restoration

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Noa Emmett Aluli

 

“The health of the land is the health of the people” is a core belief for Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli. The Molokaʻi physician comes from a prominent Hawaiian family of medical doctors, academics, musicians and historical figures. In the 1970s, he made his own mark in history as part of the Kahoʻolawe Nine, a group of activists who stood up against the federal government to defend the island, used for decades in bombing drills. Dr. Aluli admits his personal mission to restore the health of Kahoʻolawe, and the health of Molokaʻi’s people, is a challenging long-term journey.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Nov. 10, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Noa Emmett Aluli Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

The land is the religion, the health of the land is the health of the people, is the health of the nation.

 

Meet this Moloka‘i physician and Kaho‘olawe defender, Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli, next on Long Story Short.

 

Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli has been serving Moloka‘i as a physician for more than four decades. He’s perhaps best known for his work alongside other protestors to protect and restore Kaho‘olawe, where the U.S. Navy carried out bombing drills for 50 years.

 

Dr. Aluli grew up in an extended Hawaiian family in Kailua, on Windward O‘ahu. His family line includes medical doctors; academics; and the Hawaiian patriot, Joseph Nāwahī, who in the 1890s opposed the U.S. government’s annexation of Hawai‘i. Dr. Aluli’s family also includes notable names in Hawaiian music, including his aunt, the late Irmgard Farden Aluli.

 

The Alulis are known for music.  Are you musical?

 

No.  My father would say: Don’t even try to sing, son.  I’m named after my dad, who was named after his dad, and it just goes on.  Musical—and on the other side, the Meyer girls.  You know, Malia was the oldest, and Mele Meyer, and—

 

Manu.

 

—Manu. Those are all my father’s youngest sister’s kids. And so, it was one, two, skip a couple houses, my dad, his brother, then my Auntie Irmgard were there.  But on the other side is my mother with 14 in her family.

 

You were surrounded by people.

 

Yeah, yeah

 

So, all these cousins, and aunties and uncles.

 

And we had to know them personally.  We just kind of really had to stick together and support each other. My grandpa was one of um … I think seventeen people who testified at the very first hearing on statehood in 1935.  There were about 150; Umm, 90 were in favor, 60 uhh, were against.

 

And he was…?

 

He was—he had conditions.  He said for the wellbeing and wellness, and the non-extinction of the Native Hawaiian, he had hoped that we would be recognized, as they had the year before, recognized the Native Americans and set up them as, you know, governments within-

 

-Mhmm.

 

—the government.  So, he—that was what he was thinking.  He was always—he was one of the organizers of the ummm, homesteading act, and he certainly kind of argued for it. We—we have that kinda like DNA or ancestral memory, or responsibility that—that we’ve kinda like grew up with.

 

Okay. So, with that scene set, that’s a lot of people around you, and people before you, and lots of talents.  But definitely, the DNA, as you mentioned, for standing up and standing against what you felt was wrong. 

 

M-hm.

 

So, you have Chinese and Caucasian, but you pulled on the Hawaiian.

 

Right, three-quarters, give or take.  I don’t know exactly, but you know, those days, you never keep track… English.

 

English.

 

Irish … English, Irish.  We have a coat of arm in—on my grandpa’s side, Cockett.  And the other one—

 

That‘s another famous name in Hawai‘i.  So, Aluli, Meyer, Cockett.

 

Yes; fortunate.

 

Did you feel privileged when you were growing up?

 

Didn’t know it, but yeah, we kind of like were able to afford good schools. Umm, never went hungry. Umm, you know, was able to compete in the ocean, was able to fish and—never hunted, though.  But privileged in the sense that we were given lot of opportunities, and had to prove that we would be able to kind of handle things in the years to come.  That was the big test of growing up.

 

 

One of Noa Emmett Aluli’s first major tests was self-imposed— he chose medicine as his career path, for the sheer difficulty of the training. First he earned his undergraduate degree at Marquette University in Wisconsin. Then he returned to O‘ahu and graduated in the first class of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

 

I heard that in your high school yearbook, Saint Louis, you said you intended to be a doctor.

 

Well, I did that because it was the biggest challenge that anybody could ever accept.  And umm, it was kind of like in a sense and I’m gonna do it. But then, it was a challenge all the way through, you know, undergrad, and getting into medical school, and enjoying medical school especially in…It was a lot of work.

 

Did you think you were not gonna make it at any point?

 

Umm, yes, because I couldn’t- I couldn’t discipline myself to study things that I couldn’t really put my hands around.  You know, all the science. And the way we were learning things just by memory, rote, repeat-repeat-repeat.

 

You’re better at learning by doing.

 

Yeah, exactly.  So, after my one year in a rotating integrated umm, residency program, I told the professors that I wanted to go and learn from the community.

 

That’s Hawaiian culture, isn’t it?

 

Yeah.  So—and I chose Moloka‘i, because I was there in my fourth year as a rural health elective. Umm, and I wanted Moloka‘i because they were changing too.  And the professors in that time were studying what happened in Kahuku; was happening in Kohala, where the plantations were closed and the big hotels were gonna be the tourist destinations, and how people were gonna make that change.  And Moloka‘i was going to change that way, too.

 

Also, Moloka‘i is known as the most Hawaiian place. Or the most Hawaiian island, I should say.  Because I think it’s, what … the last data I heard was nearly 40 percent of the population is Hawaiian, and many are more than 50 percent.

 

Yeah.  Well, and it’s actually because it was a leper colony there.

 

Kalaupapa.

 

Yeah, Kalaupapa.  People just were afraid of being there.  And because it was actually the beginning of the homesteading program.  The very first homestead was Kalama‘ula.  And then, Keaukaha was the second one on the Big Island, and then came back to Ho‘olehua.  So, it really had a real strong kinda like presence there. And a small island, so everybody knew everybody else.

 

Was it hard for you to make that transition?  You were kind of a suburban guy.

 

Yeah.  No, it was pretty easy.  Because the way we were brought up too was, you know, you go to a house and you eat anything they serve. And- and I think it was because I was kind of like out there and interested, and people wanted me to stay on Moloka‘i, so they kind of took me in—uncle, auntie, and taught me what they could.  And you know, I think it was—when I look back, they kind of like had hoped that I would usher them to the next realm, taking care of them that long.

 

Moloka‘i would not be the only island drawing Dr. Emmett Aluli’s interest. His medical career was just blossoming when his next major life test presented itself: Kaho‘olawe. On January 4, 1976, Dr. Aluli was one of nine people who protested the U.S. Navy’s use of the island for bombing practice. They defied restrictions and landed on the forbidden “Target Isle.” These nine people came to be known as “the Kaho‘olawe Nine.”

 

I was kind of like on call for three days and I was working at the Queen’s emergency room.  And then, we had 72 hours off.

 

Mhmm.

 

So, I decided this was an opportunity; I wanted to do, I wanted to get away.  And so, I just kind of joined the group that was from Molokaʻi that was asked to come and kind of like see whether we could be part of this reclaiming of at least the fishing rights. Fishing around the island was so rich, and the fishermen, local fishermen wanted to be able to go there and fish.  And they were kind of like unable to get there, except that they snuck on.  So, then we just decided: Well, we’re here, we may as well go and look around a little more.

 

How did you all get together?

 

It was a guy named Charlie Maxwell.

 

From Pukalani, Maui!

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Who was kind of like against what was happening uh, with the umm, telescopes at Haleakala.  But he was the one that was really kind of like organized uhh, and reached out.  And uhh, but nobody knew that this was gonna be a publicity thing; they weren’t really serious.  And so, when we kind of like knew the Coast Guard was called, alerted—

 

And you gathered on—

 

Yeah; there must have been like about 30 boats, more fishing boats.

 

So, Charlie had called; he put out a call for: “Let’s go to that island.”

 

Yeah.

 

Even though they say it’s forbidden.

 

Yeah; yeah.  And let’s make a statement.

 

Let’s make a statement and let’s land there.

 

Yeah.

 

Okay; and did he say you might get arrested, and it’s worth it?

 

No, no. We never got that: “Be careful, you might get arrested.”

 

It was more like: “Let’s just do this.”

 

Do it.

 

Okay.

 

But remember, there was an Alcatraz occupation, there was Wounded Knee, and so you know, people were just kind of thinking: “If this is what we gotta do as Native Hawaiians, let’s do it.” So, there was all that push to do something.

 

So, 30 boats left, but then they turned back.

 

They turned back.  Otherwise, they would have been confiscated.

 

And how did you get through?  Did you say: “I don’t care if the boat’s confiscated?”

 

No; so what it is, it was, once again, a reporter who kind of like knew a boat that was the fastest, that can outdo the—pick us all up, boom, take us in, and then get out.

 

Ah

 

So, that was how we did it.  We went, and the reporters turned back, ‘cause it was the boat that they had been on, but they took nine of us to the island.  And then, the Coast Guard came and took all the other seven.

 

But you and Walter Ritte were exploring the island for two days. Were you making yourself scarce, or were you just really exploring the island?

 

We were just kind of—we were bent on exploring the island.

 

And so, it was okay if you just—

 

Yeah. We just took off.

 

Wow.

 

In slippers.

 

For two days.

 

Yeah.

 

Before they came for you with handcuffs.

 

Actually, they cuffed our ankles. And they gave us a bar letter.  And so …

 

What’s a bar letter?

 

I mean, you can never return; you’re barred from the island.

 

Oh, I see.  Which did not happen; you went back.

 

So, we went back.  Because what we felt and saw was something just really different.  You know, like I personally had to go back and see whether it was real, that the land could be suffering that bad.

 

Noa Emmett Aluli and others kept returning to Kaho‘olawe in protest, despite those military restrictions. Then tragedy: On March 7, 1977, the charismatic musician and activist George Helm was heading back to Maui with park ranger Kimo Mitchell, in bad weather and rough water.  The two were never seen again. Dr. Aluli says that Helm, the fellow member of the Kaho`olawe Nine, had great potential and power as an emerging leader of the Hawaiian people. Dr. Aluli was devastated by the loss of George Helm.

 

I was wanting to just drop out completely.  You know, and just kind of move on.  But something just told me that, you know, you just at least carry his suit, and then you see that you’re successful. And so that’s one of the reasons why I’m still there to make sure that their loss or our loss is something that you know. We kind of like can make a difference and be able to kind of show some successes on the island, and show that we can green the island, and show that their life lost, not lost forever.

 

And did you know the other members of the Kaho‘olawe Nine very well?

 

No, not—not very well; not very well.  But I knew, because they were organizing on different levels, the—more like a legal kind of understanding of our claims and our rights.

 

But it wasn’t—there weren’t nine people picked because of their particular relationship and role. It was just- kind of an ad hoc group?

 

No. It was kind of a mixed bag. Yeah.

 

But what an amazing set of accomplishments was made by a group of people who didn’t even necessarily know each other ahead of time.

 

M-hm; m-hm. Well, so the magic—you know, they call it magic.

 

The magic.

 

Umm, because we knew that the more people we could take to the island, the more they would be inspired to kinda like do work that—

 

And you said you felt a kind of spiritual presence there.

 

I did. And I still do.

 

What does it feel like?

 

It feels as if you’re with nature, so strongly connected to it uh, that you’re kind of like feeling uplifted, or you gotta pass that responsibility, you know, that you kind of like sweat on that, and you understand that land.  But then now, you can get uh, get into the worship of the gods of the land. You know, and that was it, you know.  Pele creating new land, her sister Hi‘iaka the healer, and then there’s the other sister Kapo, and all the nature forms of all her brothers and sisters. You know, that’s all the people of old worshipped and had that connection to.

 

Dr. Emmett Aluli and others in the grassroots organization Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana, or P-K-O, continued their fight to stop the bombing on the island. In 1980, the U.S. Navy and P-K-O signed a Consent Decree, requiring the Navy to begin cleanup efforts, which are unfinished to this day. Then in 1990, President George H.W. Bush ordered an immediate halt to the bombing. Three years later, Congress voted to end military use, and Kaho‘olawe was turned over to the State. Since then, P-K-O and the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission, a State agency with which Dr. Aluli worked for more than 20 years, have focused on restoring the island that many regard as sacred.

Dr. Aluli draws parallels between the Kaho‘olawe protests four decades ago and the Mauna Kea protests against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawai‘i Island.

 

The land is the religion, the health of the land is the health of the people, is the health of the nation. What it is, is the decision, the Supreme Court decision is, there’s no… “Mauna Kea is already destroyed, so it’s no longer sacred.” They could have used that argument against us. I mean, what, just bomb the s— out of the island; no longer sacred. So, we have to rethink this whole thing through, but you know…

 

Do you think there are a lot of analogies between Kaho‘olawe and TMT?

 

Yeah. It’s the same kind of arguments for Mauna Kea.  And that’s the sad thing.  We’ve kind of like really kind of like got stepped on. I think indigenous folks around the world have their own culture science-

 

Mhmm.

 

—and understanding. And that is respected even more.  It’s just a matter of this next generation kind of coming up and proving it, yeah?  That you can manage the forests, the native forests, like, you know, the Hawaiians of old did, and get as good results as the sciences of today.

 

No longer the Target Island, Kaho‘olawe remains damaged by decades of bombing. There’s a long-term strategic  plan to restore the land, called I Ola Kanaloa, or “Life to Kanaloa.” Kanaloa is the ancient name for Kaho‘olawe, … after the Hawaiian god of healing, voyaging, and the ocean. Elements in the plan are experiential learning for students; and healing programs for abuse survivors and  former prisoners; also, restoration of Kaho‘olawe’s native habitat and cultural sites.

Meanwhile, in his medical practice on Moloka‘i, Dr. Emmett Aluli continues to tackle another challenge: the health of Native Hawaiian people.

 

We still have the only cardiovascular risk factor study. Then putting that together with some of the uhh, economic determinates of health, and you know, the access that poor people don’t have, or uninsured don’t have.  And putting that together, and just really looking at it, and using that as a tool on Moloka‘i: this is where we are. And it’s worked.  And then, from that study, we went into the Native Hawaiian diet study. So, if you eat more taro, sweet potato, reef fish, you know, limu, you should be healthier. You know, how to kind of integrate more, how to kind of like … I guess, extend care more permanently, especially to the Native Hawaiians and how we’re gonna continue together like benefit from the different ali‘i’s kind of like priorities.  Then comes the- A part of that medicine is just trying to finish off some of my research, like creating health systems across the board for Native Hawaiians. That we have Hawaiians that should start looking at the different programs and support that they need, so we can really do a good cleanup and a good kinda future.  ‘Cause the way it looks is, we’re not getting any better.

 

As far as?

 

As our health.

 

As our health; oh …

 

I think more the social and economic determinates of health are increasing, and so … sometimes I look at: How do you change the “ainokea” attitude?

 

To “aikea.”

 

To “aikea.”  You know, the famous—and how do we—can I look at being able to instill that pride again.  You know. That—because I think people are looking at: Oh you was coming- you owe me, you owe me, you owe me for taking the land, for you know, taking the Kingdom, and there’s a lot of pissed-off guys out there. And how do we kind of make them kind of like … ‘Kay, we gotta work a little bit harder, we gotta learn our politics, we gotta bring that leadership back, we gotta bring that trust back.

We will be able to survive, but we just have to depend on our connections to land a little bit more.  We gotta get our strength back, connections to the land, our relationships to the land.  And to make it sincere.  I think that—that’s what we gotta do.  And I’ve seen that happening in different areas.

 

For example?

 

Oh; in some of the fishponds, He‘eia and umm, you know, I see it kind of like umm, flowering in some of the farming projects.  You know, especially in Molokaʻi and the Big Island.

 

Because you think the health of the land is reflect … that’s a determinant of the health of the people.

 

People; right.  Right.  And then, how we work all together as a nation, or as a community, or as a ahupua‘a.  That we just, you know, automatic.

 

But in these decades since Kaho‘olawe, you say, you know, the health of the people has not improved.

 

Well, I don’t see it, because there’s something else that’s interfering.  I think it’s just “ainokea” attitude that’s… we’re addressing suicide also. Umm, on Moloka‘i, we’ve had a string of suicides. Depression setting in.  You know? And we’ve gotta talk this through a little bit more.  We gotta focus on that.

 

Yeah.  I mean, I think you’re a person who’s in it for the long term.  I mean, you hung in there with Kaho‘olawe, and you’re still in there.  And you’ve worked really hard on Hawaiian health.  But you haven’t really gotten to see the fruition of your hopes, all your hopes.

 

I feel like … it’ll come.  I feel it’ll really come.  I mean, I’m seeing it develop umm, in some key people. You know, we’ve had couple of young guys come in and, you know, and get credits working in my clinic, and I just—they’re teaching me more than I’m teaching them. My patients ask me: When are you gonna retire, Doc?  I said: When I don’t enjoy it anymore.

 

Do you still feel like that activist inside?

 

Umm, yeah; yeah.  And like, folks like Art says: We gotta watch you, Emmett.

 

And that competitiveness that you had when you said: I’m gonna be a doctor, just because it was a hard thing to do. 

 

No, that was—that was just … I think that pushed me through, because I said: I’m gonna do it.  Like it’s pushed me through with Kaho’olawe, I’m gonna do it. With the other issues I’ve been involved in, I’m gonna do it.  And you know, I don’t expect to be able to do it all, but at least some footprints.

 

And some continuity,-

 

-Yeah.

 

you’ll leave behind, people who can do it, or who will carry it on.

 

Who will carry it on.

 

You seem like you’re prepared for the long view.  You know, things can’t get done as quickly as you want, but you’re gonna keep at it.

 

Yeah.  And people know that.  People know that.  Stay out of his way.

 

Longterm challenges and the never-ending desire to heal the land and the people—these seem to define Dr. Emmett Aluli’s life journey. As of this conversation in the summer of 2019, Dr. Aluli is 75 years old, and he says he has no plans to stop working to heal people and the land anytime soon. He says he’s most thankful for his family, his medical practice, and his good health. Mahalo to Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli of Ho‘olehua, Moloka‘i, for sharing your story with us. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

 

What do you think the people of Molokaʻi can teach the rest of us?

 

“Molokaʻi, the friendly island” is because we adapted or adjusted to the leprosy.

 

Mhmm.

 

And it was okay to go there, and they’re family. And then, there’s—what I like is: “Molokaʻi ku‘i la‘au.” You know, strong, powerful healing. But the one that is being really shared is: “Molokaʻi ‘āina momona.”

 

Plenty.

 

Plenty fruits. And I think a lot of people are adopting that we gotta make our lands rich with food again.

 

 

 

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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sam Cooke

 

Sam Cooke
Preserving Historical Hawaiʻi

 

A member of one of Hawaiʻi’s most prominent kamaʻaina families, Sam Cooke shares his passion for the restoration of Hawaiʻi’s cultural and historical treasures. A descendant of early missionaries who established a business empire with Castle and Cooke, Sam, along with his wife Mary, established the Manoa Heritage Center to promote the stewardship of ancient heiau located near their historic home in Manoa Valley.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Mar. 10, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Sam Cooke Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

And it was wonderful in the old days. And it’s changed, but… we’ve tried to keep a little of it here, what we’re doing with the Manoa Heritage Center. So we plan to be around for a while.

 

He bears the name of a kamaʻaina family and he’s related to other prominent families who came to Hawaiʻi when it was still a kingdom. Sam Cooke shares his passion for the preservation of historic and cultural treasures of the islands.

 

 

Next on LONG STORY SHORT.

 

Open billboard: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaiʻi’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in High Definition.

 

Aloha Mai Kākou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Anyone who’s lived in Hawaiʻi for any length of time has seen the name Cooke, with an E, in many contexts. In the islands’ missionary history, in the evolution of big business here, in the many philanthropic gifts supporting the arts, environment, education and human services. Samuel Alexander Cooke is a descendant of early missionaries who taught the children of the aliʻi. Over time, family members established a business empire with the company Castle and Cooke. In more recent years, Sam Cooke and his wife Mary have saved a heiau from development a stone’s throw from their historic home in Manoa. And they’ve created the Manoa Heritage Center to preserve the Kukaoo Heiau and an all-native garden they’ve grown around it. The Cooke family dynasty began with the arrival in the early 1800s of Sam’s great-great grandparents, Juliet Montague and Amos Starr Cooke.

 

He was a teacher, and he wanted to come out and be a missionary in the Hawaiian Islands, but he had to have a wife, and he didn’t have a wife. So the mission said, You can’t go unless you have a wife. So he posted the bonds in the church, and a few weeks later, Juliet Montague joined him as his wife. They were on the boat for a hundred and eighty-eight days, and they arrived in Hawaiʻi in April of 1837. He was asked by King Kamehameha V (sic) to start the Chief’s Children’s School, where he educated… she and he educated all the Hawaiian royalty, including Bernice Pauahi, who was married to Charles Reed Bishop in our house, which is still behind the Kawaiahaʻo Church.

 

With the evolution of Hawaiʻi, there’s new thinking about missionary contributions. You know that expression about missionaries came here to do good, and they did very well.

 

M-hm.

 

What are your thoughts about that?

 

Well, it all depends who you’re talking about. James Campbell wasn’t a missionary, and he did the best. But the missionaries did start the industry with sugar, which they started, and then it grew to be much bigger than the missionaries. And most of the people that ran those industries, sugar and pineapple, were not missionaries, they were brought in from the continental United States. And they’re the ones that really put those companies on the map. But now, they’re all gone. Except for Alexander and Baldwin and the Bank of Hawaii, there’s no large missionary engendered company left here in the State of Hawaiʻi.

 

When your original forebear came here, do think  Christianity or education was foremost in his mind?

 

 

Both; both, yeah. And then the mission went broke. And so they couldn’t afford to keep the missionaries out here, so they said, We’ll take you home back to the East Coast, or you can stay in Hawaiʻi. And that’s when Amos Starr Cooke and Samuel Northrup Castle started a ship chandler they called Castle and Cooke.

 

It did ag, it did shipping.

 

It did ag, it did…

 

Pineapple

 

-shipping, it did construction. And in its heyday, it just did about everything that had anything to do with land, and agriculture.

 

What are some of the other things your family got involved with?

 

My great-grandfather, Charles Montague Cooke, married Anna Charlotte Rice Cooke, or Anna Charlotte Rice. And she’s the one that started the Academy of Arts. And then so there’s where I get my Rice blood. And I get my Lyman and Wilcox blood from my mother, who was from Kauaʻi, and whose great-uncle, G.N. Wilcox, founded Grove Farm. My grandfather, who built this house, was a scientist. He was a malacologist; he studied Hawaiian land shells. He was a PhD at the Bishop Museum for forty years; became very famous. And then my Uncle George, who was his brother, was a rancher on Molokai. My family had the Molokai Ranch, and George Cooke was the head of it. It was a cattle ranch. It was big; it was about seventy-seven thousand acres. But the thing that made it click was the pineapple leases. We leased to Castle and Cooke, and we leased to California Packing Company, and McNeill and Libby. And pineapple, I think, was great, but in about 1985, we lost the pineapple, because they all went to the Philippines and to Taiwan. So our income just dried up. So in 1986, we sold the ranch to a New Zealander by the name of Birely, and we haven’t had anything to do with it since then. It’s been very controversial, but we’ve exited the ranch, and its been the Birely’s that have had all the trouble, because they’ve tried to run it absentee. That doesn’t work.

 

It must have been hard to give up the ranch, although-

 

It was.

 

it was a financial decision, right?

 

Well, it’s a financial disaster. M-hm.

 

But it did support, in good times, many people.

 

Oh, in good times the pineapple lease, it was a wonderful place. It had deer, it had fish, and it had everything, and we could go there and have fifty thousand acres to ourselves to go do what we wanted to do. I took all my buddies up there; Curtis Iaukea and Gilbert, all those guys. They loved the place. M-hm.

 

Sam Cooke spent many summers on Molokai, but he grew up on the same Manoa Valley land where he continues to live. After majoring in hotel management at Cornell University, he had every intention of pursuing a career in the hotel industry and took a job with Interisland Resorts on Kauaʻi. But with marriage to the woman he’d met when they were children and with the demands of a new family, he redirected his profession, becoming a stockbroker and senior executive with Morgan Stanley here. One of his clients was the late great Harry Weinberg, who was famously frugal and exacting. Sam Cooke had a long career in a competitive industry. Even back at Punahou School, he didn’t shy away from the fray.

 

Who’d you play football with?

 

Oh, with guys like Gilbert Ane, and Curtis Iaukea, and-

 

All the small guys.

 

-all the-

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

All the small guys. I wasn’t any good, but I made the team.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

What were they like – what was Curtis “The Bull” Laukea, the future wrestler, like in high school?

 

Good guy; really good. Still is a good guy. I mean, very successful wrestler. I could never believe that he would do what he did, but he did, and he became very good at it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

He was always the bad guy-

 

The bad guy.

 

-on the air, but the-

 

Yeah.

 

-nice guy behind the scenes.

 

Right. And he lives up in Papakolea now. I’ve seen him occasionally. Gilbert Ane was a terror.

 

M-hm.

 

 

Boy, he was a hell of a football player. And Danny, his brother, and David, his brother, and Harry Pacarro, and A.K. Espinda, and Punahou was always thought of as a Haole team, but I think there was only one Haole on the team, and that was me.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Well, tell me; I noticed your grandfather had a very vibrant scientific career, your father was in the finance business, trust, you worked for decades in hotel and for Dean Witter and Morgan Stanley.

 

M-hm.

 

Couldn’t you all have just said, I’ve got a trust fund, I have wealth, no need.

 

Never happened that way.

 

You could have, though.

 

Well, yeah. I’ve had cousins that did that, but not me. Mm-mm; mm-mm.

 

What got you up every morning to go to work?

 

Oh, I don’t know. I guess I wanted to prove myself. I’ve never been that way. Neither has my wife. So we’ve been very, very active.

 

So you made money, and now you spend your life giving money.

 

We do.

 

In your philanthropic-

 

We do.

 

-efforts.

 

We do here, but we do. We do a lot of philanthropic work. M-hm.

 

Did you always know you were gonna do that?

 

No; no. I thought I was gonna be a hotel manager.

 

Mm.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Lots to eat, always have a bed.

 

As a businessman, when you look at people applying for grants, you probably have a different eye than many people do.

 

Well, we do. And then you really get to know who your friends are.

 

‘Cause you say no.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You have to say no every once in a while. At Cooke Foundation, we hire the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation to research all the grants. And so we have a pretty good idea of who we want to give our money to. We do twice a year. You’re not taxed when you’re an eleemosynary foundation; you don’t pay taxes. So the IRS takes a very, very strong look at how you give your money away. And if you start giving it away to people that don’t really qualify, you could lose your tax status. And so we’re very careful about that.

 

Sam Cooke is an avid collector of Hawaiiana that includes paintings, rare books and artifacts. His ongoing philanthropic efforts reflect the Cooke family tradition of sponsoring arts and preserving the cultural heritage of the islands.

 

Well, principally, my great-grandmother started the Honolulu Academy of Arts. And I was the chairman of the Academy of Arts for sixteen years, and got to know most of the major art people in the United States. And I’ve been told by many of those people that the Honolulu Academy of Arts is probably the finest small museum in America. So it’s a real treasure.

 

It’s such a legacy, but I sense that for you, it wasn’t a family obligation. You love art.

 

Yeah, I love art. And it wasn’t an obligation, but it was a very necessary part of the soul of Honolulu, I think. That without it, we’d be wanting. It’s a beautiful museum.

 

Has it faced challenges that threatened it along the way?

 

Yes, mostly monetary. My great-grandmother founded it, endowed it, built it, and left her collection there. And then she moved up to where the Contemporary Art Museum is; that was her home. But the challenges that the Art Academy really faced were expansion and growth, and collecting.

 

I believe you helped to raise, what, fifteen million dollars-

 

Thirty.

 

-for a wing. Thirty?

 

M-hm.

 

And which people said at the time couldn’t be done.

 

Right; right. M-hm.

 

How’d you do it?

 

Mostly on the mainland, and tremendous support from the local people here in Hawaiʻi, especially the foundations and the corporations. But there’s just not that kind of money here in Hawaiʻi, so we went to the mainland and got support from the Henry Luce Foundation, and all sorts of foundations all over the country that had been here and seen the Academy, knew what we were talking about, and were very happy to help us out.

 

What kinds of art do you like the best?

 

Hawaiian.

 

I know – Hawaiʻi?

 

Yeah. Kind of things you see on my wall. M-hm.

 

I see lots of books about voyages-

 

Voyages.

 

-to the islands.

 

M-hm; m-hm. It’s a fascinating story. The books start with the collection of Cook, and go all the way through the end of the 20th century. After Cook discovered Hawaiʻi, all the European nations came here, and they all published voyages and did beautiful atlases with drawing. Of course, there was no photography in those days, so they all brought artists with them, and the artists did beautiful drawings.

 

And why are you fascinated with those voyages?

 

Well, that’s when we all got started, I guess. It really brought Hawaiʻi to the fore in the world. I mean at one particular time, Hawaiʻi was the most literate country in the world; everybody could read.

 

After the missionaries came.

 

After the missionaries came.

 

But Hawaiians were literate in their own language too.

 

Yes, they were; they were, very. They had a tremendous culture. And on the property here, we have a Hawaiian heiau, which we have rebuilt, and it’s a beautiful piece of work, gorgeous piece of work.

 

So you live in a nice suburban area of Honolulu, with a heiau in your back yard.

 

M-hm.

 

How did that happen?

 

Interesting. My grandfather moved here in about 1901. He built the house in 1911. There was a heiau out there, and the architects wanted to put the house where the heiau was, because that’s where the best scenery was. He said no; no. His life had been saved by a Hawaiian, so he was very, very true with the Hawaiian people. And he would not let them build a house on the heiau. So he built a fence around the heiau, and it stayed that way up until 1994 when Mary and I bought it from a developer, and saved it and then rebuilt it. So we brought a stonemason from the Big Island by the name of Billy Fields, who is an outstanding mason, and he built it and put it back in shape.

 

And that’s, I believe, an agricultural heiau.

 

It’s an agricultural heiau; right, m-hm.

 

What’s the story about it, and what’s its name?

 

Well, it’s name is Kukaoo. And there are all sorts of interpretations of Kukaoo, but the one we like the most is of a chief who stood on the mountain in back of us, and threw his oo stick, and it landed there. And that’s where they built the heiau.

 

Standing oo, step- 

 

Standing oo. And oo is a digging stick. And Kenneth Emory, who was the archaeologist at the Bishop Museum, did a radiocarbon test out there, and with some ashes, and determined that it was very, very old, perhaps back to the Norman conquest, which was 1088. So it’s been there for a long time. Billy found three different stages of rebuilding in the heiau, so it had been rebuilt. And then we dedicated it in1994 with Bill Kaina, who was the kahu at Kawaiahaʻo Church. And he came up here; he had a very difficult time, giving a little talk about the heiau, because the mana was coming from the heiau bothering him. But he got through it. [CHUCKLE] It’s a beautiful heiau. And it’s the only one on this side of the island, and it’s the only one I’ve seen that has been restored this way.

 

So you mentioned that a family member had been – his life had been saved by a Hawaiian woman, and he was very indebted to the Hawaiian people as a result, and the Hawaiian culture.

 

 

M-hm.

 

This was your grandfather.

 

It was my grandfather. He was born down at Kawaiahaʻo Church, and he was not expected to live. He was two and a half pounds, and Western medicine couldn-t take care of him. So my great-grandfather went to Hilo, and got a kahuna lapaau who was named Kaaina. Brought her to Honolulu, and she saved the baby; he lived. And she wrapped him in kukui leaves, and massaged him with lomi lomi, and did all the old things, and he lived. And so he took care of her for the rest of his life. And I have an obituary that talks about her when she died. She was a hundred and fourteen years old when she died. And she went on to say that she had been a kahuna lapaau and had saved many lives. And she never married, but she had a son, a Haole boy by the name of Montague Cooke. So lots of the old-timers around here still remember her. My mother was very perplexed by it, because she was very striking looking and had blue eyes, for a Hawaiian. And her whole name means, the last supper. Because she was born in Kona on the same day that Kamehameha died in 1819. And her parents were converted to Christianity, and when she was born, they named her this big, long Hawaiian name, that meant, the last supper. M- hm. He would take care of her. It was like a mother and a son relationship.

 

The name of your home is Kualii?

 

Kualii; right. Kualii was the chief who lived here, and that’s his heiau out there. And Kualii is a big name; it’s like Smith in the English name. There are Kualiis everywhere, I found out afterwards. [CHUCKLE] But he was a chief, and he was the chief of Oʻahu, a very powerful one. It’s is a great house. It was the first house of its kind in the valley. And there was a dairy up here. My grandfather’s hobby was dairy, so he got a tiny dairy. It went from Cooper Road there, all the way up to Waioli Tea Room. But after the war, people moved into the valley, and they objected to the smells and the sounds of the dairy, so we moved the dairy over to where Olomana Estates is now. And then we started selling off the property. But this has a great, great history, this house. And when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, all the able-bodied people went to Pearl Harbor to help, but the women and children and the older people came here. There must have been between eighty and a hundred people in this house, and they were sleeping on the floor, and upstairs; there are four stories.

 

Here, because it’s stone.

 

It’s stone; it looks like it could handle itself. But a word went out from the authorities that the water had been poisoned, so we filled our bathtubs up. We have three big porcelain bathtubs upstairs. We filled them up with water, and we drank out of the bathtub for three days. So it has many, many fond memories. We had bomb shelters out here. And I think growing up here in the 50s, we all – and the neighborhood gang would come here and play football and baseball, and there was a lot more property in those days, so we had the room to do things like that.

 

How much more property did you have then?

 

Well, we had quite a bit more property. I think the place was about eight acres. Now, it;s three. And it was all the way down to the Manoa Road.

 

And the stones, which surround you, are neighborhood stones.

 

Yeah. They were quarried here, right where the circle is out in front of the house. And when Mary and I moved in here in 1970, we really had a feeling that we wanted to save the place. Because I think my father, who lived on Maui, would have knocked it down and subdivided, and sold the property off. So we had to bite the bullet, and I made a deal with him, and the house was in terrible shape, awful shape. But over the years, we’ve painted and used chewing gum and everything else I can

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

The home is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Sam and Mary Cooke established the non-profit Manoa Heritage Center and the Kualii Foundation to secure the future of the home and the nearby heiau site. As long as the couple lives here, the house is not open to the publicbut the heritage center offers guided tours of the heiau and native garden.

 

And I’ve opened the garden up, not the house, but the garden to tours; small tours. And we’ve done’we do about three thousand kids a year. And I think we can do a little bit more than that, but we’re growing, and we’ll get there soon. But we can’t do much more than that, because of our size.

 

You’ve restored the heiau, and youve replaced the original plantings with all native Hawaiian- Yes. –plants.

 

Right; m-hm.

 

What have you learned about the Hawaiian plants and-

 

Well, when we-

 

-in the process?

 

-first started doing it, we had to get special permits from the State to plant these plants, because they were endangered, and they were protected. And so Mary, my wife [CHUCKLE], had a lot of sessions with the State in bringing monroidendron trees in, and like all these other things that we put in the garden. Now, you can buy them at Home Depot. [CHUCKLE] But we have some very unique things out there that we got from Kauaʻi.

 

Like, for example?

 

Well, the monroidendron; it’s such a rare tree. It grows on Kauaʻi. It’s such a rare tree that we’ve forgotten the Hawaiian name; nobody knows the Hawaiian name for it.

 

I heard there’s one out there that – there’s nothing left in the natural to pollinate it.

 

Oh, yeah; that’s the brighamia. It looks like a cabbage on the end of a big stalk. And that was found on Kauaʻi and on Molokai, and there was a special insect that pollinated it. And that insect has become extinct, and it can’t pollinate itself by itself, so it has to be pollinated by man. There’s the native Hawaiian hibiscus, which is the State flower, the yellow one.

 

M-hm.

 

And then there’s Hawaiian cotton out there. And then there’s akia, the fish poison plant.

 

How does that work?

 

You take the leaves and you make it into a poultice, and then you throw it in the tidal pools. And it stuns the fish, and the fish come floating up. And then you grab them and put them in a bag. I’ve never tried it, but it’s something that does work. Well, there’s about sixty different plants out there, all sorts of exotic, rare Hawaiian plants that are kinda fun to see, because you don’t ever see them anywhere. And one of the things that has been so interesting is that when the native people come here to see the heiau, they’re much more interested in the plants than they are in the heiau.

 

What do you think happened in that heiau? I mean, did you know, right now, it’s an empty enclosure.

 

Right; right.

 

What was there? Was anything in there before?

 

We don’t really know. We speculate that there were some images in there. There was one person who came out to the University of Hawaiʻi who said it was built much like that big stone thing in England called Stonehenge, where it lined itself up to the solstice, the different seasons.

 

M-hm.

 

And that you could see the sun coming over this part of the heiau, and that’s where this particular plant was planted.

 

Oh; that would be so nice to know.

 

Yeah; it would be nice to know. But there’s nobody to tell us. We have a protocol committee, different local people who come and advise us about once every other year. And we decided that we weren’t going to let anybody walk in there, out of respect to the place. And if you know a chant, it’s very appropriate to chant. We’ve had many chanters out there. But it’s very refreshing to take these kids who are studying Hawaiian history, and all of them know chants, and so they come out there and they do their chant at the heiau. It’s just chicken skin. I mean, it really is. I was terrified that we’d have some sort of reaction from the Hawaiian community, but we have nothing but positive vibes from them. And we’ve tried to include them. Our board has several native Hawaiians on it, and Nathan Napoka has been very, very helpful to us. A wonderful guy. So I think we’re doing the right thing. I mean, I think my kids think I’m crazy, because they don’t get it.

[CHUCKLE]

 

They’re not into the Manoa Heritage Center?

 

Not really. Cathy is the one that lives here, but they’ll be okay; they’ll be okay. M-hm. They’re not setup such that they could take care of books like this, and paintings, and that type of thing. And we’re going to leave an endowment, hopefully, that will take care of it for the foreseeable future, but these places always need more, more, more, more, more.

 

Have you ever considered moving away?

 

No; I would never move away. I would never move away. We go on trips, and it’s always nice to come home.

 

And you’ve never moved away from the property? 

 

No.

 

-where your family has lived for generations.

 

Right; right. No; no, we’re gonna stay here.

 

Kukaoo was restored in 1993 and survives as the last intact Hawaiian temple in the greater ahupuaa of Waikiki.

 

That’s right, Waikiki. The Cookes- Manoa Heritage Center gives tours of the heiau and native garden by reservation only. Our guest Samuel Alexander Cooke could have let his family achievements support him, but instead, he enjoyed a long successful business career and created his own legacy of philanthropy in Hawaiʻi.

 

Mahalo, Sam Cooke for sharing your “Long Story Short,” and thank YOU for listening and supporting PBS Hawaiʻi. 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 pbshawaii.org.

 

We were very much involved with Molokai. We did a lot of fishing. My dad caught the world’s record oio, bonefish.

 

Bonefish.

 

And he also held the marlin record that he caught at Lanai. And Mother held the world’s record in the Allison tuna. And so when Dad died, he went in the Fishing Hall of Fame with Herbert Hoover; he was a very famous fisherman. So most of my time was fishing, when I was a kid. I didn’t-I don’t play golf; never been on a golf course. I miss the old ways; I do, I really do. I remember going to luaus at Laie, and seeing my father’s great friend, Haumana Kalili, in a tug-of- war, pulling six Filipinos. I mean, it was this incredible background. Going fishing with him, and going to the koa and praying in Hawaiian, and going out and catching akule by the boatload. And you don’t see that anymore. Mm-mm. We’d go to lobster holes, and out of maybe thirty lobsters in the hole, we’d take two, all we could eat. Now, you go out to the lobster hole, there’s nothing left.

 

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