down, illuminates Onaona, and for me, it was love at first sight. I hope that she was okay about it. We were married six months later. [CHUCKLE]


Have you asked her what her impression of you at first sight was?


She loves me.




I’m blessed. [CHUCKLE]


And that had never happened to you before, right?


Never; nah.


This was not a common occurrence for you.


No, no. No, no; not a common occurrence at all.


This light bathing—


Yeah, yeah. To me, it was it was like, wow. And we chuckle about it all the time, and when people ask us, this is our story.


Kepa Maly continues to work to maintain a sense of place and balance on Lanai, and in Hawaii. The man who once was an alienated kid has made it his life’s mission to find and share connections in our island home. We’ll hear more from Kepa Maly about his spiritual connection to Lanai on an upcoming episode of Long Story Short. Thank you, Kepa, for sharing your stories with us, and thank you for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short With Leslie Wilcox, visit


Hawaiians are real people, living people. Tutu Kawelo taught me a beautiful saying, because we were talking about Kawelo of Kaalaia. We were talking about anaana, sorcerer practices like that. And Tutu said, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. In all people, there are some that are good and some that aren’t. And so, she was also tied in the conversation about whether you Haole, someone who was not of Hawaiian ancestry, of other mixed ancestries, or real people doing real things, living their lives as best they could. And I believe the Hawaiians left us models. We have models that we can learn from to actually live better in our island landscape. There’s only so much to go around; you take too much today, pau, tomorrow you don’t eat. That idea of [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE], healthy land, healthy people. Yeah?


Enough is plenty.


Yeah; that’s right.


Part 2: Lanai and the Spirit of Place


I believe Hawaiian, non-Hawaiian alike, we are touched by spirit of place. I also believe that sometimes, some of the bad decisions that are made down here in Honolulu are because we have insulated ourselves in cement, iron, glass molds that don’t let us reconnect with the aina.


Cultural consultant and Executive Director of the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, KEPA MALY, next on LONG STORY SHORT.  


Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Kepa Maly was an introverted teenager, feeling isolated and so adrift that he left his home on Oahu for a new life on the island of Lanai. He was welcomed by the Kaopuikis as a keiki hookama, an older child taken in as one’s own by another family. The only Haole boy in school, Kepa forged a connection with the native Hawaiian culture. He became a fluent speaker of the Hawaiian language. In fact if you close your eyes when he speaks Hawaiian, you think you’re in the presence of old-style native speaker. Kepa eagerly immersed himself in the depth of knowledge of his elderly hanai parents, Tutu Mama Hattie Kaenaokalani Kaopuiki and Papa Daniel Kaopuiki, and other kupuna. All of that translates into an adult life in happy partnership with his wife Onaona, conducting oral histories and other research on Hawaii’s people and places. These ethnographic studies have helped preserve island cultural treasures.


I would—like summertime, you hit fifteen on Lanai, you go out and pick pineapple, right? I loved it when I got night shift, because I’m not a night person, but I’m an early morning person no matter what it is. And so, I would pick pineapple. We would get off close to midnight or something like that, so I’d get a few hours sleep. And Tutu would say, Oh up in Waiapaa where the springs, and in this spring, Tutu always said there was a kananaka, a mermaid, a moo form that lived in this spring, that when Tutu Mama was a girl, she would go up there. And her kupuna had warned her, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. You wait until the moo is gone, the winds have calmed, and then you go take your water. So I wanted to go see the spring. I never saw the moo, but I got up to Waiapaa. So they would talk about these places, or where the last purple blossomed lehua


You would go alone on your own to—




—find these places?


Yeah. I was old enough. In my mid-teens up through high school. So it was great. And I would know when I had found them, come back, describe. Or else, Tutu would say there was maile up here, and I’d go find the maile. Or Tutu would say, Oh, had the sugar mill, the old sugar mill. No one knows there was a sugar mill on Lanai. Tutu folks, Uncle Lloyd Cockett, Tutu Maggie Kauwenaole, they would talk about this place or that. We would go out and find it. I would go find them. It was to me, it was, sorry, one last. When I was in high school, people like do you remember Donald Kilolani Mitchell, who was—




up at ka—yes. He and Hooulu Cambra them, and others from Bishop Museum would come to Lanai, and I would get pulled out of school to go take them to go holo holo.


Because you’d already been around.




Now, your Tutu folks, were they too elderly to go with you on these—








How old were they?


Well, 1898—




—and 1892. So Tutu them were in their late seventies, eighties. Their life continued, excuse me, up through their through their mid-90s, just about early to mid-90s.


And were you the first child for them?


No. They had sixteen of their own.








Yeah. The oldest today, Auntie Lei, or Kuuleialoha Kaopuiki Kanipaa, is ninety-six. She is sadly, the last elder native speaker of Hawaiian language on the island.


Lanai has a long history of weathering change brought on by the introduction of European livestock, pineapple production, an affluent tourist clientele, and other by-products of Western Contact. From Kepa Maly’s many years of gathering the stories shared by kupuna, he brings Lanais rich cultural history to life.


Lanai, in at least the tradition of a chief by the name of Kaululaau, perhaps 1400-ish, based on genealogies, he goes to the island, which at that time is called Kaulahea, because named for the—the goddess that gave birth to it. He encounters ghosts, akua who dwell on the island and who make it very difficult for anyone to survive there. He goes around the island—it’s a wonderful story, and actually challenges the ghosts and vanquishes them. He reaches the top of the mountain, the highest point, and builds a house there. And he invites the last group of akua, ghosts to come to the housewarming party. They weren’t very bright, apparently. Inside the house, he’s thatched it with pilali, the gum of oha and kapa—uh, papala, trees that are like bird line that they would catch birds with to stick. Well, as it a ghost walks in, you have to kneel down to get into the door of old Hawaiian house, yeah, ‘cause they weren’t tall doors. And as each ghost comes in, he goes, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. He sticks them up face-first, closing their eyes against the thatching wall of the house, steps out, burns the house down, the ghosts are killed. The last ghost, king of the ghosts, is the last one to die, and on the day of his death, the island is called Lanai, day of victory, day of conquest.


That’s what the victory is.


Yes. And so, Lanai Hale is the peak of the island … the house of Lanai, built, as—as we said, by Kaululaau. But there are incredible place names, stories. The other peak of our island home is called Haalelepaakai, which means salt left behind or discarded. And it’s a story of two fishermen who come across from Maui, malihini, yeah? They come across. And see, that’s another word, malihini. Malihini—doesn’t mean—they’re someone who wasn’t familiar to a given place. Okay.


So it could be somebody like me from Honolulu going to—


That’s correct.




Exactly; exactly. So these malihini come, and they’re laden down with their puolo of paakai, their fishing gear. Early in the morning, they rise up to the summit, the second summit of Lanai Hale, and they look down into Palawai Basin, and they see a bed of white. Ah, ae no ka paakai, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. There’s salt down there, we should just go ahead and throw away our salt, and we’ll gather the salt below. Well, they get down there, now the sun is rising. Guess what? Ho ka, no more nothing. The salt’s all gone, because it was mist.


Oh-h-h …


And so, they ask a native of Palawai. Ah, ihe a ka paakai? Where’s the salt? Ah, kuihewa olua, you made mistake. Aohe paakai [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. It wasn’t salt, but only mist. And so, Tutu folks taught in parables also, right? And one of the sayings was, kekuhihewa o ke kanaka piikula o Lanai Hale [PHONETIC]. The mistake of the men who ascended the slopes of Lanai Hale was to discard their salt. Don’t act in haste. Yeah. Know what you’ve got.


One of the fun things about growing up on Lanai was hearing Tutu folks talk about this place, and what it was known for, and these stories are really incredible. Whether they’re recorded in mele and traditional chant form, or even in music. And of course, Lanai has been so out of sight, out of mind for many people that there are not a lot—excuse me, not a lot of songs out about Lanai. And so, Tutu folks had their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, and I composed a song for them. It was my way of expressing as a gift of aloha, ‘cause I couldn’t give them any—I had no money, right? Couldn’t give them anything. So they had their wedding anniversary, and I composed a song for them. Then we come up to what was basically their seventy-fifty wedding anniversary. Imagine; seventy-five years of marriage, let alone just living that long, yeah? And I composed another song, and it was all based on the stories that they had told me about Lanai. A stronger section of the verse, a softer section of the verse being Tutu Papa and Tutu Mama, who always covered him, you know, gave him that softer, those qualities that, made life easier. And recently woke up crack of dawn with these words in my mind and this melody.


And it was celebrating story places of Kaa Ahupuaa, which is the northwestern end of the Island of Lanai, where Keahiakawelo where you and I visited you know the Quote, unquote, Garden of the Gods. And the very point is Kaena, the beach, this miles along of white sand beach, Palihua, cove of eggs, because the turtles nested there. And that’s celebrated in one of the few ancient mele of Lanai for the Pele migration, where Pele, you know [CHANTS], you know, calling, [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE] is Pele. She wears a garland of ieie that is woven for her. As the lines of the mele go on, it describes that Pele eats of the turtles of Polihua. It was okay back then, because it was in their cultural context, yes? And it talks about these places, though, and about standing on top of Kanepuu and looking up to the heights of Lanai Hale. And you can see the cloud layer going down like a garland at Maunalei, which means Mountain Garland. So the song speaks of some of those famous places.


What about that wind you told me about—




—with that—




—lovely, just gorgeous name?


See? Again, that beauty of the Hawaiian poetry and language and of their mind comes from their naau, from their very gut, their essence, yeah? Um, the wind’s name is Hoomoepili. Hoomoe, cause to lay down the pili grass. And of course, when we stand out there, you can see how that wind can cause actually sometimes things more than pili grass to lay down. [CHUCKLE]


That’s right; the rocks get eroded.


Yes, yes. And rolling away bits and flakes of rock like an onion, unpeeling one layer after another, and being blown off into the wind.




Hoomoepili; yeah.


And pili is a word that you use a lot.


Yeah. Well, pili is not just that grass, but it is the connection, the relationship, the closeness, yeah, that we feel. And I believe Hawaiian, non-Hawaiian alike, we are touched by a spirit of place. I’m sorry, I also believe that sometimes, some of the bad decisions that are made down here in Honolulu are because we have insulated ourselves in cement, iron, glass molds that don’t let us reconnect with the aina.


Can’t even see it.


Yeah. Yeah. So you know, these kinds of things. Can I share with you a little bit of that mele?


Oh, I’d love to hear it.


That talks about that. You know, we just—


So this is a tour of the northwestern side?


The northwestern side of Lanai, Kaa—


Now, there’s a Kaena on Oahu that’s—


That’s correct.


—also northwestern. Is that—




Does that mean …




That means heat, doesn’t it?


Well, it can, but it also means wrath.




Because the currents that come from the Koolau and the Kona sides of the islands meet there, and they—


Oh-h-h …


—roil. Yeah, so—


That’s it. And I’ve seen them—


Yes; exactly.


—butt up against each other.


That’s right.




Now, we’re gonna go up to Kanepuu and look up to Lanai Hale. We were there.




The last line of the song is nine verses, so I’m not gonna do ‘em all.




So the last line says, These are among the storied places of Lanai which is beloved and set there in the calm. And this comes from Tutu folks, their stories, the—the stories, the traditions that are handed down. And so, we need to keep people connected to this beauty. It’s all that we have that no one else has, right?


That last word, malie, calm.




In 2007, Kepa Maly found the opportunity to honor his adopted island home. As the Executive Director of the non-profit Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, Kepa showcases Lanai’s past and provides a gathering place for living history.


Office of Hawaiian Affairs gave us seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars to engage young local people of Lanai who were otherwise unemployed in stewardship out in the field, and in creating a climate controlled museum and engaging people in documenting and collecting their history. You walk in, the space is well used. We have a timeline that I’ve got people from the Smithsonian and other places coming and saying, This is a model for communities across the nation. So there’s a timeline that takes you from the island rising above sea level, to the close of the plantation in 1992. We have artifacts that were found by native families and given to Kenneth Emory in 1921 and 22, when he did his initial archeology on Lanai.


What kind of artifacts?


Typical things, like the poi pounders, ulumaika, sling stones, lures. We have an incredible pu, a conch shell. It was found actually by John Stokes in 1911, 1912 down at Kanaele. And I got brave one day, and tried to blow it. It has the cleanest, clearest sound. It’s just—and imagine, who did that herald. Who did that conch, that pu, herald the arrival of sometime in antiquity, yeah? Our program focuses on a thousand years basically of residency on Lanai; that Hawaiian period up through a ranch. We were an active ranch for a hundred years, longer than we were a pineapple plantation. The ranch … was owned by Walter Murray Gibson. Gibson starts the ranching operation, formalizes it basically as a sheep ranch, and began exporting sheep, wool, and mutton from the island to the Honolulu market. Then, he passes away in 1888. His daughter-in-law—daughter, Talula, and son-in-law, Frederick Hazelton, take over and try various facets of business, and in 1898, come up with this idea that reminds me of modern ideas, and creates a sugar plantation. Lots of water, no worry, we can develop eight million gallons of water a day on Lanai. We going plant three thousand acres of sugar. They build a locomotive, a train, they have a sugar mill, they have a community of like eighty or ninety houses, a little hotel. All this stuff. And by 1901, they formalize it in 1899, in March of 1901 they’re bankrupt. And three thousand acres of land are left uncultivated, with grazing animals over it, our reefs are buried under sedimentation, the beautiful reefs and fishponds. Today, when you go to Lanai to Keomoku Village, we’re restoring though an AGAPE Foundation grant, we’ve engaged community members, and we’re restoring the old church, the last wooden building of Keomoku Village. It’s beautiful. Once you get there now, we have the sugar mill trail open, the church is restored. The old boat that ended on the shore is now three hundred feet inland, because that much sedimentation in a hundred years—


Ah …


—has occurred. There are things to see. We’ve uncovered the locomotive, the 1837 mortar, stone and mortar school, church houses also. See, what we’re doing is, our program has allowed us and the landowner has given us a right of entry agreement to do this. What I believe is, we’re creating added value for our own kamaaina experience on Lanai, but for people who come and want to. Why would I drive that long, dirty keawe over-laden road if no more nothing to see? So you know, our program, as I said, spans this thousand years of ranch, a three-year-long sugar mill, seventy years as a pineapple plantation up until 1992. Imagine; when Onaona and I returned to Lanai the graduating class of 2006 was the first class to graduate children that had never seen pineapple growing commercially on Lanai. The continuity on Lanai, from one business endeavor to the next, has always been the people. And there are some people, even among the plantation period, families of Japanese, of Filipino, of Korean mixed ancestries, they are on Lanai because it is home. We’ve just finished an oral history project, recording elder kamaaina families of Lanai. And how many of them tear up when they say they came from the Philippines, or they came from somewhere else, or from Japan, Lanai is my home. There are few places like Lanai now, and I think that that’s an asset for us. It’s a way, actually, to remain sustainable and viable if we care for these unique qualities.


There used to be a lot more people living on Lanai—




And they didn’t need a barge coming in for food, either.


You got it. The Kenneth Emory, and actually, Dr. Emory and I walked around Lanai together in 1975. It was fifty years of his celebrating the publication of his Archaeology of Lanai. But when Kenneth was on Lanai in 1921 and 22, he gave estimates based on what he saw of a population of about three thousand people. We’ve been doing, funded by Office of Hawaiian Affairs, archaeology in the Kaa District of Lanai. And with the archaeologists, we know that we can rewrite the history of Lanai, and actually, the [INDISTINCT] settlement and residency history of Lanai. We know also that based on the archaeological evidence … at least six thousand people lived on Lanai, and what you just said, it was sustainable. Everything they need, they caught from the ocean or they grew on the land. Today, one week, southerly storm, Kona storm come in, naulu blowing in like that pau, the barge doesn’t go in. Milk is nine, ten dollars a gallon. Eh, you want good gas mileage; five seventy-nine a gallon right now.


I think I paid that price.




It’s five-seventy now.




Yeah. I mean—




It’s gotta be, what … well, it is one of the highest—






It is the highest, yes.


Is it The?


I believe it’s the highest.


And there’s one gas station—


One gas station.


—in Lana‘i City.


Yes. And—and of course, the nice thing is there’s only thirty miles of paved road, the rest is dirt. So, you know, not like we gotta drive far.


Yeah, but when you have a stomachache, it’s not a good time to go for a drive.


That’s right.


The small but well-organized Lanai Culture and Heritage Center is a revelation for visitors and some residents as well. While pineapple production was tough on the land, Lanai still has special cultural places and they are simply not as well-known as those on other islands. At the heritage center in the heart of little Lanai City, community volunteers take care of some of the learning programs, sharing island history and spirit.


Well, most of our people say Lanai, and they say White Stone or Sweetheart Rock, or Garden of the Gods. One of Onaona’s big missions, and this why in our website we have this place names. Speak our traditional names, speak the names of our kupuna. And it engages people. That’s what we have. So you can get a nice resort with good service anywhere; what you can’t get are the stories of the people, the storied faces and places of Lanai. Yeah?


I know at Manele Bay, the—








The tourists love the story of Sweetheart Rock.




Now, is that based on fact, or on true legend?




Not made up—


it is.




But it—it’s—it’s—it’s an interesting account in that Puupehe, or Pehe, was the name of a young, beautiful woman of Lanai. She was betrothed to a gentleman by the name of Makakehau, dewy misty eyes. So you get an idea that maybe there’s not a real cheerful personality there, yes? He loves her greatly, but he’s also jealous, and when he leaves to go to the uplands or goes out to go fishing, he wants her to stay in the cave of Malauwea, which is where Puupehe sits here, and then the higher peak is here. There’s a cave right underneath there. Well, the cave faces out to the Kona storms. One day, Makakehau is ascending the slopes and getting ready to go gather uao birds off of the mountain lands. He looks back down and sees off of Kealahikahiki … Kahoolawe, a naulu storm, raging storm suddenly swell coming in. He drops what he’s doing, and runs back down, but is too late. Pehe has died, killed by the wave surge. He laments her passing, gathers her body, and that night she’s prepared for interment. But at the close of night, he asks her family, who are rather peeved at him, to allow—




Yeah. To allow him to watch vigil over her this one last time. They agree. Early the morning, the sun is arising. They go to the hale, to the house site. No more them; they’re gone. And off in the distance, Auwe! [HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE]. You know, Auwe! My love has passed on, never shall we two swim in the waters protected by the shark Ahipuhi, never shall we gather the uau of the uplands or eat the ohelo berries, or walk the sandy shore at Ulopoe. They follow the voice, and they see that he is atop of that island’s steep-side at eighty, ninety feet high, something like that, and there’s a platform built on top of it with an upright stone in it. Still see it today. He ends his uwe helu, his lament, and leaves off and kills himself. So, the only junk thing about that is, is that it’s not a real good sweetheart story, right?




And so, they don’t usually tell that part of the story.


But did it really happen, or is that a legend based on something?


We have to believe that it is tradition, that it was handed down to folks told the story. Walter Murray Gibson collected the story from, I believe it was Piianaia, who was with Kamehameha on Lanai when during the Kamehameha period. It has been handed down.


At the time of this conversation in 2012, Kepa Maly lives on Oahu for medical reasons. He visits Lanai each month to keep the vision strong at the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center. Mahalo piha, Kepa Maly for sharing your “Long Story Short,” and thank YOU for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


You know, we have a mesic, a dry forest complex; it’s struggling. But there are things found, like a beautiful iliahi, a maile whose leaf was the size of my little fingernail that was famed in native language accounts as being gathered and bedecked with a lei as you went down to Polihua. The puanau or nanu, the native gardenia five wild trees left on Earth there.




Colbert Matsumoto


Colbert Matsumoto grew up on Lanai when it was a pineapple plantation employing both his father and mother. He didn’t set foot on the Continent until he was a college freshman. And he grew up to become an attorney, insurance company executive and business and community leader in Hawaii. Like many successful people, he had some misgivings and missteps along the way. On the next LONG STORY SHORT (Tues., July 7, 7:30 pm), Matsumoto humbly recalls his journey. And he tells of a test of his courage, as court-appointed master overseeing the dealings of then-Bishop Estate.


This program is available in high-definition and will be rebroadcast on Wed.,
July 8 at 11:00 pm and Sun., July 12 at 4:00 pm.


Colbert Matsumoto Audio


Download the Transcript




You said your dad was a 442 vet, so that means he qualified for the GI Bill. He could have gone to college, but you’re saying he did not?


Yeah; my dad unfortunately, as soon as he came back from Europe and returned to Lanai, his father died unexpectedly. And so, my father, because he was the youngest in the household, and his siblings had all left the island already, stayed on Lanai to take care of his mother. So, he was from a generation that had this Japanese value of oyako-ko imbued in him. And so, I think that, you know, basically he said, It’s my responsibility to take care of my mother.


Do you think he ever regretted that choice?


No. If I he did, I never heard him articulate it. But I think that that was probably why he expected my brother and me to go to college.


That sense of doing what’s right was passed on from father to son. Born and raised on Lanai, Colbert Matsumoto would remember his dad’s leadership by example when he took on some of the most powerful people in Hawaii, and helped reshape the multi-billion-dollar Bishop Estate. Colbert Matsumoto, next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. Colbert Matsumoto went from plantation life on Lanai to become a business and community leader in Honolulu. He’s chairman of Island Insurance. Matsumoto’s life and career have been driven by a desire to impact lives, a motivation he’d seen his parents put into action as workers on Lanai’s pineapple plantation.


I grew up in a time when—I like to call it the Golden Period of the Plantations in Hawaii. Life was really nice growing up on Lanai. You know, our family, I think, you know, we had a comfortable lifestyle. We didn’t have a lot of extravagance, but you know, we had a TV set, you know, I was in the Boy Scouts. You know, my parents were members of the PTA, you know, we went to church on Sundays. And so, it was a nice place to grow up in. And so, as I look back on it, you know, I realize how almost idyllic it was to grow up in a place like that. But when I was growing up there, I couldn’t wait to leave.


Because it was too small a town, people all knew each other’s business, maybe?


Yeah; it was confining. I grew up in a community of twenty-five hundred people. Oh, there were many occasions when, you know, I would get into mischief as a little kid on one side of the town, and by the time I got home, my mom would know all about it. You know, and so, yeah; it was hard to remain anonymous.


When you said you couldn’t wait to get away, were there other things besides getting ratted on for mischief?


Oh, yeah. Growing up, we had a TV set, and I would watch shows about other places, and I always longed for the opportunity to experience some of the things that I saw on the TV programs. Because I didn’t get away from Lanai very much. I had never had the opportunity to visit the mainland until I went to college. And so, I felt somewhat isolated and confined as I grew older, and wanted to have the opportunity to experience different things.


The main employer on the island at that time was Dole; right?




And did your parents work for Dole?


Yeah; both my parents worked for Dole, as my grandparents also. Pretty much everybody on the island worked for Dole, unless you worked for the State or the County, or some of the retail establishments in the town.


There are drawbacks to company town, obviously, when you’re held in their thrall; they’re the main gig—




–for employment.


Well, you know, I think that, yeah, the only jobs that were available were on the plantation. Which is why, you know, growing up, we all knew that once we graduated, we were expected to leave the island. Because there were no opportunities for young people after they graduated from high school on Lanai.


Which your parents had that expectation of; right?


Oh, yeah; the parents. But you know, it was also the economic reality of the island.


I mean, were you concerned? What am I gonna do? How am I gonna make it?


No. You know, I think my parents always raised me with the expectation that I was supposed to go to college. They themselves had not gone to college, so they didn’t care which college, or what I studied. You know, they just wanted me to go to college and graduate from college.


Did they explicitly give you lessons of life?


They did, you know, in different ways. So, you know, they would basically try to teach me certain values. But then, they also, I think, taught me a lot just by their example.


Your father, for example; what did he teach you? What did you come away with?


One of the things that he was heavily involved in was with the ILWU. Because the union figured very significantly in our community. So, my father would share with me some of the stories of the struggles that the union and the employees had to go through in the beginning. ‘Cause he was a 442 veteran, and so when he came back, one of the things that he and, you know, people of his generation were struggling for were not just economic justice, but also social reforms in the community. So, the union, the ILWU was very significant in, I think, bringing about some changes back on the plantation. ‘Cause many of them didn’t have the opportunity to own their homes. So, one of the things that they struggled for was to have the opportunity to buy their own homes, which many of the workers did.


Under your dad’s tenure?


Yeah; during the time that he was involved with the ILWU.


What was your mother like? What is she like? Because, you know, she’s still with us.


Right. My mother was a strong woman. You know, she made sure that my brother and I kept out of trouble, which she didn’t always succeed at.


But she always found out.


Yeah; she found out. But she was a stickler for the rules, and you know, she really had a strong sense of fairness, of right and wrong. And I think that that enabled her to go from being a pineapple picker to one of the first female, wahine lunas on the plantation.


What was that like? So, did she boss men around?


No; she usually headed, you know, gangs of women who were ipicking pineapple for the plantation.


Oh, that’s wonderful; a wahine luna.


Right. But that wasn’t until, you know, the late 70s, when equal rights became more of an issue for women.


So, it sounds like both of your parents challenged; challenged for more fairness, for equity.


Right. I think that, you know, that generation, they were second generation Japanese Americans. That generation really was focused on bringing about social change for the benefit of the community. And so, both of them made contributions in various ways through the activities that they were involved in and volunteered in. And they were among many in the community that were also, you know, engaged in those kinds of efforts on behalf of the group, as opposed to just for their own personal benefit.


Colbert Matsumoto was valedictorian of his high school class on Lanai. He went on to college in the Bay Area, and graduated from law school at the University of California at Berkeley. He wanted to be a lawyer to have an impact on society.


When I went up to college, it was the first time I was up on the mainland. So, it was a total culture shock for me. I had never been on the mainland before, I had never seen an urban environment like that. So, was definitely an eye-opening experience.


How was your college experience? What’d you decide you were gonna do with your life? Did you decide then?


Yeah; I had gone to college with the intent of becoming a high school social studies teacher.   So, that was my objective going in. About halfway through, I came home for a summer and worked at a warehouse on a nightshift crew, and there were three other guys that were working on the crew that had already graduated from UH in education. One had a master’s degree, the other two had fifth-year certificates, and none of them could find jobs with the DOE.


That’s right. I remember that was the time of a teacher surplus.


So, I figured I needed to find something else. And that’s when I decided, Well, I guess I’ll try applying to law school, which is what I ended up doing.


Any particular reason?


Well, you know, I had never met a lawyer before. I had never been in a courtroom, or knew anything about what the practice of law was. At the time, you know, I just knew that lawyers went to court. Perry Mason, The Defenders; those were my images of lawyers. And I thought, you know, lawyers made a lot of money, and didn’t have to work hard.




And so, I thought that, Okay, maybe that would be a good profession to get into. But I also knew that lawyers had the ability to bring about change, that they had a certain knowledge base that allowed for an advocacy of different ideas. And so, I thought that by becoming a lawyer, I would be able to have an impact in terms of society. Because, you know, I grew up in the 60s, so it was a time of a lot of social change; the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement. It was also a time when, you know, the environmental movement first started to get started. And so, there was a lot of idealism, I think, with my generation. And so, I looked at, you know, practicing law as being an opportunity to become more of a contributor to the kinds of social changes that were taking place in society.


You were used to being a really smart guy in all your classes up ‘til now. Now, in law school, everyone was probably the smartest in the class they came from before.




What was that like?


It was very intimidating. Like I said, I had no clue what being a lawyer was all about. And so, I almost flunked my first semester of law school. Because I thought a contract was a piece of paper that, you know, you put an agreement on. I didn’t realize that it was a legal concept that had, you know, certain components to it. And so, the concepts associated with law were so foreign to me, so I had a hard time grasping a lot of that when I first went to law school.


Do you think maybe part of it was because you were used to more of a handshake, and your word was good, and it was sort of uncomplicated on Lanai?


No, I think I was pretty much just naïve and clueless about what I had elected to pursue in law. So, fortunately, I had a professor who was very sympathetic, and I had some fellow classmates that were very supportive and encouraging. And so, I stuck it out, and managed to do okay.


Colbert Matsumoto did something quite unusual after he passed the Bar Exam and was qualified to practice law. He embarked on a six-month journey that continues to inform his life.


I entered a Zen monastery. So, I shaved my head, and then went into this Zen monastery and trained.


Where was it?


It was in Kalihi Valley. So, it was Chozen-ji. It’s a Rinzai Zen temple. And I had heard about the teacher there, Tanouye Tenshin Rotaishi, who was an accomplished martial artist, but also a Zen teacher. And so, I had trained in the martial arts when I was a kid growing up, and so, you know, I had an interest in it. But I had also realized that Zen was the philosophical underpinnings of Japanese martial arts and so, I wanted to learn more about that. And so, that’s why I asked him if I could, you know, train with him at his temple.


And what did you learn?


You know, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was a very rigorous and arduous kind of training, physically demanding training that I went through while I was there. But it was also psychologically very stressful and difficult.


When you said arduous, I don’t really know what that means in terms of meditation or Zen studies.


We would get up at like, you know, four-thirty in the morning. We would sit in meditation for hour and a half from five-thirty. And then, we would have breakfast and then, we would do martial arts training from eight to ten in the morning, and then we would have to work out in the gardens or do some construction activity. And then, in the afternoon, you know, we would bathe, and then we would go through another period of intense meditation, and then we would do martial arts training from seven-thirty to like, ten o’clock at night. And you know, it was just physically very demanding. And I mean, I lost a lot of weight while I was going through that, and it was very tough, both physically and psychologically.


And was it meant to reduce you to who you really are, to take away the external stuff?


Right. Basically, the training had a lot to do with, you know, freeing you from your dependence on the kinds of things that you grow up with, thinking that these are real things that you can hang onto in terms of defining who you are, and defining your life and how you lead your life. There definitely are gonna be times when you’re not gonna be able to overcome certain things. But you have to try. So, it’s more about the effort and how it transforms you as a person, by taking on that challenge.


That’s interesting, ‘cause as a lawyer, I think you’re pretty goal-oriented. But you’re saying you learned how to accept that the effort is the main point.


Right. I think, you know, as human beings, you know, we have the capacity to continue to evolve and change, and grow. But you have to make the effort at it, and you have to be willing to take the risk associated with experiencing those kinds of changes in your life.


Following his Zen training, Colbert Matsumoto went into business as a solo law practitioner. He shared office space with a man who would become governor, Ben Cayetano. Later, he joined the law firm of the late Wallace Fujiyama, one of Hawaii’s finest trial lawyers. Yet, Matsumoto says his early years in law were hardly a success.



The first thing I did was, I hung my shingle and tried to practice law on my own for two years, which was a disaster.




Because I wasn’t prepared. You know, law school doesn’t really prepare you to practice law.


To run a business; is that the part of it that got you?


No; there is so much more to being a good lawyer than what you learn in law school. And so, I really needed to be mentored and with some people that were more experienced, who could in turn teach me the ropes and help me understand, you know, what you did as a good lawyer. So, I ended up giving it up and getting a job with Wally Fujiyama’s law firm. He established himself, even on the national scene, as a very accomplished trial attorney. But you know, Wally, for all his success as a lawyer, never forgot his ties to the community. And I think that for him, that was an important—he saw it as a social responsibility that he bore to not just focus on his own law practice and pursuing opportunities for himself, but also to contribute to the benefit of the community in terms of, you know, the lives of other people. The other thing about him that I thought was really admirable was that he was a risk taker. And so, he wasn’t hesitant to put himself out front and to become the subject of criticism.


Do you remember that time when you were struggling to run your own place, do you remember feeling embarrassed that another lawyer saw you do something?


Oh, yeah. No; there were many times when, you know, I realized that I was over my head in terms of the assignment that I had. And it was frustrating. It was frequently humiliating.


Did you second guess yourself, saying, I shouldn’t have done this, I shouldn’t have gotten, this is not my—


Oh, definitely. No; I thought to myself that, you know, I mean, this was not the right career path. Which is why I abandoned it.


But you stayed in law; you didn’t abandon law.


No; no. But quite honestly, I hated practicing law. I thought it was a mistake to have become a lawyer, because I just didn’t enjoy it. It took me over ten years before, you know, I finally started to feel more comfortable about what I was doing, and began to enjoy it.


In 1996, Colbert Matsumoto was appointed the Court Master for Bishop Estate. It was a role that required him to examine the finances and structure of the multi-billion-dollar trust for Native Hawaiians. Within a year, the Estate came under fire amid allegations of gross mismanagement, and many called for the powerful and highly paid trustees to resign. Matsumoto unexpectedly found himself taking on the trustees in a scathing 120-page report he issued to the court.


When the judge appointed me to be the Court Master, the controversy hadn’t erupted.   I knew that being Court Master for Bishop Estate was a high-profile of engagement, but I had no clue that it was gonna be as controversial as it ended up being. So, it wasn’t until almost a year after I had been appointed that things kinda erupted. The Broken Trust essay was published, the march on Kawaiahao Plaza occurred, and by then, I started to realize that, you know, this assignment that I had undertaken was gonna require that I take on the trustees. And that was kind of an intimidating notion to think about at that time. Because I had just started my own law firm a couple of years before that. And so, I actually thought to myself, you know, Okay, here I’m in this situation where if I do my job right, I’m gonna end up getting five of the most powerful people in Hawaii upset at me. So, I did think about tendering my resignation to the judge. But as I was kinda weighing that decision, I reflected on, you know, why did I go to law school, why did I want to become a lawyer. And I thought about the idealism that I had when I was in my twenties, and wanting to, you know, make a positive contribution to society. And so, I thought to myself that, you know, here I’m a positon where I could make a difference if I did my job right, and if I did it in a professional way, and am I gonna walk away from it. And so, when I looked at it in that way, I decided that, no, I should stick this out. And that’s what I ended up doing.


And what did you find? You saw the raw data, or at least what raw data was presented to you.


Well, I found a lot of issues with respect to accountability and transparency. You know, a lot of the investments that they had engaged in were not going well, were not performing as they should have. The other thing that they had done was, they had divided up areas of responsibility among the five of them, so that each of them basically had control over a different aspect of the estate. Which I found to be a violation of the trust that had been given to them, because Princess Pauahi had basically designated that there were five trustees that were all supposed to act in concert, rather than, you know, five individual trustees—


Five CEOs.


–that had their own kuleanas, and could make decisions that would be unchallenged within their kuleanas. And so, you know, that was part of the governance of Kamehameha Schools that I felt were not in conformity with what the Princess’ original wishes were, and certainly not in conformity with trust law.


What was the turning point, do you think, in the legal case that really turned the trust upside down, and resulted in the removal of a trustee?


Well, things started to deteriorate over the three years that this was going on, for the trustees. And I think that they, as I said, hunkered down. They were very resistant to making a number of the changes that the court expected of them. And then, the real blow that I think did them in was when the IRS came in and raised a number of concerns about their behavior and their management of the estate.


A lot of that was based on what you had put out; right?


Yes and no. You know, the IRS had done a lot of their own homework, and they had other issues that they wanted to raise with the trustees. But you know, IRS has a very heavy hand, and when they enter the picture, you know, it’s pretty tough [CHUCKLE] to fight them.


Colbert Matsumoto ended his twenty-year legal career in 1999, and became chairman of Island Insurance. Matsumoto is known as a strategic problem-solver. He used his skills and his influence to help save the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii from foreclosure in 2002. Matsumoto led a team that successfully raised nine million dollars in just a few months.


How did you actually get the money?


Well, you know, it took a lot of hard work and effort. And so, you know, our group—and we called it the Committee to Save the Center. We knew that this was a desperate cause, and that nobody likes to contribute money to what they think is gonna be ultimately a failed effort, because you know, you’ve heard the term, you know, throwing good money after bad. And so, nobody wanted to throw good money after bad. So, what we pledged to the audience was that we would only cash their checks if we had raised enough money to save the center. But until then, all we were gonna do was collect checks. And so, that’s what we did. And I think that that gave people the confidence to contribute to us. Whenever we would receive a donation, we would do a personalized letter to that person, thanking them for their contribution. And I would sign every letter. And so, my wife would stay up with me at night to help me stuff envelopes, and get the letters ready to be mailed out to the people that donated. And so, yeah; it took a lot of work, but it was very satisfying.

When you look back at that, did you learn new things about yourself?


Not so much about myself, as much as my confidence in my community was not misplaced. It reaffirmed my sense that, you know, we are a special place, we are a special community, that you know, Hawaii is a place that retains a lot of the qualities that growing up on Lanai, I think, I felt were unique once I was able to contrast it to my experiences on the mainland. And so, it reaffirmed my desire to try to maintain those qualities about our community.


Colbert Matsumoto chose the business boardroom instead of following his parents into a labor union. However, his strong sense of community goes back to his parents’ values and the sense of extended family in his upbringing on rural Lanai. To that, he added higher education and Zen training. Thank you, Colbert Matsumoto, for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


My own daughters, my two daughters, when they were in elementary school, we went to Lanai for a visit, and I remember giving them like ten dollars and telling them, you know, Why don’t you go buy some ice cream, you know, from the ice cream store? And so, they looked at me like, you know, Well, aren’t you gonna take us? And I said, No, you know where it is, so why don’t you walk from Grandma’s house to the ice cream store. And so, they did. And it was the first time they had ever done that.


And you felt okay, ‘cause it was Lanai.


Oh, yeah. No, I felt perfectly fine about it. And it was definitely a new experience for them.