Oʻahu

HIKI NŌ
#1016 – Return of the ʻAlalā

 

TOP STORY

 

“Return of the ʻAlalā”
Students from Kua O Ka Lā Miloliʻi Hipuʻu Virtual Academy Public Charter School on Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of efforts to save an almost extinct bird: the ʻalalā, or Hawaiian Crow, a native species endemic to the forests of Hawaiʻi Island. As of 2002, there were no ʻalalā left in the wild. Thanks to a program spearheaded by the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center in Volcano, ʻalalā were bred in captivity and released into the wild in 2016. The release was not successful and the birds did not survive. But since 2018, a new set of birds released by the center are demonstrating signs of survival and have even split into breeding pairs, a major milestone in the recovery of a lost species.

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

–Students from Aliamanu Middle School on Oʻahu follow administration and staff members at their school who have taken on the challenge of getting fit through walking.

 

–Students from Seabury Hall Middle School on Maui find out how some brand-new drivers are learning to take responsibility behind the wheel.

 

–Students from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui tell the story of a high school track star who was inspired to excel by his father’s courage during a life-threatening illness.

 

–Students from Waiʻanae High School in West Oʻahu tell the story of young tattoo artist who is discovering his identity as a Hawaiian by “making his mark.”

 

Plus, a public service announcement from students at Saint Francis School on Oʻahu on the importance of eliminating plastic straws.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Kalani High School in East Oʻahu.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1015 – Piano Prodigy

 

TOP STORY

 

“Piano Prodigy”
Students from Island School on Kauaʻi feature 10-year-old piano prodigy Jannik Evanoff. A Kauaʻi resident and Island School 6th grader, Jannik started playing piano when he was six and by the age of eight had already won an international piano competition: the Stage 4 Kids competition in Hamburg, Germany. Jannik now performs internationally and says he does not get nervous before performances, unless it is in front of an audience of 600 or more. His daily piano and violin practices begin at 5:30 am and end at 7:30 pm, with school in between). Jannik was home-schooled for a good part of his childhood in order to keep a schedule that accommodated his music. He is also a gifted student and advanced from the 4th to the 6th grade soon after entering Island School. Although Jannik cannot predict exactly what the future holds for him, he knows that music will remain a major part of his life.

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

–Students from Konawaena High School on Hawaiʻi Island profile 96-year-old Holocaust survivor Goldina Lefkowitz, who speaks at school assemblies about the importance of tolerance and understanding.

 

–Students from Maui High School in Kahului feature a family-run shave ice business that operates out of a classic VW bus.

 

–Students from Kaʻala Elementary School in Central Oʻahu profile a teacher at the school who finds joy in making haku lei and instructs others on how to do the same.

 

–Students from Kealakehe Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island offer a tip on how to save our reefs.

 

–Students from Kalani High School in East Oʻahu find out what makes their wrestling coach tick.

 

–Students from Hongwanji Mission School on Oʻahu tell the story of Taylor Inouye – a young baker at their school who became a finalist in the Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Hāna School in East Maui.

 

 

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAIʻI:
Ala Moana Park Plan

 

Ala Moana Regional Park on Oʻahu’s south shore is a beloved playground for local residents, with access to surfing, swimming, paddleboarding, tennis, walking and picnicking. The city of Honolulu has a master plan to revitalize the park. Not everyone agrees with the plan’s vision. Join our discussion on the Ala Moana Park Plan on the next INSIGHTSON PBS HAWAIʻI.

 

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

 

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Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Compilation Show from the Spring Quarter of the 2018-2019 School Year

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the Spring Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year. Besides being excellent stories, these pieces all explore the connections between people and, in some cases, between people and other living things.

 

Students from McKinley High School in Honolulu tell the story of teenagers who connect with senior citizens in ways that bridge the generation gap.

 

Students from Waiʻanae High School in Central Oʻahu tell the story of a young tattoo artist who uses his art form to connect with his Hawaiian heritage.

 

Students from Konawaena High School on Hawaiʻi Island feature a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor who connects with Big Island students by teaching them about the devastating effects of bigotry and racism.

 

Students from Hilo Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island focus on the special connection between a bone marrow donor and the recipient of that donation who discover (despite the astronomical odds against it happening) that they live just minutes away from one another.

 

Students from Kua O Ka Lā Miloliʻi Hipuʻu Virtual Academy on Hawaiʻi Island follow conservationists who are facilitating the connection between male and female members of an endangered Hawaiian crow in order to save the species from extinction.

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi introduce us to a singing nun who uses music to help students connect with the values she tries to instill in them.

 

Students from Maui High School in Kahului show us how a disabled student makes profound connections with her non-disabled peers through a program developed by the Special Olympics.

 

Students from Waiākea High School on Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of a pet placement service that connects homeless canines with their forever owners.

 

This special episode is hosted by Crystal Cebedo, a 2016 HIKI NŌ graduate from Waiʻanae High School on Oʻahu who has just completed her junior year at Menlo College in Northern California, where she majors in marketing and human resources.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
2019 HIKI NŌ Spring Challenge

 

This special edition features stories from the 2019 HIKI NŌ Spring Challenge. On April 26, 2019, participating middle school and high school teams were given four days to complete a HIKI NŌ story based on the theme: “The unappreciated beauty of simple, everyday things.” Teachers could not provide hands-on help. The students had to conceptualize, research, arrange, shoot, write and edit their stories on their own. The completed stories were scored by members of the HIKI NŌ editorial board based on the following criteria:

 

1.) How well did the story capture the essence of the assigned theme?

2.) How well did the entry fulfill the HIKI NŌ Story Criteria (the criteria used throughout the school year to determine which stories are approved to air on HIKI NŌ)?

3.) How much did production values (the quality of the cinematography, editing and sound) contribute to the overall effectiveness of the story?

 

Based on the cumulative scores, first-place, second-place and third-place awards were given in both the middle school and high school divisions. An honorable mention prize was awarded if the judges felt that a story which did not place first, second or third deserved special recognition. The following awardees will be featured in the special:

 

HIKI NO #1019: HIKI NŌ Spring Challenge

 

First Place in the High School Division: Moanalua High School on Oʻahu features sophomore Rogue Williams, who has cerebral palsy and other physical conditions that make walking a challenge. Rogue expresses how the simple act of walking can be taken for granted.

 

First Place in the Middle School Division: Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului, Maui features a mixed-martial-arts trainer who has come to appreciate the simple joys of his extended family of co-workers and clients.

 

Second Place in the High School Division: Maui High School in Kahului tells how residents of a domestic violence shelter have come to appreciate the simple joy of being in a safe place.

 

Second Place in the Middle School Division: Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle School in Pukalani spotlights a business that brings back the simple, everyday joy of having fun.

 

Third Place in the High School Division: Kapaʻa High School on Kauaʻi features a water safety officer who remembers to appreciate the simple beauty of the ocean.

 

Third Place in the Middle School Division: Ewa Makai Middle School on Oʻahu focuses on the beauty in the simple, commonplace ritual of lei-giving.

 

An Honorable Mention in the High School Division was awarded to Kalāheo High School in Windward Oʻahu for their study of a simple, everyday beauty product: lipstick.

 

First-place winners will receive $500 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Second-place winners will receive $300 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program.  Third-place winners will receive $200 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. The Honorable mention winner will receive $100 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Unified Sports

 

TOP STORY

 

“Unified Sports”
Students from Maui High School in Kahului feature fellow student Britney Bautista. Britney, who has a developmental delay syndrome, has gained a sense of belonging through the school’s Special Olympics Unified Sports program. This program brings students with and without disabilities together to participate in sports, socials, and other extracurricular activities. Britney is also one of only twelve U.S. youth ambassadors to the Special Olympics, which gives her a voice to advocate for the advancement of inclusive youth leadership. “My goal is to introduce Special Olympics to the younger generation,” says Britney. “I want them to learn that everyone is the same, and nobody should be judged by what their physical characteristics look like.”

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

Students from Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy in Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island introduce us to a wahine paniolo champion.

 

Students from Hilo Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of a bone marrow donor in Hilo who discovered that the recipient of his bone marrow lives just a few minutes away from him.

 

Students from Hawaiʻi Technology Academy on Oʻahu profile Hawaiʻi’s fledgling ice hockey league.

 

Students from Waiākea High School on Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of a dedicated group of dog lovers who place homeless canines with their new, forever owners.

 

Students from Mililani High School in Central Oʻahu share a public service announcement about simple changes people can make that will have a positive impact on life in Hawaiʻi.

 

Plus, a montage of HIKI NŌ stories from Saint Francis School on Oʻahu, whose 95-year-old history is ending at the close of this school year.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ also features students’ profiles on their HIKI NŌ teachers.

 

 

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAIʻI
Preparing for Hurricanes

 

On its approach to the Hawaiian Islands last year, Hurricane Lane dumped an historic amount of rain on the Big Island, causing major flooding that damaged homes, roads and other infrastructure, without even being a direct hit. The storm also caused flooding on Kauaʻi. At one point, Lane intensified to Category 5 strength and was one of two tropical systems to cause damage in Hawaiʻi last season. A new hurricane season starts June 1. Is Hawaiʻi prepared? Are you?

 

Here are links to information and resources that can help you prepare:

These links will open in a new window or tab.

 


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

 

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insights@pbshawaii.org

 

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HIKI NŌ
Lokahi Program

 

TOP STORY

 

“Lokahi Program”
Students from McKinley High School on Oʻahu feature their school’s Lokahi Program, an outreach activity in which students bond with senior citizens at the Kulana Hale Senior Apartments in Honolulu. The students organize an annual senior citizen prom for the residents and lead activities such as arts and crafts and karaoke. Friendships between kupuna and teens, such as the one between resident Faye Kubo and student Regina Nguyen, blossom. Says Regina, “The way I see Faye is the way I see my friends at school. We can literally talk about anything.” Faye says that through her interaction with Regina and other students, “I learn that there’s hope.”

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului profile a married couple that wanted to start a family and ended up turning to adoption to find their bundle of joy.

 

Students from Waiʻanae Intermediate School in West Oʻahu discover the values a judo instructor teaches his students.

 

Students from Kalākaua Intermediate School in the Kalihi district of Oʻahu introduce us to a local sculptor who uses invasive tree branches to create a replica of an ancient voyaging canoe.

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi feature a singing nun who uses music to teach her students valuable lessons.

 

A violinist from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui presents us with an introspective video self-portrait.

 

Plus—a public service announcement from students at Kealakehe Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island raises awareness about human trafficking.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ also features students’ profiles on their HIKI NŌ teachers.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1014 – Top Stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 School Year

HIKI NŌ #1014 – Top stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year:

 

–Students from Maui High School in Kahului introduce us to Maui High robotics captain John Fabella. John’s mother passed away when he was just seven years of age, and his father was deported. Growing up without his biological parents, John found an extended family in his Maui Waena Intermediate School robotics team and later, in the Maui High School team.

 

Program

 

–Students from Wai‘anae High School on tell the story of a female wrestler who used to be teased and bullied about her weight, and lost the pounds to regain her self-esteem.

 

–Students from Kalāheo High School in Windward O‘ahu focus on the importance of taking responsibility while driving. Their story is framed by the recent traffic fatalities in the Kaka‘ako neighborhood of O‘ahu and how that tragedy sparked a family’s memories of losing their daughter in a drunk driving incident.

 

–Students from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy Middle School in the Waimea district of Hawai‘i Island show us the proper way to saddle a horse.

 

–Students from Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu feature two cancer survivors who battled with their diseases at a very early age: Lily Mallory, who was undergoing treatment for her cancer at the age of three, and Emi Robison, who was battling leukemia at the age of seven.

 

–Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i introduce us to Mike Coots, a surfer and photographer from Kīlauea, Kaua‘i, who lost his leg in a shark attack and now, ironically, works to protect sharks against the ravages of the shark fin soup industry.

 

–Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului feature a food truck owner who starts a pay-it-forward campaign to help feed workers affected by the recent federal government shutdown.

 

–Students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu introduce us to figure skater and Moanalua High School senior Kyra Fukumoto. While Hawai‘i has only one ice skating rink, and its resources for training figure skaters is very limited compared to the Mainland, Kyra is adamant about being based out of her home state. She is very proud of being from Hawai‘i and looks forward to representing the islands in her career as a figure skater.

 

This special episode is hosted by Tyler Bright, a 2018 HIKI NŌ graduate from Wai‘anae High School on O‘ahu who is currently studying biology at Chaminade University in Honolulu, with hopes of becoming either a canine rehabilitation therapist or a physical therapist.

 

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Mahealani Wendt

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Mahealani Wendt

 

Growing up in the crowded, rundown tenements of downtown Honolulu, Mahealani Wendt witnessed the poverty of the Native Hawaiian people around her. That ignited a passion to help, and she spent more than three decades fighting for Hawaiian rights, with a long run as the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation in Honolulu. Today she lives in Hāna, Maui, and is a poet and author.

 

Program

 

More from Mahealani Wendt:

 

“Righteous Cause”

 

Hawaiian Homeland

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Mahealani Wendt Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When I went to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, I’m not sure that the most effective thing I could do there was as an attorney.  I worked as a volunteer, I worked as a grants writer.  I knew nothing about writing grants.  You know, a lot of times, you’re fueled just by passion, and you have so much … I don’t know how else to put it.  You know, you just feel so, so intensely about something, and it drives you, and you do everything you have to do to make it happen.  And that’s how I became a grants writer.

 

Her success as a volunteer grant writer led to a thirty-two-year career fighting for Native Hawaiian rights.  Mahealani Wendt of Maui, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Mahealani Wendt is the retired executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a community activist, accomplished writer, and poet.  She’s the eldest of seven children, grew up on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, and now lives on farmland on Maui in Wailua Nui along Hāna Highway.  She knew from the time she was nine years old, living in the rundown tenements of Downtown Honolulu, that she wanted to help others.  She was deeply affected by the poverty of Native Hawaiian people she saw around her, and despite being poor herself, she says she was raised in a loving, nurturing environment, and never went hungry.  In childhood, she developed a love of writing and reading.

 

My father is Spanish; he’s second generation.  My grandparents emigrated from Spain in 1906.  They were plantation workers, the first sugar plantation in Hawai‘i, Kōloa Sugar. And so, they settled on Kaua‘i. And eventually, he met my mother, who’s from Hilo; she’s Hawaiian.  And we grew up on Kaua‘i there.  It was very beautiful, very country.  We had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, raised every kind of, you know, fruit tree, we had a garden. We were cray fishing, climbing trees; all this stuff we did, it was beautiful.  My parents separated.  You know, we were pretty innocent; we never understood what happened.  We just knew that one day, my mother decided that we were going to move, and she brought us to Honolulu.  It was a really different lifestyle.  You know, it was kind of an idyllic life, country life, and we moved to the heart of Honolulu, to the tenements.  And I still remember our address; it was 1278 Fort Street.

 

Fort Street.

 

Yeah; Fort Street, and there were twenty-seven steps going up to the second floor where we lived.

 

This was an old, beat-up building.

 

Yeah; it was the heart of the slums, the tenements in Honolulu.  This was in the 50s, mid-50s, and these tenement buildings, the closest thing that would kind of resemble it would be the buildings in Chinatown.  Those are far more well-maintained than the ones we lived in.  The buildings we lived, I’m now understanding, they were at least fifty years old.  They were wooden, they were termite-eaten.  They were firetraps, basically, you know, not fit for people to live in, but we lived there.  My mother, when she left, you know, didn’t have really the means to support all of us, and so … that’s where we lived.  Some slept on the bed, some slept on the floor.  We had, I think, three showers, cold water.

 

On that floor?

 

In the building.

 

In the whole building?

 

Everybody shared.

 

And how many people were in the building?

 

There were fifty-two rooms. There were three areas where we could do our cooking.  There were kerosene stoves.

 

Was it dangerous?  I mean, I know from a fire standpoint, it was dangerous.  What about from a human standpoint in a rough part of town.

 

It was a rough part of town. From my standpoint, I never saw any danger, I never experienced any danger.  It was a new world; I thought it was really kind of cool and exciting. New kids to play with, new people to meet, new aunties and uncles.  All Hawaiians in that building.  You know, in the same way they do now, the aunties take care.  So, we felt very protected and free, and I never felt any danger.  If you were entering from the sidewalk, you know, there were these narrow steps that went to the second floor.  And the pool hall was downstairs, next to a Chinese restaurant, next to a grocery store, next to, you know, all these different kinds of—

 

So, it felt like a neighborhood to you.

 

It did; totally.

 

No creepy people hanging around.

 

I never remembered any creepy people.

 

You know.  And I mean, when I think back on it, I think: Wow, it would be like, you would think there would be creepy people, but in my child’s eyes, I never saw creepy people.  To me, they were really nice; nice people.

 

And you felt adults were looking out for you, too.

 

Yes, we did; we felt very protected.

 

I wonder how your mom felt with seven kids to take care of.

 

We owned our own home on Kaua‘i. My grandparents homesteaded twenty-five acres there, and you know, the lands are still there.  So, you know, what caused her to feel so compelled to move, we never understood.  I never even understood it as an adult.  But there we were.  It must have been very stressful; we were really poor.  I sold newspapers.  I thought that was really cool, ‘cause I could have spending money, you know, and stuff. I was selling newspapers.  My corner was Fort and Kukui, and I sold the Honolulu Advertiser.  I sold forty papers, made a dollar.  And then, that was my lunch money.  I made most of my money from tips, ‘cause I was so young.  You know, I was like, nine years old, standing on the corner with newspapers.  Oh, poor thing, you know.  So, they’d give me a dollar.  Wow, that’s a lot of money.  That’s what I would make for the whole, you know, selling forty papers.  So … I thought it was great.

 

M-hm.

Again, the perspective.  You know, as a child, I was innocent.  I saw all of it as a great excitement.  It was just a different thing, you know.  I mean, one thing, for example, when we lived in Kauai, the store was really far.  You know. When we moved to Honolulu, the store was downstairs.

 

It was amazing.  I was just like, enthralled, you know.  When I lived on Kaua‘i, we’d go to the movies once, you know, every six months or something.  When we went to Honolulu, we lived next to the theater.  You know.  So, that’s how I saw it from a child’s sort of sense of wonder.  It wasn’t until I was, you know, older, maybe intermediate school, I sort of kinda understood that we were really poor.  And then, as I got older, I realized that, you know, the auntie that, you know, was so sick, and da-da-da, this is why.  And then, I realized that, you know, so-and-so, that you know, we really thought was really a cool guy, he’s in jail because he did this.  You know, so I had a sense of perspective, but it was afterwards.

 

After the fact.

 

Yes.

 

Did you ever connect with your father again?

 

Yes.  We saw him as we could afford to.  I think he would send money and, you know, we’d go.  But it wasn’t very often.  And he came to visit us once.  You know, he was not a Honolulu man; he was a hunter, a fisherman.  He would come back from the mountains with, you know, these burlap bags full of ‘o‘opu to feed our family.  You know, very subsistence lifestyle.  When he worked, he worked as a heavy equipment operator, kind of a laborer.  I loved my dad.  Both of my parents read to us.  My father would put us on his lap and read.  You know, those experiences.  I came to really love literature and reading from both parents.  My parents were very good parents, in spite of the separation. And my mother was very strict; she taught us very fundamental values, and we were expected to, you know, adhere to them.  And if we did not, the punishment was swift and sure.  All of the kids turned out good.  I went to Royal School.

 

Royal School.

 

Yeah.

 

Okay; elementary.  And then?

 

I went to Royal Elementary, and then I went to Central Intermediate.

 

And then?

 

And then, I went to Kamehameha in my sophomore year.  I liked public school.  Public school was awesome; I learned a lot.  You know, again, the common theme of, you know, this love of literature, that was more than reinforced in the public school.  In fact, at Kalaheo Elementary, where I went to, you know, from first to third grade, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Robello, encouraged me when I wrote a little poem for my mother.  You know how teachers do.  It’s so important.  She took my little poem, she put it on the wall.  You know how teachers, you can encourage by telling everybody, you know. And when her students would make a little picture, she’d put that on the wall.  So, she had ways of encouraging and making you feel: Ho, this is something I can do.

 

How long were you in the tenements?

 

Well, we lived in Honolulu for three years.  There was a terrible fire in the tenement next door.

 

Another wooden building?

 

It was a wooden building; it was right next to ours on the next block, and it burned down.  And four people died in that fire.  One of the ones who passed was a three-year-old who was my brother’s playmate.  And so, it really affected everybody, the family.  It really had an impact on me.  And it was just … I don’t know; I’ll never forget it.  We stood out there and watched this whole thing happen.

 

And watched it burn down.

 

Yes.  We lived there until my mother could find someplace else she could afford.  So, we moved close to Queen’s Hospital; same sort of building, but not as big.  We lived there for another, like, three or four years, and then we moved, and we actually moved to a much nicer place. Things were getting better; you know, Mom could find work, and so, we moved to a much better place.

 

How formative was the experience of living in places like that, those two different buildings and the fire that took your acquaintances and friends?

 

I know that it has everything to do with my community advocacy work, especially on behalf of Hawaiians.  The people who made a difference in our lives when we were growing up were the social workers who reached out to us. They were so kind.  They were so kind to my mother.  And I grew up feeling that I wanted to be a social worker.  I changed my mind when I realized I didn’t have the fortitude.  I saw what they had to deal with.  And I’m a little bit emotional; I have a really hard time focusing, you know, when I see that.  I got older, I guess I gained a perspective.  As a child, I didn’t really understand what that environment was all about.

 

Yeah; you thought they were nice people.

 

I thought everybody was nice.

 

But they were carrying all this pain, I suppose—

 

Yes.

 

–that they saw.

 

M-hm.  And as I got much older, and we learned our history and, you know, the displacement, I started focusing on Hawaiians.  It happened kind of gradually.  I was, you know, someone who was intent on a social work profession, but I also had competing things that I was really interested in.  The literature thing was always an interest.

 

After graduating from Kamehameha Schools, Mahealani Wendt went to work for big corporations, first on the continent, and then back home in Hawai‘i.  She was good at what she did, but her heart was not in the corporate world.

 

Right out of high school, I lived in Texas.  And while I was in Texas, I worked for a very large insurance company, a national insurance company, and I learned a lot about corporate business.  And so, I worked there for five years, I worked my way up.  Then I came home to Hawaiʻi.  I worked for a local corporation called Crown Corporation.  They had a bunch of industrial loan banks, they had securities firm, they had insurance. You know, I mean, some of the companies are still around; a lot of them are no longer.  But you know, they were real estate developers; all of that.  I was into that.  And I was like an admin assistant to vice president.  So, I did that.  And then, I went to college.

 

That was good preparation.

 

Yeah, it was good preparation. But interestingly, I started doing the community activism, you know, the demonstrations and stuff when I was still working for this corporation.  And my boss, who was a vice president, said: Just don’t let me see you arrested, or on TV. You know, something like that.  I said: I’ll be fine.

 

You know, so I always like, had these two like, sort of identities there.  I would be this corporate thing at work, and then, you know, uh, the rest of the time, I’d be … and then, I decided I needed to go to school, because I needed skills to do the thing I wanted, which is [SIGH] effectuate social reform.  Working for business was really a survival thing for me.  I had good skills, I had good typing, accounting; those sort of things. I had skills that I could market very readily in the business environment, so that’s where I went.  But that’s not where my heart was.

 

So, you’re taking political science now at the UH.

 

M-hm.  I’m taking political science, and I have an opportunity to do an internship with Legal Aid Society, along with thirty other interns, students at UH Mānoa, political science majors.  And we’re placed at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i at a time when, you know, we were coming into a growth of social programs, social economic programs in our community.  So, there was this quantum leap in legal services available to the community through Legal Aid.

 

Because there was more funding.

 

There was more funding.

 

More value placed on that.

 

Yes.  I chose to go with the so-called land unit at the time.  And in the course of my internship, I was assigned to work with community organizations in the Hawaiian community. And that sort of was a catalyst for my future work.  I attended law school, I left law school.  I was very active in the community.  I mean, actually coming into this kind of work, the genesis of it was community activism.  So, the early so-called land struggles—Kalama Valley, Kokua Kalama, He‘eia Kea, Waiāhole-Waikāne, Niumalu-Nāwiliwili on Kaua‘i, Mokauea Island—all of those struggles, I was there.  I was there. I was not there as a leader; I was there as someone who felt compelled to be there.  I really related to what the people were suffering, and I felt I had to be there.  It’s a combination of that activism and my experience at the Legal Aid Society leading me to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.  You know, it’s kinda like all boiled into the picture.

 

Why did you leave law school after college?

 

Well, I had children.  At that time, I was a single parent.  That was part of it; it was the economics of it. You know, when I went to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, I’m not sure that the most effective thing I could do there was as an attorney.  I found my niche was really talking to the staff about community; how community felt, you know, what was important.  Because sometimes the rigor of legal linear thinking separates you from community. And I think you need both.  So, I think it would have been fine to go through law school, but at that point in my life, I felt I would be more useful in bringing that perspective to the firm.  And I think that it worked really well.

 

And you worked your way up to heading the office; you ran the office.

 

Yeah.  So, the first position was an interim attorney who agreed to come over from private practice to sort of get us started.  The second was Melody MacKenzie.  Then after, I think, a year or two, the first gentleman moved on back to private practice after kinda mentoring us.  I became the third staff person.  And Melody MacKinzie was my boss for, I don’t know, maybe six, seven years. And she taught me so much.  I just owe her a great debt of gratitude.  She’s the kindest, the most brilliant mentor a person could have.  I mean, I just love her; I love her to this day.  She was the executive director, but I guess she was kind of, you know, having to do a lot of this admin stuff.  And it just seemed more efficient to have me do the administrative part, you know, deal with personnel hiring, firing, that sort of thing.  ‘Cause I had a background in it.  Melody has those skills, but she’s also brilliant; a brilliant jurist, a brilliant scholar.  You know, I mean, talking story as a staff, and it just seemed like, you know, a more sensible way to go.  And so, I guess in name, you know, I became the head of the organization, and then she could focus on cases and clients, you know, and I could just deal with the other stuff.

 

You did that for a long time.

 

M-hm.  Well, I retired after thirty-two years.  So, yes, I did it a long time.  It was fun.  I loved it.

 

What kinds of cases did your firm handle?

 

Well, our cases were all Native rights cases.  So, you know, they’re kind of characterized as the things that we require in order to be Hawaiian.  Hawaiians were being affected with respect to land tenure, their ability to hold onto their lands, ability to hold onto their natural resources, have access to it, ability to engage in traditional and customary practices that they require to be Hawaiian.  If their access to the ocean is cut off, then they can’t go fish, they cannot gather limu; these kinds of things.  The ability to exercise practices relating to their traditional religion, things that would impede it, ability to access their trusts, the Hawaiian Homelands trusts or the public lands trusts.  All of those things became our areas of focus.  We had genealogists on staff, we had title people on staff.  We had Hawaiian translators on staff, because we’re dealing a lot with archival documents, many of which are only in Hawaiian. So, we had people on staff who specialized in translating legal documents.  So, the shop is a specialty shop, you know, asserting the rights of native people.  And we did well.  There were many cases that we did, that I’m very proud of.

 

That was a very … just vibrant time, and also, it was a time of people coming into age and being very proud, and also running into a lot of walls, too.

 

Yes; yes.  And I think with knowledge comes power.  You know, and the more we’re able to understand our history—and of course, language is a window into culture, the more we understand our language the more we understand better who we are.  Part of that is having, you know, connection to land, connection to water, connection to ocean, continuing to keep traditional practice vibrant and alive. All of those things are important. And you know, ultimately, it’s about values.  And as many other peoples, including indigenous peoples, those values are really important, not only for us here as a people in Hawaii, and not only for all of Hawai‘i, but even globally.  You know, you join with other peoples.  There are certain values that are universally exalted as being life-affirming and necessary in order for, you know, humankind to thrive.  We can make a contribution, and it’s really, really important that we be allowed to be a people.

 

Why do we do this?  We do this because we love Hawai‘i.

 

A&B doesn’t own the water, the taro farmers do not own the water.  Our people own the water.  Ke Akua owns the water.

 

Ae!

 

Ae!

 

Ke Akua owns the water.

 

Ae!

 

For all of us.

 

So, let our people live, and let the ‘aina live, forever. [INDISTINCT]  Stand up so that we can make that happen.

 

Mahealani Wendt met her husband, Ed Wendt, through her work in native water rights.  He’s a taro farmer with kuleana land.  Where they live in Wailua Nui, in Maui’s Hana District, is beautiful, but as always, farming kalo is hard work.  Besides her passion for justice, Mahealani Wendt has always had a love for poetry and writing.  Even as head of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, she found time to write, and has received numerous literary awards, both nationally and internationally. We’re going to close now with a reading from one of her poems that reflects back on her childhood.  Mahalo to Mahealani Wendt of Wailua Nui, Maui, for sharing her life story with us, and mahalo to you for joining us.  For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

At statehood, we trundled kerosene tankards over rutted Honolulu sidewalks, past beer halls, pool halls, taxi dancehalls, past honky-tonk dives, juke joints, and shoeshine stands, to rooming house kitchens where we lit our communal fires and kept vigil for the one day our nation would be restored.  The torches burned bright as we stood watch.  Our children, listless on tenement floors, their coverings prickling with insect filth, and the grit of ambient sounds, incessant scuttlings and winged scurryings inside squalid floors and walls, we sensed a slow collapse under the terrific weight of a people whose gods kept watch with them there. The minions of forest, river, and ocean gods, companions in these root places whispering their encouragements as generations of children turn to hear, like flowers brightening to sun.

 

[END]

 

 

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