round image on layout top

Kaulana Hawai‘i

May 5, 2012 by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Life in Spirit

Na Wai Puna o Kona – Na Kupuna

Kaulana Hawai’i lā
Nā mea Aloha lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Hawai’i

Famous is Hawai’i
Loveable things indeed
Present is the life

Kamehameha Hawai’i lā
Mō’i ka moku lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Hawai’i

Kamehameha of Hawai’i
Chief of this island
Present is the life

Eō e Maui lā
I luna o Haleakalā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Maui

Rejoice Maui
High above Haleakalā
Present is the life

‘Ōnipa’a Kalaupapa
Lei hiwahiwa lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Moloka’i

Steadfast Kalaupapa
A precious lei indeed
Present is the life

He Nani Lana’i lā
Kāpaianaha lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Lana’i

Beauty is Lana’i
Amazingly special
Present is the life

Nā pali O’ahu lā
Ha’aheo Sanoe lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O O’ahu

The cliffs of O’ahu
Proud mist indeed
Present is the life

Ikaika Kaua’i lā
‘Ohi’ohi (nā) pa’akai lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Kaua’i

Strong is Kaua’i
Gathering of salt
Present is the life

Kūpa’a ‘o Ni’ihau
(Nā) ‘Ike o nā kūpuna lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Ni’ihau

Stand firm is Ni’ihau
Knowledge of the elders
Present is the life

Ho’ōla Kaho’olawe
I ka moku piko lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Kaho’olawe

Healing is Kaho’olawe
The center of all islands
Present is the life

Kaulana Hawai’i lā
Nā mea Aloha lā
Eia ho’i ke ola lā
‘O Hawai’i

Famous is Hawai’i
Loveable things indeed
Present is the life

I ka ho’omaka ‘ana o keia makahiki hou, ua ho’oulu au i na kupuna o Kona a e a’o i ka ‘olelo Hawai’i ma ka hale kaiaulu ma Kaniohale i na Po’alua apau ma ke ‘ano he papa kupuna. No laila, i ka la ‘umikumakolu o Malaki, ua haku ‘ia keia mele e na kupuna o Na Wai Puna o Kona. Ua makemake au e ho’ohanohano i na mokupuni ‘ewalu me na mana’o kupaianaha o keia wa i hala aku nei. Na ‘Anakala George Na’ope i ha’i aku ai ia kekahi, “pono e haku mele e pili ana i keia wa a laila lilo i ka mana’o kahiko i na makahiki i hiki mai ‘ana.” No laila, ho’olalelale au i na kupuna e haku i keia mele. Aia keia mau mana’o kupaianaha i ola ai i na mokupuni apau; Kaulana o Hawai’i ia Kamehameha, he mo’i o ka moku; Eo e Maui i ka mauna o Haleakalā; Ho’ohanohano i na po’e o Kalaupapa, he lei hiwa wale no; Nani Lana’i ma muli o na mea kupaianaha; Na pali kaulana o O’ahu pili i sanoe; ‘Ikaika wale ‘o Kaua’i, wahi ‘ohi’ohi pa’akai; Kupa’a ho’i ia Ni’ihau i na mea pili i na kupuna; ho’ola ia Kaho’olawe, ka piko o ka moku; a eia ho’i ke ola o Hawai’i la.

At the beginning of this year, I invited a gathering of elders of Kona to learn the Hawaiian language at the community center of Kaniohale every Tuesday. On March 13, this song was composed by the elders of Na Wai Puna o Kona. I desired to honor the eight beautiful Hawaiian islands with amazingly special things of times past. Uncle George Na’ope said that we must write chants or songs about this time so that these thoughts would become ancient as the years progress. Therefore, I inspired the elders to compose this song. We present the many amazing stories of Hawai’i: Kamehameha, the chief of Hawai’i Island; rejoicing at Maui for a mountain called Haleakalā; giving honor to the people of Kalaupapa, a precious lei indeed; beautiful is Lana’i because of many amazingly special places and things; honoring the mist upon the cliff of O’ahu; Kaua’i is strong and a place where Hawaiian salt is gathered; standing firm is Ni’ihau, which is guided by the elders; the healing of Kaho’olawe, the center of our islands. Present is the life of Hawai’i.

Sung utilizing the tune “Na Moku ‘Eha” –
kupaianaha indeed – amazingly special.
Mahalo nui loa. Offered by Kumu Keala Ching.

Contact Kumu Keala Ching:

Then & Now: Pu‘uhonua

May 4, 2012 by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Ke Ola Magazine - Then & Now - pgA

Second in a series of profiles on Hawai‘i Island National Parks, by Robert Oaks…

Traditional Hawaiian society was regulated by a series of rules—kapu—the violation of which led to severe punishment, often including death. Examples of violating a kapu included eating forbidden food, transgressing against a chief, engaging in a crime or defeat in war.  A person guilty of such an offense, however, could escape the penalty by fleeing to one of several pu‘uhonua (commonly, but somewhat misleadingly called a “city of refuge”), which were scattered around the islands.  Once there, regardless of guilt or innocence, he could be absolved of his crime by a priest and allowed to return home.
Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, on the South Kona coast of  Hawai‘i Island,  is one of the most significant archeological and historical sites in the entire state of Hawai‘i.  The park consists of two distinct sections—a pu‘uhonua, or place of refuge, and a royal compound—separated by a massive stone wall built on top of a lava flow from Mauna Loa Volcano.
Open to Hōnaunau Bay on one side, the pu‘uhonua is partly enclosed by the 1,000-foot-long lava rock wall, approximately 17 feet thick and 10 feet tall.  Built around 1550 without mortar, the basalt blocks were fitted together with the smoothest sides facing outward.  Small stones filled in the gaps of the larger stones, some of which weighed more than 1,000 pounds. The sheer size of the wall and other structures at Hōnaunau, possibly built in just a matter of a few days, demonstrate the ability of Hawaiian ali‘i to coordinate and control large numbers of laborers.
In addition to the pu‘uhonua, on the mauka side of the wall was the royal enclosure, home to high chiefs of Kona for many generations and ancestral home of the Kamehameha dynasty.     This entire portion of the park was kapu to commoners, who could not walk through the area or even cast their shadows without risking death.  Reaching the asylum of the pu‘uhonua, therefore, required swimming across Hōnaunau Bay.
Separating the two areas, and providing its sacred atmosphere was the Hale o Keawe, a thatched roof temple and mausoleum containing the bones of 23 deified, high-ranking chiefs, protecting the sanctuary of the spot.
Hale o Keawe was built for Keawe-i-kekahi-ali‘i-o-ka-moku, Kamehameha’s great grandfather, probably sometime between 1720 and 1740, though some scholars suggest it might have been built nearly 100 years earlier.  The pu‘uhonua itself, probably dating from 200 to 300 years before Hale o Keawe, included two additional, older temples.
The first of these, significantly larger than Hale o Keawe, was the ‘Ale‘ale‘a heiau  built in several stages over a period of 200 years or more, beginning as early as the 1000s.  Its massive foundation (127 by 60 feet) can still be seen within the pu‘uhonua.  Nearby is the site of an even older and even larger structure, known simply as the “Old Heiau.”   Destroyed by a series of pre-historic tsunami, its name is long forgotten.
Hale o Keawe was a state heiau, surrounded by a palisade and protected by wooden images (ki‘i). The bones inside were venerated and watched over by a hereditary guardian. There were images, altars, and a refuge pit, but no bones of women, since it was not a family burial site. The deification of the chiefs, in a ceremony that most likely included
human sacrifices, ensured the sanctity and inviolability of the pu‘uhonua.
The first European visitors to Hale o Keawe were British Lt. James King and several other officers from Captain James Cook’s ships anchored at nearby Kealakekua Bay four miles to the north. Visiting sometime before Cook was killed in February, 1779, they found “ludicrous and some obscene idols, like the Priapus of the ancients.”  Indeed, such anatomically correct idols, according to the ship’s surgeon Dr. David Samwell, “would offend the Ear of Modesty
to recount.”
Not all objects were offensive, however.  King described one that they saw inside the Hale as a “black figure of a man, resting on his fingers and toes, with his head inclined backward; the limbs well formed and exactly proportioned, and the whole beautifully polished.”  This 26-inch long relic is now in the British Museum in London. It has mother-of-pearl eyes, human teeth and short, black hair attached to the top of the head.
The Hale o Keawe was carefully maintained down to the end of Kamehameha’s life (1819).  Shortly after he died, his son and successor, Liholiho (Kamehameha II), abolished the kapu system, making the Hale and the pu‘uhonua itself largely irrelevant. Even so, the association with Kamehameha and the ancestral royal bones kept the site from being desecrated, as were most other sites associated with the old religion.
In 1823, four years after it was abandoned, the American missionary Rev. William Ellis visited the site and misleadingly called it a “city of refuge.”  He and other early European visitors thought the pu‘uhonua similar to Jerusalem and other Biblical cities of refuge, overlooking the fact that Hōnaunau was by no means a “city” and that guilt or innocence had no bearing on the granting of refuge and pardon.
Despite the confusing name, however, Ellis did provide the first detailed description of the pu‘uhonua, including a drawing of it in his book.  He recognized its significance and appreciated the clemency aspect, finding the place a nice contrast to all the “heathen” temples and altars that he found elsewhere on the island.
Two years after Ellis’s visit, the crew of the HMS Blonde also visited the Hale. Under the command of Lord Byron (cousin and successor of the poet), the Blonde had returned the bodies of King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu from London, where they had both died from measles on an unsuccessful journey to meet with King George IV.  The ship then visited several sites in the islands, including Hilo, Mauna Loa Volcano, and Kealakekua Bay, before returning to England.
Lord Byron and several of his crew members visited Hale o Keawe, accompanied by the island’s Governor Kuakini.  Since the new King Kamehameha III was a minor, the kingdom was ruled by co-regents: Kamehameha’s wife Ka‘ahumanu and the effective prime minister Kalanimoku.  Those two, both Christian converts with little interest in the idols of the old religion, gave Byron’s crew specific permission to remove any articles they wanted from the temple.
The ship’s naturalist, Andrew Bloxam, described the same black figure of a man that Lt. James King had described nearly half a century earlier.  Bloxam believed that the figure was a kind of stool upon which “all the Kings when they entered the Temple used to rest themselves before sacrifice.”  And that is how the figure ultimately ended up in the British Museum.
Governor Kuakini and another local chief who accompanied the British that day, silently allowed the looting of the temple, but they did prevent the removal of the bones. The royal remains were moved first in late 1828 or early 1829 to caves at Kealakekua Bay, and subsequently in 1865 to the royal mausoleum at Nu‘uanu in Honolulu. The then-empty Hale gradually fell into disrepair until restored by the National Park Service in the 1960s.
Though Hale o Keawe is the most important and recognizable structure in the park, there are many other significant objects as well. Within the pu‘uhonua side of the park, these include:
• The Keoua Stone, named after Kamehameha’s father, who supposedly slept on the 13 ½-foot long stone, shaded by a coconut leaf canopy supported by posts inserted in holes carved in the rock.
• The Ka‘ahumanu Stone, named after Kamehameha’s favorite wife. According to legend, after the couple quarreled, Ka‘ahumanu fled to Hōnaunau and hid beneath the rock. Her barking dog revealed her hiding place and the pair reconciled. Mark Twain, who visited the site in 1866, scoffed at the story: “for Ka‘ahumanu was 6 feet high—she was bulky—she was built like an ox—and she could no more have squeezed herself under that rock than she could have passed between the cylinders of a sugar mill.”  But then perhaps she wanted to be discovered.
• Konane stone, a two by two-and-one-half-foot basalt block with shallow holes of nine by 11 rows marking the positions of black and white pebbles used in this checkers-like game. The stone itself is called a papamū.
• Hale o Papa, also called Heiau no na Wahine (the women’s temple) may have been either a temple or simply a place of seclusion for high-ranking women. Only the small (25 by 30 feet) stone platform exists today near the middle of the south wall.
There are fewer structural remains within the royal grounds of the park, but several natural formations provide a guide to the past. Keone‘ele Cove, the former royal canoe landing, once surrounded by grass huts, is now populated by honu, the green sea turtles so popular with visitors. The nearby Heleipalala fish pond, fed by an underground spring, once held the food of the ali‘i.  There is also a reconstructed canoe house (hālau) within the royal compound, which contains some ancient koa wood canoes, still in remarkable condition.
Because of the historical significance of the area, plans to acquire lands to establish a national park began in the late 1940s.  In July 1961, the City of Refuge National Historical Park was established, adopting the name that the Rev. William Ellis bestowed more than a century earlier. In 1978, at the request of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, however, the name was changed to the more appropriate Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
Today more than 400,000 visitors come each year to enjoy the scenic and historic wonders of the 400-acre park.

For Further Reading:
Cordy, Ross. Exalted Sits the Chief: The Ancient History of Hawai‘i Island. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2000.
Greene, Linda Wedel. “A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites on the West Coast of Hawai’i Island.” National Park Service, 1993.
James, Van. Ancient Sites of Hawai‘i: Archaeological Places of Interest on the Big Island. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1995.
Kirch, Patrick Vinton.  Feathered Gods and Fishhooks, An Introduction to Hawaiian Archaeology and Prehistory. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985.
Legacy of the Landscape: An Illustrated Guide to Hawaiian Archaeological Sites. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996.
National Park Service, “Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park”,
Oaks, Robert F.  Hawai‘i, A History of the Big Island.  Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

2012 Transit of Venus

May 2, 2012 by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Ke Ola Magazine - Transit of Venus - pgA

…Hawai‘i Island Best Place to See a Rare Astronomical Event…

By Jon Lomberg…

June 5, 2012

On June 5, 2012, the Earth, Sun, and the planet Venus will briefly line up, and Venus will slowly move across the Sun’s face, like a tiny eclipse. This is in fact the rarest eclipse visible from Earth, called a Transit of Venus. There have been only 53 of them since 2000 B.C. There was not a single transit in the entire 20th century. When they happen, they happen in pairs, eight years apart. The last one was in 2004, and its eight-year twin will be on June 5, 2012.
Since each transit is completed in a few hours—six hours in 2004—it is visible only to the hemisphere facing the Sun during that time. West Coasters will see it begin before the Sun sets for them. To see the entire transit, American astronomers are flocking to Hawai‘i’s observatories, from which the entire transit can be observed. (It’s visible in Alaska, too.) They will be joined by thousands of astro-tourists toting cameras and telescopes. This event will join a long tradition in which the islands of Polynesia are linked to astronomy.
In fact, this is really a feast for the mind, not for the eyes. Unlike the better-known solar and lunar eclipses, the Transit of Venus is a visually unspectacular event, just a small black dot taking all afternoon to move across the face of the Sun. Even with sun filters for safety, you’ll need sharp eyes to spot that tiny dot. But what an important dot it is! So important that it got astronomers tangled up in the rocky history of Western contact with Pacific culture. Their quest to observe this seldom-seen event brought scientists to Tahiti in 1769 and to Hawai‘i in 1874; both times the impact on the islanders was profound.


It was a Transit of Venus that prompted Captain Cook’s first voyage into the Pacific in 1769, specifically to observe the phenomenon. Earlier that century, Edmund Halley, namesake of the famous comet, published a mathematical method by which the transit could be used to measure the distance from the Earth to the Sun. The trick to Halley’s method was making accurately timed observations from different parts of the world and comparing when widely separated observers saw the event. Astronomers could then apply Halley’s method, using geometry to calculate the distance to the Sun with unprecedented accuracy.
Who cared? And why send a ship all the way to Tahiti to find out? The interest was not purely scientific. Knowing the distance to the Sun would improve the accuracy of navigation and reduce the enormous losses of men and ships due to the poor navigation of that period. In those pre-GPS days, all navigation was done by observing changing positions of the Sun, Moon and stars during a voyage.
Their positions could be predicted by the science of celestial mechanics.
Celestial mechanics is the study of how objects move in space. The orbital motions of the Sun, Earth and Moon can be understood and predicted using the laws of motion formulated by Sir Isaac Newton in the mid-1600s. This science has been among the most generous to society, explaining as it does the timing of sunsets, tides, eclipses, and transits. By the 1700s, Western navigators realized that improvements in celestial mechanics would allow improvements in navigation. Astronomical charts and tables could tell a ship captain where the Sun, Moon and planets would be seen at any location and at any time.
But to work the equations in their celestial mechanics, astronomers needed to know the distance to the Sun.
Halley didn’t live long enough to see the next transit in 1761. But he didn’t miss much. Bad weather in Europe and Africa frustrated most observers trying to see that transit from Europe and Africa. Among those disappointed in South Africa were the astronomer/surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who later established their eponymic line dividing Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia (and, in the Civil War, North from South).
Astronomers had eight years to prepare for the next transit in the pair and that one would not be visible from Europe.
So Britain decided to send its most able sea captain, James Cook, to an ideal observing site halfway around the world to make the observations sought by the British admiralty. In 1769 Cook sailed the bark Endeavor to the Pacific island of Tahiti, which had been reached by the first Europeans only two years earlier. It was perfectly situated for observing. Cook and astronomer Charles Green came well prepared with a portable observatory.
Cook successfully arrived in Tahiti in time to establish his observatory at what is still called Point Venus, on the northernmost tip of the island. He and Green made their observations and sailed home, their epic voyage taking them through storm and shipwreck, discovering Australia along the way. Cook’s navigation was perfect, but 40 percent of the crew, including astronomer Green, perished from tropical disease on the final leg of the trip home. Such losses were considered normal in those days.
Captain Cook’s voyage thrilled all of Europe and sparked a new wave of exploration by Western navies. Unfortunately, Cook and Green’s transit observations were not accurate enough to fix the Sun’s distance—their optical and timekeeping instruments were just not good enough for the task.
Cook was to make two more epic Pacific voyages and his name is honored all over the hemisphere, from Vancouver Island to Sydney Harbour. His final voyage was the first European contact with Hawai‘i, the most remote chain of islands in the world.
In 1779 Cook landed at Kealakekua Bay and ultimately suffered a tragic fate arising from the profound misunderstanding between the Hawaiians and the English. That tale has been told often and well. Less well known is the fact that, before his death, Cook used his portable observatory to fix Hawai‘i’s latitude and longitude. Maps would finally show Western navigators how to find Hawai‘i.
Of course the Polynesians had mastered this feat centuries earlier, canoeing thousands of miles across the ocean with nothing but a song and the stars to guide them. One of the ironies of history is that Cook, the greatest navigator of his age, remained ignorant of the depth of navigational wisdom possessed by the Pacific peoples that he met.
Cook’s measurements were precise and skillful, and his charting of Hawai‘i’s location was accurate enough to remain in use until the next Transit of Venus expedition made even more
precise measurements.


The next transit occurred on December 9, 1874, and the full story is in the new book Hokulua by astronomer Michael Chauvin (Bishop Museum Press) in which these 1874 photographs appear. Again it was not visible from Europe, and again the British sent an expedition to the Pacific to observe it, this time in Hawai‘i. In fact, observations were done from several places in the Hawaiian Islands, including Kailua-Kona on Hawai‘i Island. This time relations between the Hawaiians and the British were much smoother. Hawai‘i’s new king, David Kalākaua, was an educated man who loved the arts and sciences and gave the British every possible help in making their observations. He offered them suitable land in ‘Āpua, not far from the Honolulu waterfront, which the astronomers fenced in and filled with a small but well-equipped observatory. He also allowed the preparation of another observing site in Kailua-Kona, which would lessen the chance of being completely clouded out by bad weather over one island.
The big day came with clear weather in the sky, but trouble on the ground. (See sidebar)
Even with their expertise, the British failed to improve the estimate of the Sun’s distance. By 1874 navigators relied on marine chronometers to fix the location of a ship relative to Greenwich, England, so the Sun’s distance was far less important to navigation. Still, Tupman was disappointed that it was not until the 1882 Transit of Venus (second in that pair) that the commonly accepted value of about 93 million miles was determined by the American astronomer Simon Newcomb.
The 1874 expedition was also interested in studying the slight halo that appeared around Venus at the moment the planet appeared to touch the Sun, visible in Charles Green’s drawing. This was caused by the Sun’s light passing through the planet’s atmosphere, and was the first proof that Venus had an atmosphere at all. It’s a wonderful example of how scientists use such small details to reveal enormous secrets.
Before they left Hawai‘i, the British had one final act of homage to perform. They erected a monument at the site of Captain James Cook’s death at Kealakekua Bay, now a well-visited attraction for travelers.
I am among the dedicated stargazers attracted to Hawai‘i by its peerless skies and by discoveries by observatories from all over the world, sharing the summit of lofty Mauna Kea. This continuing association of Pacific islands with astronomy could not be more appropriate. Without astronomy, none of the islands of the Pacific would have human populations. From the very beginning of human settlement in Hawai‘i until the present day, Hawai‘i is where the Universe comes down to Earth, and where human curiosity reaches out to the stars. ❖

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hawai‘i Island resident and EMMY Award-winning artist Jon Lomberg was Carl Sagan’s colleague on the TV series Cosmos and the film “Contact.” Asteroid Lomberg was officially named in his honor in 1998. He was design director for NASA’s legendary Voyager Golden Record, and has sent artwork to Mars aboard NASA’s Phoenix, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity spacecraft. A Big Island resident since 1987, Mr. Lomberg works with the Mauna Kea Observatories in astronomy outreach, including tours of the Galaxy Garden he designed at Paleaku Peace Gardens in Hōnaunau. See: and He blogs at

For more information:
NASA eclipse information:

WARNING! Looking directly at the sun without proper sun filters can cause permanent blindness in seconds. Photo film and colored glass will NOT block the harmful radiation. Some recommended methods are via rear projection screen, solar filtered telescope, #14 or greater welding glass, disposable “eclipse shades” and live webcast. There are even apps for cell phones. Find more information about how to view the sun safely at:

Astronomers vs.Hawaiians

…A Viewpoint by Jon Lomberg

In the story of Western contact with Hawai‘i, the tradition of scientific observation has played a noble part. But sadly, another tradition also exists, and that is the lack of trust between astronomers and people from the communities in which they observe. This animosity has been present since the 1874 British expedition brought in the first wave of astronomers eager to observe. Just look at what happened then.
About three weeks after King David Kalākaua warmly welcomed the astronomers, he paid them an unannounced visit and proposed the astronomers celebrate a week of festivities with his people, who could be shown the observatory and look through the telescopes. There would be music by the King’s own orchestra, hula, feasts… the king would lay
it on royally.
What a generous impulse on the part of the young ruler!
He knew exactly what the astronomers were doing and why, and he wanted to share that with his people, themselves heirs to a long tradition of astronomy.
The astronomers listened and subsequently ignored King Kalākaua’s proposal. Expedition leader Dr. George Tupman even recorded his irritation with being interrupted at his work. Clearly he felt the idea of a star party was impertinent. There was no way they were letting Hawaiians get anywhere near the telescopes. Tupman, of course, neither knew nor cared about Hawaiian astronomy. The voyages of the canoe Hokule’a were a hundred years in the future. Until then, Hawai‘i’s indigenous astronomical tradition was ignored by almost everyone.
Tupman’s arrogant attitude is characteristic of his era. These were men of their time, colonialists who had brought tinned fruit with them to eat in Hawai‘i. And they were the first to commit a civic error fatal to community support: lack of sincere interest in education and outreach. Would they have been so dismissive of the king’s idea had it come from a white European monarch?
On Dec.9, 1874, the day of the Transit, Kalākaua was in Washington D.C., hammering out the historic Reciprocity Treaty with Congress and meeting President Ulysses. S. Grant. Meanwhile, back in Honolulu, crowds of citizens in their party clothes started gathering to share the big event with their astronomer guests. But the astronomers had no intention of sharing it with anyone. A standoff followed and grew heated, and the atmosphere had changed from one of a party to a hostile confrontation. This so alarmed Queen Kapi‘olani that she and the Dowager Queen Emma had to appeal to the crowd for calm.
So what did the British do? Set up a telescope or two and teach some astronomy? Show the kids the craters of the Moon and the rings of Saturn? No, instead the British Commissioner promptly landed marines from HMS Scout to maintain order, Empire-fashion, with armed troops. The first observatory in Hawai‘i came within a whisker of being sacked by an angry mob, thus recapitulating Cook’s own fate when he underestimated the dignity and resolve of Hawaiian people.
To me this history is a parable. In recent years our Hawai‘i Island observatories have made some efforts at outreach through lecture series, exhibits, etc., but the central problem remains disturbingly similar to the way it was back in 1874. Despite some admirable individual efforts, outreach programs of the Mauna Kea observatories are still understaffed, underfunded, and the first thing to be cut when budgets are trimmed. The attitude persists among astronomers that public education is not their job. It is a marginalized afterthought at best.
Residents and visitors can enjoy the excellent programs at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, which is not affiliated with any observatory. The Big Island should be the voice of astronomy to the world—starting with all island residents. Astronomers have to accept the responsibility of sharing their knowledge of the Cosmos. Everybody is interested.  And for Hawaiians, it’s in their blood.

Earl Bakken, at 88, Has Many Dreams Come True

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Earl Bakken

…Visionary Philanthropist Wants Kids to Have a Better Future…

By Fern Gavelek…
He goes to bed every night with pen and paper at his side.
“That’s because I dream of ideas while falling asleep,” says Earl Bakken, M.D. HON. C.
One of those ideas changed the world in 1957—an external, wearable, battery-powered, transistorized pacemaker. Four weeks later it began stimulating human heart tissue and saving lives—the first was a little girl in Minneapolis.
As a nine-year-old boy, Earl began dreaming of helping others via electricity, inspired by the movie, “Frankenstein.” He dreamed of becoming an electrical engineer—done. He dreamed of “The Body Electric” and producing implantable pumps for each body area or organ—done. He dreamed of many things, big and small.
Find eight decades of Earl’s dreams—and their progress—at The web page provides a peek into the life of Earl Bakken, who lives in a sprawling, oceanside retreat on the Kohala Coast. The Midwest native has been described as “a true pioneer— a person who, through his vision, inspiration, courage and leadership—can change the course of human history.”
An ever-enterprising science and technology buff, Earl lists his first dream of helping others as “done and still going.” While Dr. Bakken has retired at Medtronic, the multi-billion dollar medical technology company he co-founded, he’s “busy as ever” trying to improve the health care and well-being of Hawai‘i Island residents.
“I have been driven by a heartfelt desire to use my knowledge and energy to help mankind,” smiles the 88-year-old. “My life’s intention to help others lives in my heart, even as my mind
dreams on.”
One of those initiatives has had a profound effect on Hawai‘i Island residents and visitors. The vision took shape with the opening of North Hawai‘i Community Hospital (NHCH) in 1996. Dr. Bakken was part of the grassroots organization to get a badly needed full-service hospital in Waimea. What he brought to the table was the idea of integrated care—treating the patient at all levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually and culturally.
“Our vision for the hospital was and continues to be to treat the whole individual: body, mind and spirit,” emphasizes Dr. Bakken. He proudly says the hospital has “67 things” that makes it different from other hospitals to promote healing—like the notably wider hallways, colored lighting, oversized patient rooms to accommodate visitors and a meditation garden. There’s also things you can’t see, like power cables that are buried deeper than code to reduce the harmful effects of EMFs (electromagnetic fields).
“To create a blended healing environment, we relied on high-tech science and high touch,” he details, describing “high touch” as a combination of “complementary healing techniques,
cultural wisdom, the aloha spirit and feng shui—the human/caring component.”

Hawai‘i-The Healing Island

Once the hospital opened, Dr. Bakken was convinced it was “only the beginning of a much larger enterprise that could rejuvenate the entire island, while offering a whole new concept of health care to the world.” Earl called that dream the “Healing Island” in his 1999 autobiography, “One Man’s Full Life.” In the book, Dr. Bakken says a “Healing Island is in harmony with itself and the world.”
Missions he identified for a Healing Island included:
• Acquire resources and values in health, healing and wholeness that are blessed by the spirit of the traditional culture of Hawai‘i.
• Establish a reputation for Northwest Hawai‘i as a place of beauty and healing where people may, in the spirit of aloha, achieve self-realization and contribute their best to other individuals, society, nature and the land in exchange for a meaningful, happy and satisfying life.
Dr. Bakken explains the Healing Island model “rests on a return to self-responsibility, and its success depends on the involvement of family and community.” In addition, he says the concept relies on education, plus developing incentives and understanding that will inspire healthy behaviors.
To implement tools for achieving a Healing Island, Earl became involved with a handful of programs and non-profits—some were already getting started and others he initiated. They include Friends of the Future, Tutu’s House, Earl’s Garage, Five Mountains Hawai‘i, The Kohala Center, the Makali‘i Voyaging Project and the North Hawai‘i Outcomes Project. He saw a value in all of them to achieve his dream to make Hawai‘i Island the “Healing Island.”

NHOP Provides Health Data

To have credible health data on Hawai‘i Island, the Earl and Doris Bakken Foundation created the North Hawai‘i Outcomes Project (NHOP) in 1999. It serves as a measurement tool that prepares and analyzes a Hawai‘i Island Community Health Profile. The vision of the project is to provide isle healthcare leaders with data so they can, in turn, better improve health care.
The value of NHOP is illustrated in the reduction of traffic-related deaths in Hawai’i County since 2004. In 2001, the project identified Big Island traffic deaths “nearly three times higher” than state figures. NHOP facilitated a meeting with key stakeholders who formed the Motor Vehicle Crash Reduction Group. The group tackled the issue with a 10-step plan, and the effort garnered $515,000 to fund high-visibility sobriety checks.
Updated every two years and available at, the Community Profile focuses on 16 identified critical health issues in the community, including “improvement of educational attainment.” That issue has a high priority with Dr. Bakken, who believes “education is one of the most powerful social and economic determinants of health.”
“Kids who drop out of high school die at a higher rate than those who have some college,” shares Earl. Citing 2008 U.S. Census data for people aged 24-65, he notes deaths per 100,000 people were 550 for high school dropouts, 450 for grads and 200 for those with 13 years of education.
“There’s a big difference in the death rates of high school graduates and those with a year of college,” points out Dr. Bakken. “Hawai‘i Island, particularly the West side, needs to offer a 13th year of school. I’ve heard 23 percent of kids on our East Side get a 13th year, and only 9 percent get it on our West Side. I’m all for efforts to build a tech school.”

Tools for a Healing Island

In addition to NHOP, Earl ‘s efforts have been instrumental in promoting community health and wellness. He “helped assemble” health initiatives like Five Mountains Hawai‘i while serving as a “thinker” for organizations like Friends of the Future.
One organization that is “dear to his heart” is Earl’s Garage in Kamuela Business Center (KBC). “It’s where kids go after school and focus on science and technology,” he says. “They compete in robotic competitions.” Also open during school breaks, Earl’s Garage, which started in 1999, offers science exploration projects, mixed with activities that engage the imagination. “We need more Garages as there’s no tech school,” laments Earl, who feels local students should be allowed “now” to be involved with the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope. “Let’s use it as a training tool,” he suggests.
Also at KBC is Tutu’s House, a community health and resource center. “It’s got seven non-profits attached to it and offers classes and programs led by experts in their fields to encourage healthy behaviors,” explains Earl. Recent offerings tackled topics like fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, bereavement of a loved one and “Prescription Pain Pills – America’s Newest Epidemic.”
Also encouraging educational development and healthy behaviors is Five Mountains Hawai‘i, of which Earl is a founding father. Programs include the North Hawai‘i Drug-Free Coalition, Take It (weight) Off Hawai‘i and the Lifeplan Institute Hawai‘i Island. “I love the Lifeplan idea of partnering youth with mentors so they have a plan in place prior to graduating high school,” he says. “It’s doing a good job; we have over 100 kids involved.”
Earl is particularly proud of the efforts of the Kohala Center. It was founded in 2001 after several North Hawai‘i community forums asked the question, “What would make us a happier and healthier community?” As a community based center for research, conservation and education, it offers educational and employment opportunities through caring for the ‘āina. Work focuses on ecosystem health and self-reliance in the areas of energy and food.
“The Kohala Center brings in college students to use our island as a lab, a classroom,” says Earl, referring to workshops offered by Brown and Cornell Universities. He feels it’s important to “teach kids to do things right to protect the land.” The Kohala Center has several community programs, including the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network, which involves 63 school and community gardens where people grow food in an outdoor learning lab,

Be Part of the Dream

As Dr. Bakken feels the success of Hawai’i Island “depends on the involvement of family and community,” he suggests “all residents, full-time and part-time, get active and involved.”
“There’s a lot to do,” Earl says, when referring to data found in the new 2012 Community Profile. (See sidebar.) “We don’t seem to be doing so great. However, it would be worse if we weren’t doing anything.”
Undaunted and driven by his dream for a Healing Island, Earl adds, “We can achieve this vision by understanding kuleana (the Hawaiian value of accepting responsibility and accountability) and by doing what we can to help organizations already working hard to achieve a Healing Island—with our financial support and our volunteer time.”
And to any dreamers out there, Earl recommends you “chase your dreams as they, along with your visions, have a way of predicting and preceding reality.” ❖
For more information, visit

2012 Health Profile

Released this spring, NHOP’s 2012 Hawai‘i County Community Health Profile shows the health of Hawai‘i Island residents is worse than the rest of the state. It reports Hawai‘i Island has higher rates of smoking, binge drinking and obesity and there is significantly lower access to healthcare. And while more Hawai‘i County residents age 25 and over have a high school diploma compared with the rest of the state, fewer residents have some college education.
According to NHOP, one of the many ways that education influences health is through income, More education is associated with higher income and better health. Lower income impacts health through living conditions and access to
quality healthcare.
Focusing on the economic determinants of health, the 2012 profile reports Hawai‘i Island has:
• A per capita (per person) income of $22,713—
trailing all other island counties.
• A 2010 median income of $46,444—
again lowest of all counties.
• Nearly one in five residents (18.4 percent) has an income at or
below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)—
O’ahu has about one in 10.
Offering ways to improve Big Island health, the profile calls for intervention in three modifiable areas:
• Improve income per capita through educational opportunities
and economic and workforce development in education,
science, energy and health.
• Initiate system and individual changes to reduce non-healthy
• Improve access to healthcare by growing the primary care workforce and increasing the proportion of the population  who have  healthcare insurance.
For the full report, which also covers access to healthcare and the health status of people divided by life stages,
Contact writer Fern Gavelek:

Every Store Has a Story

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Family Store

…The Saito Family and Pa‘auilo Store…

By Hadley Catalano…

It might just be that a simple bento roll is what has kept the Saito family of Hāmākua in business all these years, and helped their family store to recently reach its 63rd anniversary. You may have heard about those bento rolls at the Pa`auilo Store. Maybe you read a brief paragraph in a guidebook suggesting you make Pa`auilo Store—a small storefront on highway 19 along the Hāmākua coast—a stop on your way from Waimea to Hilo. Perhaps your friend lives nearby in one of the picturesque towns that dot the cliff-side community and frequently feeds his appetite with the Korean chicken bento.Whatever serendipity brings you there, the homemade roll is worth the drive, and so is the story behind the longtime family-operated store.
While any small family business will find it hard to stay competitive these days, it may be that the long-lasting traditions valued by both shop owners and patrons along the East side have been a contributing factor to the sustainability of this mom-and-pop shop. There are many historical general stores like Pa`auilo Store scattered around Hawai`i Island—still run by generations of families who started in business years ago. Grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Portuguese businessmen now stand behind the counter, stock shelves and make deliveries. Unfortunately these stores—the ones that have been in business for more than 50 years—are the last of their breed. It’s all the more reason to preserve their existence, continue their stories and provide a living example of how the foundations of hard work, dedication and community commitment can help perpetuate the culture and lifestyle of the Hawaiian people, of all ethnic backgrounds.
From the early to mid-1900s, when sugar plantations along the Hāmākua coast were at the height of operations— immigration, labor and commerce were thriving up and down the East coast of Hawai`i Island. In the sleepy town of Pa`auilo—situated less than 10 miles south of Honoka`a—packed together along the small roads in the old village, there existed two grocery stores run by two Filipino families, another third store, a vegetable stand, two restaurants and a number of other small businesses. It was during this time, in 1949, when business partners Torao Saito and Pedro Eugenio took over the Pa`auilo Store from the Theo H. Davies Co. sugar plantation, which had operated the small grocery store along the highway.
“My father-in-law used to work for the plantation store before the company leased it to him,” said Miriam Saito, wife of the late Earl Saito, Torao’s son. He began work in his father’s business after returning from the Navy. “It was so big back then, it was more like a department store [of today]. We sold clothing and food; there was a meat market and we had two gas pumps.”
The lively 73-year-old great-grandmother has worked in the family business for the past 42 years. (She did “odds-and-ends” jobs beginning in 1959.) She continues, telling how Earl and his father used to drive down to Hilo to pick up the store’s supplies that came in by freight (a tradition that would eventually be part of Earl’s sons’ memories as well) and describing the freshness of the meat market.
“The meat came from my father-in-law’s cows. He raised them on Hawaiian Homeland pastures, and every Sunday he would go riding and pick out the cows to slaughter. On Monday he would pick up the slaughtered meat,” she reminisced. “The area was booming back then. People from all the neighboring towns like `Ō`ōkala would come here, but after the plantation closed everything went down.”
Earl took over the store from his ailing father and, in the 1970s, he transformed the business to Earl’s Snack Shop, sensing a need in the community to follow a trend and revive the declining market. He sold hamburgers, French fries, milkshakes, sandwiches, hot plates and cold drinks. From there the business began to grow over the years, with the help of Earl’s sons, Mark and Miles, and son-in-law Schoen Maekawa. In 1981 Earl’s also started selling bentos, the typical Japanese home-packed meal, which boxes rice, a chicken or fish option and a pickled or cooked vegetable, and they soon became a lunchtime trademark favorite for locals.
Maekawa, who, according to Saito, made delicious sushi plates and rolls for his family at home, invented Earl’s Bento Roll. By taking all the elements of the bento plate, he rolled them all together with nori into a sushi-like roll.
“People are often confusing the bento roll with a sushi roll,” explained Saito. “There is a difference. The sushi rice is made with vinegar and the bento roll rice is just plain rice.”
Capitalizing on their popular specialty foods, the family started a catering service, (winning the bid at the former Hyatt Regency) and three lunch wagons in 1987 to service the island community—especially construction workers and hotel workers along the Kohala Coast. Between the store and the other services, the family business peaked at 22 employees. In time, the economic downturn would effect Earl’s business, bringing the lunch truck down to one and employment down to five people. However, following in the footsteps of their late father, with hard work and a determination to bring local, favorite food to the community, Mark and Miles opened a second store in Waimea—called Earl’s Waimea—in 2009.
In 1994 Kamehameha Schools acquired the bankrupt lands of the closing Hāmākua Sugar Co., including Pa`auilo Store; and in October of 2010 the trust decided to tear down the old store building, deeming it in poor shape. The trust offered the Saito family a five-year lease in an adjacent building just 30 yards away from their former location.
Today, the Pa`auilo Store sits in a space that was once the former office of Hāmākua Sugar’s industrial relations department, sharing the building with the Pa`auilo Post Office. Newly renovated by the trust, the new store’s grand opening was held on December 22, 2011. It would have been Earl’s birthday.
In a congratulatory message to the family, both the Hawai`i County Council and State Senate acknowledged and applauded the Saitos’ exemplary employees, excellent customer service, quality food and community connection. One of the plaques reads:
“Whereas the Saito family has welcomed, fed and also provided for the small Pa`auilo community for over three generations—[and] continued to serve Pa`auilo proudly as a gathering place with familiar faces and Earl’s famous Bento Rolls… we recognize and congratulate the Saito `ohana.”
The original plantation store and community landmark now swings open its wide-hinged doors six days a week. Mrs. Saito can be found working every day, filling out paperwork, chatting with her morning coffee and musubi regulars, or stocking the wooden shelves in the small, freshly painted store with simple grocery items—saving her customers a trip to Honoka`a—and of course presiding over the selling out of the family’s famous rolls and bentos. Ask Mrs. Saito when you come into the Pa`auilo shop and she will take you to one of the small side rooms, which showcases antique equipment used at the stores since the 1950s and photos of family and friends on the walls.
“Here,” she said, pointing out a signed letter. “This is from the president of Portugal. He stopped by and I told him I was half Portuguese. Over here is a note from Cabbage Correira, a mixed martial artist, this is from George Na`ope, and you won’t believe who came in once…Martin Sheen.”
As she went on to tell the tale of Martin Sheen’s charity walk drop-in and how another time a couple had just gotten married and wanted a bento roll and she just had to take a photograph, she is subconsciously demonstrating how she keep’s Earl’s memory alive and subsequently the life of the store and the history within.
Some of the store’s dedicated employees, like Bernadette Johansen, have been working there for 40 years. Carmen DeMello, who grew up in the Hāmākua plantation camps, has worked at the Pa`auilo store for more than 12 years, said, “It takes family to work together to keep the business going.”
Family has indeed been the unwavering moral fiber of the 63-year-old business and many businesses like it throughout the island’s history. Further down the road, in Waimea, Miles and his two children, Tyler, 18 and Marisa, 16, are cleaning up one weekday afternoon during March spring break. The next generation of Saitos, who attend Parker School, are helping their father clean the kitchen and mop, and Saito’s sister, who is a school teacher in Honoka`a sometimes takes calls for food orders. For the Saito family—and all historical family stores—the legacy relies on the strong backbone of personal relationships, community involvement, and loyal patronage.
“This is how we remember and honor our ancestors, the generations before, and we’re trying to perpetuate that and pass that living legacy on,” Miles said. “The grand-opening commemoration service was nice, emotional to see the old store gone, but it’s the name, the family—we are still around and we are rebuilding.” ❖
Contact writer Hadley Catalano:
All photos courtesy of the Saito family

Leo Sears: Curtain Going Up

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Ke Ola Magazine -  Leo Sears - pgA

By Catherine Tarleton…
Little did Leo Sears know, back in Kansas, that his first onstage experience in a local high school play, “Curtain Going Up,” would be an appropriate title for his own life drama and career. Even though his leading lady proved uncooperative, it was his first appearance in the limelight. “I was supposed to sweep my love interest off her feet and carry her offstage,” said Sears. “And I was also supposed to kiss her, but she said ‘No way!’” said Sears, recalling merciless teasing from his buddies.
Nearly 50 years later, Sears has been a decorated U.S. Marine, acted in theatre and movies, published plays and screenplays, directed 65 plays and produced 90 plays. He was a high school drama teacher for 27 ½ years, ran a successful dinner theatre in Phoenix with his wife Jan, moved to Hawai‘i and created the Big Island Film Festival, now in its seventh year.
“It started when we went to Maui Film Festival, and at a breakfast reception chatted with Marilyn Killeri {then Film Commissioner},” said Sears. “I asked her ‘Why don’t we have something like this on the Big Island?’ and she said ‘It takes somebody to make it happen.’” The wheels started turning for Jan and him.
“I had been to film festivals as both a patron and as a filmmaker, and picked elements I liked, and tried to avoid elements I thought were problematic with other festivals,” said Sears. “When I grew up watching movies, the storytelling was what I liked most. That’s why our focus is on narrative films and on the filmmakers.”
The first BIFF was in 2005. “Everything was well planned and ready to go on the two driving ranges at Kings’ Course and Beach Course,” said Sears, “Until hurricane-force winds hit and we had to move it all inside.” Still, the show must go on, and that first festival shared films with 425 attendees in the Hilton’s ballrooms.
Sears’ stint in the U.S. Marine Corps was good background for handling that kind of logistics with short notice. It’s also a reason he always makes sure that BIFF includes a benefit for veterans. Critically wounded in Viet Nam, Sears was evacuated by medevac to a hospital in Tokyo, with shrapnel injuries in 33 places. “I spent three days not knowing if I was going to live or die,” he said, “and thinking there was a whole lot I still wanted to accomplish.”
After his honorable discharge, a short time in Chicago and a stint as a California beach bum, Sears settled in Arizona to work for American Express and met Jan, whom he married in 1972. Son Jeff was born three years later. Leo then worked as a high school drama teacher, while Jan was a counselor and administrator.
Though passionate about the stage and screen, Sears never played the role of “starving artist.” “I started teaching because it was a way I knew I could make a living for my family, and still be involved in the arts. Teaching was a career—and the other stuff was gravy.” The “other stuff” included roles in a number of different movies shot in the area.
“I was in one of the worst movies ever made,” said Sears. “It was called ‘Thunder Warrior 3,’ made by an Italian film company with an Austrian director who didn’t speak English… In one chase scene, we were cruising through the desert in a car with the lead actor,” said Sears. “Then they stopped the car, took him out and put in stunt men and a stunt driver with us—no seatbelts, no helmets. We did this crazy, wide fishtail and stopped right next to the edge of a huge cliff!”
Sears appeared as an extra in “Waiting to Exhale,” (an executive bar patron), the TV series “American Girls” (the sunburned guy on the beach) and a movie called “Tank Girl,” starring Lori Petty. “I was one of the patrons in a nightclub where they had topless dancers,” said Sears, “and Lori Petty’s best friend Sharon Stone came to visit the set one day. Lori went into this big speech about ‘these women are not meat—keep your eyes off the girls.’ How were we supposed to do that?”
In between movie opportunities and work at school, Leo and Jan launched and operated the Metro Playhouse, a dinner theatre in Phoenix. “We created it,” said Sears. “I directed most of the plays there – wrote some, acted in a few.” Sears put up four shows a year at the high school and five or six at the Metro every year. One of those plays, “Once Is Enough” by Jack Sharkey, introduced Sears to his future writing partner.
“I got a message from the bartender that Jack Sharkey called and said he wanted to come to our opening night,” said Sears. “Well, opening night was April 1, so I figured it was one of my buddies playing a trick on us.”
Sears called publisher Samuel L. French and confirmed that it really was Sharkey, made arrangements for him to stay in a local hotel and excitedly told the cast. “They thought it was a joke too,” said Sears. “I couldn’t convince them he was real till he showed up. The funny thing was, for a while there, they were planning to have their own ‘Jack Sharkey’ in the house!”
The Sharkeys and Sears’ became friends and enjoyed seeing plays together. At one point, Leo asked Jack if he’d ever thought about writing with a partner. “He didn’t say anything,” said Sears. “But two days later he called me up and said ‘I have an idea.’” That idea turned into “100 Lunches,” which the team collaborated on, along with two other scripts, all published by Samuel L. French and two premiered at Metro Playhouse.
“That was before computers,” said Sears. “Jack operated off a manual typewriter. He would write one section, put it in the mail. Then I would add to it and mail it back. The amazing thing to me is you can’t tell where one of us stops and the other starts. Our styles blended well.” Their Christmas comedy, “Sorry! Wrong Chimney!” is still being performed in community theatres around the world.
Jeff Sears, 37, is a highly successful Strategic Account Director for Global Programs at DWA Healthcare Communications Group, based in Indiana. He remembers growing up in the family dinner theatre, and acting in plays and movies with his dad, including a small role in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
“’Bill and Ted’s’ was a family affair of extras,” said Jeff. “Dad filmed his segments in the ‘Old West’ a few days before my scene at the waterpark. Though it was Arizona, it was still winter, and cold, and the water was NOT heated. Giant lights made it appear like daytime (when it was still dark out)… Though I may be easier to locate in one specific scene at the top of the waterslide with Napolean, Mom’s foot was also easy to identify, with her rainbow-strapped flip-flop in the background of a scene at the ticket booth.”
Leo and Jan retired and moved to the Big Island in 2001, after almost 20 years of long, annual vacations in the islands. “We were in a hotel in LAX with a cat and a dog, ready to fly out on September 11,” said Sears. “Then we got the news, and we waited, not knowing what was going to happen next.” On the 15th, they were on the first flight that left Los Angeles
for Hawai‘i.
Within a few months of moving, Jan felt rundown, saw a doctor and was astonished to learn her kidneys had stopped functioning. With Jeff as her donor, kidney transplant surgery took place on March 5, 2002, near the anniversary of Leo’s 1968 wounding in Viet Nam. Following another surgery on March 2 of this year, she is a cancer survivor with an iron will and positive spirit, continuing to work side-by-side with Leo on the Big Island Film Festival.
This year, BIFF will host close to 2,000 participants over Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-28. In addition to free family films at The Shops at Mauna Lani, daytime movies, nighttime double features and other events at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai’i, there will be two screenwriting workshops on Thursday, and celebrity receptions on Friday and Saturday. BIFF’s final night “Best of the Fest” stars Kohala in concert and audience-voted Best Feature and Best Short of BIFF 2012. Best of the Fest is also a fundraiser for Hawai‘i Food Basket, and includes a silent auction for the Tripler Army Medical Center Fisher Houses.
“We are making exceptions and including two exceptional documentaries this year,” said Sears. “One is the story of the Beamer family, ‘Nona Beamer – Mālama Ko Aloha – Keep Your Love,’ which screens on Thursday.”
“The other is ‘Family of the Wa‘a’ on Sunday,” said Sears. “This is the story of an amazing canoe voyage of 1,750 miles across the Hawaiian archipelago. The Fairmont’s General Manager Chris Leudi was one of those paddlers, and we are excited to bring it to the property.”
As for all those things Sears wanted to accomplish as a young Marine, there are a few still on his list. “I have a couple of feature film scripts I want to get made,” he said. “And I’d love to have one of my plays performed by one of the local theater companies.” What about acting? “I have an agent in Honolulu and I want to be on Hawaii Five-0,”said Sears. Good guy or bad guy? “I don’t care,” he says, “Villains are more fun.” ❖
Contact writer Catherine Tarleton:

For more information about Big Island Film Festival, visit

Marked Teachings: Tattoo as Transformative Art

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Tattoo Story - pgA

…By Jessica Kirkwood…

The tattoo is not just a form of art, but a sacred
dance in symbolic healing. Marked in momentum, the
rhythm beats fast from the coiled snake. Journeying,
thoughts come forth from the void. Let them go.
Fear not the acceptance of others, but seek to know yourself,
for alone you will discover your true nature and the symbols
you carry with heart.    – Kevin Bays…

Nearly two years after the sudden passing of their friend and forever mentor, Kevin Bays, Kristin Lowery and Simon Gentry reveal how they turned an unfortunate tragedy into a form of healing and creative triumph. “Now I can look back and see that it’s fitting he died dancing. It’s very reflective of who he was,” reveals Kristin. And so this is the story of how a tattoo artist’s legacy has been deliberated through the hearts and hands of his two most devoted students.
With paintings hanging in the esteemed Hilton Waikoloa and the Chase & Hanes Gallery in Hilo, Simon Gentry was still desperately seeking to expand his creative potential. So in 2004, after five years on the Big Island, and with no firm ties grounding him to this locale, his next destination would be Alaska and beyond.
Nearing his last days as a cashier at Hilo Bayfront’s Abundant Life, a gentle, extremely tattooed man came through his till, and introduced himself as Kevin. A brief conversation over organic goods allowed them just enough time to link into a coincidental affiliation; they were both from Kansas and were both Fine Arts Majors.
“We hit if off immediately,” admits Simon, “he was looking for an apprentice, and so I brought him my portfolio.”
Although Simon had not a single tattoo on his body at the time, it was because of this chance meeting that he chose to stay in Hilo.
If it is meant to be, let the Universe provide the opportunity to make the connections that are necessary—to pollinate the evolution of thought. Not random, but it used to seem that way. It’s always a surprise. Now I am a magnet—creating the environment, attracting abundance, fueling positive relationships.  – Kevin Bays
Just a few months later, Kristin Lowery wandered into the shop where Kevin worked, in search of an artist to give her a small, weathered bottle containing a script inside—a message in a bottle, symbolizing her newly-discovered awakenings since moving to the Big Island. She immediately took a liking to Kevin’s portfolio.
“I remember we were wearing the same straw fedora hat,”
she smiles.
Over the following few months, between engaging coffee talks and trips to the ocean, Kristin and Kevin’s friendship evolved into a romance. Upon repeatedly hearing about Kevin’s newest friend and apprentice, Simon, Kristin jokingly (and with a big hint of sincerity) asked when she too could apprentice with him.
“Kevin said he thought I’d never ask,” recalls Kristin, “he was just waiting for me to say the words.”
Kevin’s time became divided between guiding Kristin, tucked among the trees along Puna’s Red Road, and teaching Simon the skills, techniques and aesthetic possibilities of his trade in Hilo. Both Kristin and Simon were given the opportunity to watch Kevin in his element, and said they began realizing that there was a whole other dimension to tattooing that they were just beginning to understand.
A popular art amongst sailors and slaves, and kings to commoners, the ancient practice of tattoo was once used to smuggle secret messages across enemy lines and has even been discovered on olden mummies.
Traditional tattoos in old Hawai’i used an ink created from ground kukui nuts and sugarcane juice. Ritual needles were bird claws, beaks and fish bones that were tied to sticks and struck with a mallet to puncture the skin.
The art was eventually introduced to the West by Captain James Cook during his 1769 voyage to the South Pacific, and in 1777 the word was put into the English dictionary. From the Hawaiian ‘kakau’ and the Tahitian ‘tatau’, meaning ‘to mark,’ the word has also been suggested to be onomatopoeic in nature, with ‘tat’ referring to the tapping of the instrument on the skin and ‘au’ the voiced reaction from the person being marked!
To the ancient Hawaiians, tattoos were used for many reasons, one of which was to identify individuals, linking them to a specific tribe and family. Another was for warriors to look savagely fierce and to frighten their opponents in battle. Slaves, the lowest level in the Hawaiian kapu system, were marked with a single line across the bridge of their noses. Often, the designs had hidden and personal meanings that weren’t readily apparent to passersby.
Kristin, previously a graphic designer from Chicago, eventually purchased her own equipment and began inking her friends in Puna.
“I got to tattoo and bond with my ‘ohana, and then watch many places in each person heal,” she says. “It’s an honor to participate with someone in that process.”
Oddly enough Kristin and Simon pretty much passed each other by, having met only briefly on a few occasions. However, it didn’t take long for either of them to realize that Kevin was not merely teaching them the art of design, print, and skin, but slowly, and without force, the art of living, too.
“I always had serendipitous moments when I was around him,” reflects Simon, “He was a visionary. He was constantly looking for signs and symbols around him. He even studied
his dreams.”
Kevin Bays was a Buddhist practitioner and a Reverend. And although he studied the philosophies, religions, prophecies and divinations of many diverse cultures, he connected most to the spiritual teachings of the Native American Indian Church—namely to the sacred Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel teaches that all lessons are equal; as are all talents and abilities, and that each spoke is experienced by every living creature. Just as the rotation of the planets, moons, and galaxies, even the changing of the seasons, the circle is continuous—it is never ending. It signifies life without end. Kevin spent a generous amount of time volunteering at Native American churches in Los Angeles, where he studied the Wheel with great veneration and detail. The Wheel eventually brought him to study the symbolic and healing art of tattoo.
“Kevin trusted in the Universe and believed that everything happens as it should,” says Kristin. “He reminded me that I was given the tattoos that I was meant to do.”
Kevin eventually gave Simon his first tattoo. Suitably, it was a small yellow Western Meadowlark, the state bird of Kansas, signifying their mutual connection to their homeland. His second tattoo, again given by Kevin, would be an i’iwi, or honeycreeper – the state bird of Hawai’i.
Change our vocabulary, our mindset, our habits, and thus change our world. And among this we may even attract exactly what we need for growth, maybe someone that shares many of our same ideals and gives us the reflection we need to see more about who we are and how we define ourselves.     – Kevin Bays
Everything was flowing well until simultaneously and without warning, Simon and Kristin’s worlds came to a crashing halt. Surrounded by close friends and community members, Kevin passed away suddenly and very unexpectedly due to a rare, genetic heart condition while dancing at the Palace Theatre in Hilo on January 10, 2010. He was 36 years old.
“I spent a good chunk of time in shock. My friends took care of me. They brought me meals over the following weeks,” said Kristin.
Eventually, with patience and time by her side, Kristin admits to experiencing unusual freeing sensations following some of her lengthiest bouts of sorrow—moments when her grief was suddenly eclipsed by a liberating gratitude that the depth of suffering was finally beginning to subside. These moments began revealing to her a more expansive trust in life itself.
“I had a general feeling of the Universe opening up,” she recalls.
Simon was abroad at the time of Kevin’s memorial, and although he didn’t learn about his friend’s passing until after he arrived back in Hawai’i, he almost immediately began tattooing customers that Kevin had not yet completed. “Finishing the tattoos that Kevin had started was definitely a big part of my grieving process.”
Emotions do not make us weak, but make us more whole. If we deny any aspect of ourselves then we deny our true potential.   -Kevin Bays
As tattoo artists, both Kristin and Simon recognize that clients often come in with a design, tied to some personal meaning, but understand that, more often than not, the true meaning reveals itself in the days and months following the tattoo.
“The tattoo itself has a way of transforming you,” says Simon.
“By putting something on top of your skin, you’re revealing more of what is underneath it,” adds Kristin.
The two maintain that Kevin’s death was much like the process of receiving a tattoo. “I didn’t really understand his teachings until after he died,” says Kristin, “His whole philosophy was of trusting in the Universe and trusting the process. And I was pushed into really understanding and living these lessons. I don’t think I could have understood them otherwise.”
One of Simon’s more recent tattoos entitled “For the Sun,” is a beautifully detailed design with a history tied to the Native American Church. Applying the tattoo to his own body, it circulates with bright, moving colors, and is a fantastic example of not only his remarkable talent, but his heartfelt approach to his art.
“It represents Kevin’s place in my life,” he says, “I believe he has ascended to the next realm and is now achieving higher enlightenment. I want to honor this knowing.”
Tattooing was an integral part of mourning among Pacific Island cultures. In the Marquesas, New Zealand and in Hawai‘i, the names of the deceased were often inscribed on the body as a sign of grievance.  Upon the death of Kamehameha the Great in 1819, several Hawaiians tattooed his name and date of death on their bodies as a symbol of respect and loyalty.  A practice that is still apparent today. Hawai’i’s Queen Kamamalu had her tongue tattooed as an expression of sorrow when her mother-in-law passed away. When missionary William Ellis inquired about the pain she had undergone while receiving the tattoo, her reply was, “Ha eha nui no, he nui roa ra ku’u aroha,” meaning, “Great pain indeed, greater is my affection.”
Although healing was finally taking form for Kristin and Simon, still they found themselves at a rather daunting roadblock. What would they do now that Kevin was gone? They decided to join forces.
At first they met over dinner, bonding over Kevin’s death. Then their meetings soon evolved in to a full-blown action plan. Their shared scar tissue became a catalyst for growth. They maintain that having Kevin as their teacher was an honor and a blessing, and that opening their own shop,
“South Seas Tattoo,” was a large part of their coping process.
“Even in his death he is still our mentor,” says Simon. When we can’t decide on something, we say, ‘What would Kevin do?’ We constantly keep his spirit alive.”
Each step, whether good or bad, is still a step forward. Lessons to be learned. Possessions to be renounced. The shedding of assumptions like the shedding off of skin and hair. The little deaths we live each day leading us to new births, the cycle continues.   – Kevin Bays
Kevin came into their lives at about the same time, and then left them both with an art form that is now their all-consuming passion. His guidance gave them the freedom to discover their own inclinations and talents, and to fashion their innermost pleasures. While at the same time, their sorrow over his death allowed them to regard the future not as frightening, but as a product of their own strengths and abilities.
“His passing thrust us both into maturity and professionalism,” discloses Kristin.
Signing their company’s business license on the one-year anniversary of Kevin’s passing, they even had a beautiful ceremony devoted to him on the opening day. Kristin hosted a successful art show in memory of Kevin, entitled “Through the Illusion,” on the grounds of Kalani Honua retreat in Puna. It featured the works of 40 artists, including Kevin’s own insights, art and poetry.
The less I hang on, the freer I become. The freer I become, the more space I provide. The more space I provide, the more room there is for spirit. For all things are but a creation within my own imagination. The people, the noise of murmur, murmur… the trees and flowers, mountains and ice, the cool breeze that kisses my cheek on a hot day. I am thankful. This is my song. Can you hear it in the thunder? – Kevin Bays
After sharing time with the humble and soft-spoken tattooists, I have a renewed respect for the power and propensity of what it means to heal – from the outer skin to the innermost parts of our being. I am reminded that we cannot evade our life’s course, which often includes deep and painful places, but we can courageously look upon these darker places, and see the fortune, the color, and the creativity, in our pain and sufferings most brilliant awakenings. ❖

Contact writer Jessica Kirkwood:

Save the Bees, Save the Planet

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Save the Bees

…Listening to the Buzz with Bee Oracle Alison Yahna…

By Marya Mann…

A honeybee swarm came to Alison Yahna and it changed her life forever.
The bees came in a swirling rush, alighting on a small cedar tree near her home. With help from a friend she moved the swarm from the tree into a beehive, and the little winged creatures crawled by the thousands up her bare arms.
“Make your spirit like honey, make your spirit like honey.” She calmed herself by repeating over and over the words from a prophetic dream she’d had a week earlier. “Make your spirit like honey, and attract the bees like honey.”
That first swarm came to Alison, a high school biology teacher in Portland, Oregon, in April of 1999. It was seven years before the worldwide honeybee decline brought fear to the bones of every beekeeper and farmer on the planet in 2006. The bees knew, says Alison. They had been asking her to bring their message into the world.
Inner guides had informed her: “We are going to prepare your body to contain a higher vibrational frequency.” To help prepare her to be a vessel for their message, they gave her a meditation: Alison was specifically instructed to hum and buzz like a bee.
After the swarm arrived, she began to receive information from what she calls the “over-lighting spirit of the hive” during her humming meditations. The bees warned Alison that they were sick and they would be “leaving” in catastrophic numbers. The bees asked her to move to Hawai’i, create a honeybee sanctuary, and build a temple that echoed the ancient bee temples she had visited during a series of shamanic journeys.
An other-worldly tale, nevertheless it isn’t simply what Alison says that gives authenticity to her visions of the hive, but her intelligent and unassuming presence, innocence and a burning desire to help the natural world. That passion earned her a Fulbright Grant to teach high school in Zimbabwe, where she absorbed indigenous methods of learning and received early hints of a path which continues to inspire her.
The ancient tradition of bee shamanism is known by its members as the Path of Pollen. For Alison and others who practice bee-loving as much as beekeeping, the honeybee and hive are not merely metaphors—creators of food or fertility—they are the source of a rich body of ancient wisdom. Bee shamanism itself, although obscure and hidden, has been practiced all over the world—the Americas, Australia, Africa, Greece and Egypt.
One branch of the path exists at Alison’s Artemis Smiles Honeybee Sanctuary and Education Center in Ka‘ū, where naturalized Hawaiian honeybees are facing not just a host of problems, but a great opportunity.

Artemis Smiles Bee Sanctuary

The bee hive hums. Forty thousand bees dance on the combs of a natural, glass-encased hive, hanging six feet above our heads inside her Waiohinu home, which also serves as office, bee education center and “honey house.” There she processes the wax, honey and propolis produced by the bees. Lining the shelves are glass canning jars of wildflower and wililaiki honeys, pollen-filled bee bread and honeycomb, fresh and fragrant from the sanctuary’s two dozen hives.
With the gentle but resonant voice of a true seer, Alison uses her hands to speak, gesturing toward the humming bees, who also communicate through dance. (Their dance forms a figure eight, an infinity symbol, the lemniscate infinitum.) “This hive is like my altar,” says the bee oracle, explaining why she keeps bees in her kitchen. “That’s as close as I can get. Their sound, their scent, their sacred presence is a gentle, constant reminder to return to Source.”
Over mamaki tea sweetened with jasmine-scented honey, Alison speaks of the “modern essence of the lineage,” and how, under the guidance of a shamanic healer, she had learned to see and hear beyond the bounds of ordinary consciousness. To the rhythmic beating of a traditional frame drum, she traveled through non-ordinary states, “journeying” to discover her innate wisdom.
On her first shamanic journey, Alison relates, she met the guide who would become her primary teacher over the next three years. The guide called herself Demeter, a name with which Alison, then 29, was unfamiliar. It wasn’t until the arrival of the honeybee swarm three years later that she discovered Demeter’s ancient epithet was “The Pure Mother Bee,” whose presence had filled the goddess temples of Artemis and Aphrodite. She learned that temple priestesses were called melissae, Greek for “bees.”
Guided by the bees’ messages, Alison left her teaching job, sold her house and moved to the Island of Hawai‘i to start the sanctuary in 2001. The creative power of the human mind has a physical effect upon them, the bees cautioned, and some of the “illness” was due to falling, within the collective human consciousness, from a revered place of love and appreciation, into a state of exploitation and profit-driven manipulation.
To emphasize this point, and so that she could understand the place from which she was giving the bees a “sanctuary,” Alison was guided to work for a commercial queen bee producer. “The practices and attitudes of commercial beekeepers are a far cry from what the bees experienced when they were revered as a manifestation of the Divine,” says Alison.

Raise Up the Queen

The bees who gave the oracles at Delphi and Ephesus their prophetic power, pleaded with Alison during shamanic meditations: “The Queen has fallen! Raise up the Queen, raise up the Queen!”
Alison came to understand that one of the most important things we can do for the bees’ health is to offer them love and gratitude for their service to humanity and nature. “As humans we have been taking this divine being that we used to hold in reverence and diminishing it to serve our needs.”
“A lot of people understand that bees are getting sick, that they’re leaving,” says Jaya Sith Bavananda, Alison’s friend and collaborator on the bee temple project. “But we’re looking at it from a spiritual perspective, not from a scientific perspective that says, ‘We just need to breed better queens.’”
As at Delphi, where the oracle spoke through a priestess known as the “Delphic Bee,” some bee communications concern human affairs, says Alison. “The bees say humans are on the cusp of a great shift in consciousness—from this individual, ego-consciousness into something that is more like what the bees experience.”
What do the bees experience? Hive consciousness. Just as an individual cell in a body is embedded within the larger consciousness of the organism, so the consciousness of the individual bee is embedded within an even greater, super-consciousness. For the bees, this connection offers a great nurturing source. The queen bee’s powerful presence holds the consciousness of tens of thousands of individual bees within a common field. “Scientists call this a super-organism. A colony of honeybees is really ONE single being,” Alison muses, “and so are all of us humans. We just don’t realize it quite yet.”
“It’s all coming from the bees,” declares Jaya. “The bees are the guides. We have simply been the conduits for bringing in this message. Bees can unite so many people. After all, everybody loves honey.”
Alison opens a golden jar of honey and Jaya shows me a book by Simon Buxton entitled, The Shamanic Way of the Bee, which details the Path of Pollen practiced in the ancient Celtic traditions of Europe. The book, published in 2004, confirmed for Alison that her experiences with the bees were part of an ancient tradition, one still practiced today.

The Honey Jar

I dip my finger into the honey jar and savor the taste of solar radiance, fresh oranges, butterscotch and even a hint of sea salt. Honey harvested from the wild areas of Ka‘ū, uncontaminated by pesticides and fertilizers, comes from her beloved bees, whose natural life cycles and processes are deeply respected. Some of Alison’s bees feed each season on just one type of flower—like Ka Lae kiawe, which blooms after the winter rains, or golden Christmas berry, whose nectar flows in late summer—to create distinctive, single-blossom
honey varieties.
“It takes the nectar from 3 to 4 million flowers to make a cup of honey,” she says. “It’s really special. I treat it as a sacred food.”
Alison, calling the bees “my girls” and soothing them with the soft cooing of a loving mother, hand-harvests sanctuary honey without protective clothing. The honey is never processed, heated or filtered, and so preserves its intoxicating flavor and healing properties. For thousands of years, people have used raw honey as an antiseptic dressing for wounds, a facial moisturizer, digestive tonic and cough suppressant. The waxy honeycomb makes Mother Nature’s own chewing gum, which protects the teeth and is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial.

The Path of Pollen

With the kitchen bees humming ZZZZZ HUMMM ZZZ HUMMM like a Krishna Das shruti, I open Simon’s book to a section about his initiation by a bee master. “I began to develop a deep respect for the knowledge and skills of the shaman and for nature, which he revealed to me as the visible face of spirit,” writes Simon. “Bees are skilled astronomers. They can predict rain. And they were created from rays of light.” He relates remarkable facts from his journey, where myth and matter mingle: a wounded or plundered hive can actually moan in agony; the bee can grow old quickly, and then grow young again; and beekeepers who eat the golden elixirs—honey, propolis, royal jelly—rarely become ill.
No one species of animal seems to have inspired so many people in so many ways as the humble honeybee. From the temple cultures and groves of ancient islands through the literature of Aristotle and Virgil, for thousands of years, the humble bee has been honored for its purity, integrity and industry.
Heroes with six legs, a thousand faces and countless spiritual facets, the bees know the “power of six,” shaping each individual cell in the most efficient form in the universe, the hexagon—the hexagramma mysticum.
“Pythagoras meditated upon the perfect hexagonal cells of the bee’s honeycomb,” says Alison, “to develop an understanding of sacred geometry, the mathematical principles underlying the structure of the universe.” The queen bee lays her eggs in a spiral pattern, one of the perfect patterns that connect all life, and sacred geometry permeates every facet, structure and activity
of the hive.

The Hive Dream Sustains Us

While worker bees have a six-week life span, the queen, with her special diet, can live up to six years. Within the fertile body of the queen is the genetic wisdom that has allowed honeybees to survive on this planet for millions of years, through ice ages and asteroids.
This resilience has led Alison and sanctuary staff to trust the wisdom of the hive and the intelligence of nature over the manipulations of modern beekeeping, which may have led the bees to the brink of extinction. “By allowing our bees to swarm and reproduce naturally, and by not ‘re-queening’—killing older, less productive queens—we are cultivating a ‘seed bank’ of genetically diverse bees who are able to survive without constant interventions and treatments,” Alison attests.
These most remarkable of creatures give GPS instructions to the hive through aromatic pheromones and dances performed with their leg-bristles full of pollen, a precise choreography that directs worker bees to blossoms heavy with nectar. Informed directly by the sun, they are aeronautic engineers, architects, social alchemists and gymnasts who can also shape-shift, changing from four-winged to two-winged creatures and back again
in an instant.

A Honeybee Temple Garden

Because their pollination is responsible for two of every three bites of food we put in our mouths, bees offer a global service of profound proportions. Bees sustain human civilization, and in gratitude, Alison and Jaya are building a 90-ft. diameter Honeybee Temple Garden, “a love offering to the bees in honor of their
sacred presence.”
A 40-minute drive from the Artemis Smiles kitchen hive, on a remote sea-misted hill near South Point, there is a hidden, more protected refuge overlooking the Pacific. With an ancient “grandmother tree” at the heart of the land and a coastal forest of kiawe, kukui nut, native lama, alahe’e and Christmas berry blossoming nearby, the hives at the temple site enjoy
year-round abundance.
“The temple is a mandala, based on the ‘flower of life’ pattern,” says Alison. “The bees are asking to be taken out of boxes and placed in round hives in a round garden. Biodynamically, the round shapes reflect the solar nature of the bees.”
Representing the balance of masculine and feminine energies, the flower-of-life form is intended to create a protective, electromagnetic energy field to soothe and sustain the 12 hives enclosed within it. “One of the problems that the bees are dealing with is electromagnetic pollution, so we are creating an electromagnetic field in accord with the cosmic harmonies.”
Standing where the temple will be built, we listen.
“They’re the ones who are sharing the information with humanity,” says Jaya. “They’re saying, ‘look, we have always been here, one with you as a direct connection of your spirit and your human consciousness. Listen to us again. We are here to assist in guiding the human consciousness into a deeper sense of oneness.”
Before they leave?
“Well, not all of them are leaving. Many bees will die,” Jaya reminds us, “but that’s what will make the rest of them—and us—much stronger.”
Alison agrees, “We are building this temple as a means to seed the restoration of a loving, reverent relationship with bees, actually with all of nature. We are evolving. Any relationship that is based on exploitation is going to be left behind as we evolve, and that is really what the bees are telling us by leaving in such alarming numbers.”
This is a chance for humans to change the way we interact with nature, she says. Rather than trying to change the bees to fit into a dysfunctional system that is destroying the life support of our planet, “We envision the bees once again thriving in partnership with humans—but on their terms, as ‘free agents.’”
This, Alison believes, is the kuleana given to her by the bees, and the only way to truly address the crisis of global bee die-off.
Facets of infinity flow through this little vessel, and if you listen for the sound of the universe beeing itself, timeless and tender, you see it, feel it. You can certainly taste it, calling us to come alive to the sacred powers of the hive.
Bees have been busy for millions of years, and they’re not likely to stop anytime soon. “Bees are creatures of paradise, and they can lead us back to the garden,” encourages Alison. “Let’s listen to them!” “Blessed Bee, Long Live the Queen!” ❖
Contact writer, Marya Mann:
Resources: Website:
Contact Alison at or call 808.929.8117

Book: The Shamanic Way of the Bee by Simon Buxton
(Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 2004)

On Sunday, May 27, Alison and Jaya will
present at the New Thought Center in Kealakekua.

The Plight of the Honeybee

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Big Island Honeybees

…Big Island Honeybees are Vital to Keeping Us Fed, Our Skin Soft and Even Healing Cuts on Fish Fins…

By Denise Laitinen…
Raw honey may look like liquid gold, but it is the bees themselves that are worth their weight in gold.
“Albert Einstein once said that without honeybees the human race as we know would end in seven years,” says Dr. Lorna Tsutsumi, Entomology Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and head of the school’s beekeeping program.
Bees are key when it comes to pollination and plant reproduction. “If we look at the importance of honeybees in terms of [crop] sustainability, it’s crucial,” adds Lorna. Bees are in the business of gathering nectar and pollinating flowers. It’s also how they make honey.
“Bees are responsible for 90 percent of the world’s food supply,” says award-winning Honolulu Chef Alan Wong. “And they’re in danger of disappearing.”
For centuries Hawai‘i’s geographical remoteness meant that bees were relatively free of pests. In recent years however, Hawai‘i Island honeybees have been hit by the double
whammy of varroa mites and small hive beetles.
Varroa mites were first found on Hawai‘i Island at beehives in the Hilo area in August 2008. The tiny insect attaches itself to the bees abdomen and “sucks the life force out of the bee,” explains Ron Hanson, owner of Best Big Island Bees in Pahoa, who has several decades of experience with bees. The mite also prevents the bee from growing to a mature size. The effect of the mite on the island bee population was profound for both feral honeybees and managed hives.
“It almost devastated it,” says Hanson, of the island’s bee population. “Some people claim there were 800,000 feral bees on island before the mite got here,” he adds. Anecdotally, it’s believed that the varroa mite has wiped out 50 percent of the island’s bee population.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the small hive beetle arrived shortly thereafter in 2010. “Small hive beetles devastate hives by entering a hive and emitting a pheromone that causes the queen bee to shut down her egg-laying process; it eventually turns the honeycomb to slime,” explains Hanson. “Beetles come in when hives are weak—maybe because of mites,” he adds. Beetles can cause a honeybee hive to crash in a matter of days.
The honeybees’ plight is not a lost cause yet. Everyone from lawmakers to chefs to educators and the beekeepers themselves have rallied around saving the honeybees.
For Chef Wong and Dr. Tsutsumi, helping bees is a crucial part of ensuring our food supply for the future.
“So many crops rely on bees, we need them to help keep our island independent and sustainable,” says Tsutsumi.
“Our company’s definition of sustainability is that our children’s children have a future tomorrow,” explains Chef Wong. “They [bees] pollinate fruits and vegetables. That’s why chefs are concerned about bees.”
To help build awareness about honeybees and their importance, Chef Wong and Dr. Tsutsumi created the “Adopt-A-Beehive with Alan Wong” program at University of Hawai‘i-Hilo. [See sidebar.] The program encourages public involvement in the future of honeybees and sustainable agriculture, as well as raising funds for the only college bee-keeping program in the state. In March, 2012, Tsutsumi, Wong, and UH-Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney were recognized by the Hawai‘i State Legislature for their efforts to save honeybees on the Big Island.
Even lawmakers have gotten involved in efforts to save honeybees. “Bees mean sustainability,” says State Representative Clift Tsuji, who chairs the committee on agriculture.
Earlier this year Tsuji introduced House Bill 2100, which proposes appropriating $50,000 to the University of Hawai‘i for bee hive research statewide. Supported by the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation and the Big Island Beekeepers Association, the measure had passed the House and was under consideration by the Senate as this magazine went to print.
While beekeepers have been trying a variety of approaches for dealing with the invasive pests—using everything from chemicals and powders to natural, non-commercial approaches—beekeeping organizations have stepped up education efforts.
Last year the Western Apicultural Society held its annual conference on Hawai‘i Island in Kohala in conjunction with the Big Island Beekeepers Association Second Annual Hawaiian Natural Honey Challenge. The event brought together experts and beekeepers to learn about solutions for dealing with the pests.
For Hanson, who won the Best-in-Show Award in the liquid category for his Christmas berry honey and Best Taste in the solid honey category for his mango honey at last year’s Honey Challenge, learning how to combat the pests is one of the best ways to move forward.
“The most important thing I see is to rebuild and educate,” says Ron, noting that he doesn’t use chemicals on his hives, preferring instead to use natural methods.
“When I lose hives, I want to learn why so I can learn from it,” says Ron. “When I first started losing bees to the beetle, it was pretty bad,” he adds. “It’s almost like seeing your dog get hit
by a car.”
“It was overwhelming,” adds his son, John Hanson, who is also involved in the family’s beekeeping business. An avid beekeeper himself, John won the People’s Choice Award and Best Texture in the solid honey category at the Second Annual Hawaiian Natural Honey Challenge.
Hanson offers monthly education training classes for beginner and advanced beekeepers.
“People have a perception that it’s really difficult to maintain bees,” says Ron. “I find that it’s easier to keep a few beehives than it is to feed your dog and cat. Even some experienced beekeepers have a perception that it’s difficult to keep hives because their hives died in the past. It gets back to education.”
Both father and son point to the need to increase awareness among local farmers about the importance of bees in terms of pollination. “If more people had hives, we wouldn’t have nearly as much of a problem with pollination,” adds John.
Ron recounts a situation in which a macadamia nut grower on island complained about his low-yielding crop. “But he had no bees in his area,” explains Ron. “His neighbor had bees and saw a 30-percent increase in their macadamia nut crop when they incorporated the bees.”
Beekeeping isn’t just for agricultural purposes; it also creates an array of value-added products. Honey is, of course, the best-known item made by honeybees, but they also make many other useful items. Propolis is a sticky resin mixture that honeybees collect and use to fill open spaces in a hive, reinforcing the hive’s structural stability. Widely appreciated by natural medicine practitioners for its health benefits, propolis is thought to have antibiotic and antifungal properties. It’s also associated with promoting heart health, as well as treating inflammations, ulcers and burns.
“There are quite a few people that buy it,” says Ron. “They use it for tinctures or balms.”
“We’ve had fish farmers buy it for use on their koi fish,” adds John. “A fellow who bought it said he makes a solution with the propolis and sprays it on the koi’s fins to help heal cuts.”
Beeswax is another important value-added honeybee product. John points out that beeswax can be used in everything from candle making to woodworking. Candle making is probably the most obvious use of beeswax, but it is also very popular with woodworkers who use it on hand-crafted furniture and surfers who use it on their surfboards.
Ron notes that, by and large, their biggest buyers of beeswax are local cosmetic companies. Indeed, nationally, the cosmetics industry is the largest consumer of beeswax in the country. It’s used in everything from facial creams and lotions to lip balms and lipsticks. Beeswax is a popular ingredient in hand and body creams, because it contains wax esthers that helps to increase moisture in the skin.
Local beekeepers that sell beeswax help the island economy by offering a local, natural product used by other local companies. It saves the cosmetics companies from importing beeswax and keeps money invested in the local economy.
Of all the products that are made by bees, Ron Hanson believes the most important item is the bees themselves.
“Very few people sell bees on island. People can buy bees to start their own hives or their own apiary,” explains Ron.
“We’ve got nice habitat for bees. We’ve got excellent resources for pollination and year-round flower sources,”
says Ron.
“If you take care of the bees the hives will grow.”
As the honeybees flourish, so does local agriculture and
local commerce. ❖
Contact writer Denise Laitinen:
To learn more about bees and beekeeping:
Big Island Beekeepers Association:
Bee education opportunities:
Best Big Island Bees, Pahoa
Ron Hanson, 808.965.0000
Offers three-part series on beginning beekeeping; classes on first three Saturdays of the month.
Bee Love Apiary, Hāmākua Coast
Jenny Bach, 808.640.0278
Next class offered: Introduction to Organic Beekeeping, June 9-July 7 (five-week class held on Saturdays). Offered in partnership with Volcano Island Honey Company. Also offers free outreach presentations and apiary field trips to Hawai‘i Island schools.
Volcano Island Honey Company, Honoka‘a
Richard Spiegel, 808.775.1000
Offers farm and beehive tours, as well as educational
tours for Hawai‘i Island schools.
Big Island Bees, Kealakakua
Garnett and Whendi Grad, 808.324.0295
Big Island Bees is developing an educational program about how honey is made and the nature of beekeeping. As we go to press they expect the program to be starting in June 2012.
Call for more info.
The University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management offers courses in beekeeping for students interested in pursuing careers in the apiary field.
Dr. Lorna Tsutsumi, 808.974.7719
Noncredit classes on beekeeping are offered by the UH College of Continuing Education and Community Service
Taught by Danielle Downey, an apiculture specialist
with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

The Nene Project

by Ke Ola Magazine divider image
Nene Project - pgA

…GPS Tracking Reveals the Hawaiian Goose Doin’ What Comes Naturally…

By Fern Gavelek…

Hawai‘i’s beloved state bird, the nēnē, is making a comeback, and a new Hawai‘i Island study has revealed some fascinating facts about the Hawaiian goose and how we can
help it thrive.
The good news is the birds’ population has rebounded from a low of only 20 or 30 in 1950 to about 900 on Hawai‘i Island, and, surprisingly, they are now traveling the island more extensively than anyone thought. High-tech transmitters are sending back tracking data for a project code-named “Nēnē in the Space Age.”
The project, Satellite Telemetry of Hawai’i’s Endangered Goose, began in early 2009 and is wrapping up this spring. A collaborative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service, the study outfitted 11 nēnē ganders with solar-powered platform transmitter terminals (PTTs). Worn by the male nēnē like mini backpacks—each one carrying a luxury price tag of $4,000—the PTTs tell scientists where the nēnē are via precise GPS coordinates.
By February 2012, PTTs recorded the studied nēnē at about 12,000 islandwide locations. The coordinates provided daily insight to flight patterns and pit stops along the way, as well as preferred habitats for feeding, breeding and socializing.
Nēnē are thought to have made landfall in the Hawaiian Islands some 890,000 years ago. It’s estimated their population grew to an estimated 25,000 birds. Ancient Hawaiians gave clues as to where they commonly saw nēnē, naming locations after them, like Kīpuka Nēnē on the slopes of Mauna Loa.
According to Dr. Steven Hess, USGS wildlife biologist, the introduction of predators—rats, dogs, cats and mongoose—precipitated the decline in Hawai’i’s nēnē population beginning about 1,000 years ago. Unregulated hunting and habitat destruction further threatened the nēnē, which Hess explains,
“is the most terrestrial of geese.”
“The bird’s plight had become so grave by 1949 that a captive propagation program was initiated,” says Dr. Hess, who is stationed at the USGS’s Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. In 1950, there were only 20-30 birds known to exist in the wild—all of them on the Big Island. Dr. Hess credits “decades of captive breeding, releases into the wild, habitat management and predator control” for restoring nēnē to four of Hawai‘i’s largest islands.
Classified today as an endangered species, nēnē are given broad protections under law to recover to a self-sustaining population. There are roughly 900 nēnē currently on Hawai‘i Island and as many as 2,000 combined across four major islands, which include Maui, Kaua‘i and Moloka‘i.

The Science of Tracking Nēnē

According to Dr. Hess, wildlife managers noticed in the late 1990s that Big Island nēnē had “begun regularly moving” between leeward Kona, the isle’s windward side and the southern Kahuku areas.
“We questioned if nēnē were making direct flights between the sites or stopping along the way,” explains the wildlife biologist. “If the nēnē stopped, we wondered what were the threats and food in these habitats?”
The satellite telemetry tracking, it was felt, would be the best way to get the answers with the island’s dense and varied terrain. Ganders for the study were chosen from several locations where flocks frequented, such as Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) and Big Island Country Club (BICC) in Pu‘uanahulu.
Once the data started coming in, the nēnē revealed their flight patterns and it was found they were once again roosting at their historic haunt of Kīpuka Nēnē, a rugged site high on Mauna Loa in HVNP’s Kahuku area. Also, it was noted the birds’ north-south and east-west island crossings were intersecting at Kīpuka ‘Ainahou in the island’s high saddle, where some of the last wild nēnē were observed.
“It was puzzling that birds discovered at Kīpuka Nēnē came from the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge some 50 miles away, yet the Hakalau population did not exist prior to 1996,” says Dr. Hess. He adds that the terrain of Kīpuka Nēnē has changed dramatically over time from an open ‘ohi‘a forest with small pools and sedges to one that had been altered by “one of the largest lava flows on Earth.” However, still the nēnē returned there.
Dr. Hess notes the behavior of nēnē reappearing in ancestral places makes researchers wonder if it took the captive-raised population 50 years “to figure it out” or had a small number of wild survivors passed this knowledge on to contemporary descendants? “We still don’t know for sure, but it seems to be catching on in a big way,” he adds.
The ganders also exhibited a pattern of seasonal movement—from lowland breeding grounds during the winter to high-elevation, non-breeding areas in the summer. The geese visited subalpine scrub during the summer, which is home to ‘ōhelo berry and pukiawe—traditionally their favorite foods.
In fact, Dr. Hess reports a nēnē was recorded at 9,100 feet, where temperatures reach freezing. “Birds are good at thermal regulation,” Dr. Hess explains. “They can adjust their feathers to their climate so don’t mind so much if it’s hot or cold.”
Looking at the habitats used by nēnē—low elevations with green ground cover for breeding and subalpine scrub for non-breeding—scientists found nēnē were dramatically changing their elevations. “That surprised us,” admits Dr. Hess. “Though early naturalists reported this kind of movement, we had never observed it as nēnē hadn’t done this for awhile.”
Telemetry also showed that Kīpuka ‘Ainahou acts like a “social magnet” between the BICC and Hakalau Refuge populations.
“We think Kīpuka ‘Ainahou is where youngsters are hooking up with potential mates and, if that’s the case, then there’s more interbreeding among populations,” notes Dr. Hess. “This is important because nēnē need to transcend their lack of genetic diversity.” He says low genetics is an issue because of inbreeding among the few captive pairs in the 1950s to save the species.

The Importance of Habitat Protection

Dr. Hess stresses wildlife managers are encouraged by the re-establishment of traditional nēnē movement patterns. “Nēnē in the Space Age” identified what locations are being used by nēnē today and why.
He explains, “If we want nēnē to behave naturally, we have to protect both their breeding and non-breeding areas.” He says it’s up to the state to manage the land and provide protection through the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), in partnership with the park service. “Their goal is to restore the land, like the subalpine scrublands, to its natural condition by keeping out predators and other invasive species.”
Some protection is already in the works. Nēnē, which mate for life, return each year to breed at HVNP. “We have a little over 200 birds either breeding in the wild, in the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa Strip areas, or in a two-acre ‘exclosure,’ which keeps out predators with a fence,” explains Dr. Rhonda Loh, natural resource chief at HVNP. She says a grassy lawn is mowed for the birds inside the exclosure, while the park’s other breeding birds forage for berries and grass in the wild.
“Sometimes we’ll assist birds breeding outside the pen by temporarily closing a park trail to minimize human disturbance to nesters,” continues Rhonda.
The Hawaiian Goose also breeds at BICC, where it’s warmly welcomed. The preservation and support of nēnē “represents BICC’s vision for the entire property,” according to Richard Oliver, the on-island, owner’s representative. He explains, “Proper turf management enables a good food source for nēnē and their goslings while our lakes provide great safe zones to evade predators. We know by the health of the nēnē population if we are indeed doing a good job for all BICC inhabitants and guests, including the nēnē.”
“The ponds at BICC are used by nēnē primarily for protection and bathing—they get most of the moisture they need for diet from grass,” details John Polhemus, a wildlife biologist. “Nēnē molt (shed their feathers) between February and May and for about a month are flightless, so the ponds provide an escape from predators.” He says nature “takes over the timing” when breeding adults molt and re-grow feathers so they and their young can fly together.
“It’s especially important to protect the breeding locations
for nēnē so their populations can continue to recover,” emphasizes Polhemus.
John, who owns JT Productions, is contracted by the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife to monitor the 130 nēnē making up the West Side Flock: those frequenting BICC, sections of Pu‘u Wa‘wa‘a and Waikoloa Village Golf Club.
At BICC, John hops on a golf cart and drives around doing a “roll call,” recording nēnē that are ID’d with colored bands to do periodic population counts. He also bands goslings and intervenes, when necessary, to help injured birds. “The frequency of injured or sick birds is low,” he says, and a Kona veterinarian has been employed when necessary. Some of the birds John monitors were first banded in the mid-90s and he makes sure their “bling” is fitted properly and “not a deterrent.”
BICC has a partnership with the new Hawai‘i Wildlife Center (HWC) in Kapa‘au, which has set a goal of receiving birds for rehabilitation starting May 2012. Since 2006, BICC has been donating a portion of its greens fees to HWC, which have
totaled $2,500.
“We will be working with BICC to treat any sick or injured nēnē that come from the course,” says Linda Elliott, HWC president and center director. She points out HWC is the only facility that will be rehabilitating native birds from the entire Hawaiian archipelago.
“Getting the donation from BICC is important for our efforts of not only helping sick or injured birds, but also facilitating the conservation of nēnē and our other endangered birds,” continues Linda. “Big Island Country Club is a model for accommodating wildlife. They’ve included wildlife in everything they do, and they don’t have to.”
HWC, which completed major construction last November, has provided BICC with info and photography to provide guidelines for golfers using the course. In addition to nēnē, BICC is home to the endangered Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke‘oke‘o), black-crowned Night Heron (‘auku‘u), Hawaiian Hawk (‘io) and the short-eared owl (pueo).
While The Hawaiian goose is increasing in numbers, it still faces challenges of low genetic diversity, periods of drought and an ever-shrinking natural environment with non-native enemies.
Summing up the importance of protecting nēnē, Linda notes the challenge is to teach people “what human behaviors are best around nēnē so they can thrive.” She concludes, “We all need to understand and accept what we have to do to live with our environment and be good neighbors.” It’s up to everyone
to help protect this beautiful and resilient state bird in its
native habitats. ❖
Contact writer Fern Gavelek:
All nēnē photos provided by Christina Cornett, Nēnē Research Specialist, Hawai’i Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center
For more information:

How We Can Best Live with Nēnē?

How can we help them to thrive?
One solution is to leave them alone.
“Nēnē are grazers, and feeding them decreases their proficiency at foraging in the wild, causing a variety of problems,” emphasizes wildlife biologist John Polhemus.
Feeding results in incorrect diet. Case in point is a female nēnē that lives at BICC year-round because she has an “angel wing.” The flightless condition is common among ducks
and geese that are fed by humans, resulting in a
nutritional imbalance.
“People think they are helping by putting out water and food—they aren’t,” stresses Polhemus. He says feeding nēnē from vehicles teaches the geese to get in the path of traffic.
Dr. Steven Hess, USGS wildlife biologist, adds, “If you live around nēnē, keep your pets away from them as dogs can kill adults and cats kill goslings.”
As nēnē are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it is illegal to kill, harm or harass them, including disturbing nesting individuals or altering their behavior. Violations can be reported by calling 808.887.6063.
October through April is the most sensitive time for nēnē because individuals are pairing up to nest and rearing goslings. Information signs at HVNP caution vehicles to slow down to watch for geese crossing the road and visitors are encouraged to keep a respectful distance when observing birds. “We want visitors to keep far enough away so as not to alter their
normal behavior,” advises Dr. Rhonda Loh, natural resource chief at HVNP.

bottom round image

footer blue big nice

footertop right
© 2008-2014 Ke Ola Magazine - Celebrating the Arts, Culture, and Sustainability of Hawai‘i Island | Sitemap