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July 2008

Hawai`i News

Lack of Parade Support Could Spell
Trouble for Island Traditions

By Rochelle delaCruz

The statue of King Kamehameha I in front of Aliiolani Hale in Honolulu is dra[ed with long strands of lei on Kamehameha Day, June 11th. For the past ninety-two years, this ceremony has marked the beginning of the grand parade that follows. Photo from www.kamehamehadaycelebration.com


Everyone loves a parade! So why are two of the most traditional and important ones – the Kamehameha Day and Aloha Week parades - in trouble in Hawai`i?

Kamehameha Day (June 11th) was established in 1871 by Kamehameha’s great-grandson Kamehameha V. Despite the illegal overthrow in 1893 of Lili`uokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, and annexation to the United States in 1898, the honoring of Kamehameha continued with the tradition of draping long strands of lei on his statue beginning in 1901. The first parade celebrating this popular holiday began in 1916 on all of the islands. But the Kamehameha Day Floral Parade in Honolulu is the biggest and most impressive, starting with the lei draping ceremony of the King Kamehameha statue at Aliiolani Hale (the Hawaii Supreme Court building) at King and Richard Streets across from ` Iolani Palace, winding through Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalākaua Avenue and ending at Kapi` olani Park. There are usually at least five thousand marchers, fifty vehicles, five bands, eight floral floats and 80 horse riders representing various islands.

But this year, there were pā`ū riders from only three islands not even including the host island of O`ahu. Although there were three school bands from Missouri, the only island school band was from the Kamehameha Schools. Instead of eight, there were only two floats which eye witnesses report “had skimpy flowers.” High level government officials are usually waving to the crowd from convertibles in important parades, but the mayor of Honolulu, governor and lieutenant governor of Hawai`i were noticeably absent in this year’s parade.

Photo from John Caminiti
Cyndi Pa from O`ahu who now lives in Everett, Washington was a pā`ū rider for 30 years. She last rode in the Aloha Festivals Parade in 2006.

In a letter to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, J. Kimo Alama Keaulana, instructor of Hawaiian language at Honolulu Community College and leader in the Hawaiian cultural community, responded to complaints about the lackluster parade, with the reminder that the Kamehameha Celebration Commission has received no funding from the Hawaii State Legislature since the administration of Governor Ben Cayetano (1994 – 2002). “The Kamehameha Day parade is now purely put on by the goodness of people’s hearts and pockets…Local school bands are absent because [they] are on vacation at parade time…The costs for floats and pā`ū units are tremendous…A pā`ū unit alone will cost at least $15,000…A float runs into the many thousands, not including the hours of labor…”

At the end of summer in September is another important parade, the Aloha Festivals Parade, scheduled for September 13th. But it is in danger of being canceled this year after its sponsorship contract with Hawaiian Airlines expired.

The Aloha Festivals began as Aloha Week in 1946 to help preserve Hawai`i’s traditions and included the now-famous parade. In 1974, it went from a one-week celebration to a month-long festival that begins at the southern end of the chain with a dedication at Halema`uma`u crater on Hawai`i island, followed by over 300 cultural events celebrated on all the islands.

The festivals are supported by thousands of volunteers, a paid staff and $1 million in contributions. $50,000 is needed to run the parade which will be canceled unless new funding or a new sponsor is found.

In his letter about the lack of parade support, Keaulana asks, “What is happening to the residents of Hawaii? Are we losing our sense of place?...Why [are we] doing nothing to save our precious and unique island home and its customs? Why is it that we are always destroying the wonderful things that made Hawaii so attractive to so many in the first place?”

The Kamehameha Day and Aloha Festival Parades are long-standing island events. But the concern over their possible demise is not just about preserving parades. It’s about recognizing and supporting the various ways Hawaiian culture and traditions are celebrated. If Hawaiian culture ceases to be at the center of life in the Islands, then Hawai`i becomes just another state, indistinguishable from the others.


Save the Waiwi?

By Rochelle delaCruz

A storm is brewing in Hawai`i over a beloved island fruit, the waiwi (or waiawi, or strawberry guava, or Psidium catteianum.)

Waiwi is not native to Hawai`i and was introduced from Brazil in 1825. In the one hundred and eighty-three years since it has been in Hawai`i, it has become a favorite of many islanders who use the fruit for food and the wood for smoking meat; woodworkers also like this hardwood. But while it has many defenders, it has destroyed much of the native forest where koa, `ōhia, hāpu`u and palapalai grow.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service describes it as “one of the state’s most invasive alien weeds” that is choking Hawai`i’s native forests, and is proposing the release of Tectococcus ovatus, the Brazilian scale insect that weakens the plant and slows its fruit production. “The insect does not kill the plant outright,” said a statement from the Forest Service, but it can “reduce growth and reproduction of strawberry guava, thereby limiting this weed’s ability to invade native forests and reducing an important source of agricultural pest fruit flies.” Scientists say that the scale insect is host specific, attacking only the strawberry guava, and cannot live on common guava or other related plants.

Many in the islands are conflicted and suspicious of plans to import a non-native species in order to control an invasive plant or animal. They point to the mongoose, brought to Hawai`i in 1883 to control rats. But that was not bio control’s finest moment, as mongoose are diurnal while rats are nocturnal, and scientists concede that it occurred at a time when bio control was not regulated. A more successful attempt was made with the prickly pear cactus, brought from Mexico in the 1800s and growing wild on dry ranch land, interfering with the raising of cattle. The cactus moth was imported and released in areas of infestation and after 10 years, the spiny cactus while not gone, is under control. Those who enjoy panini – the fruit of the cactus – can find them farm-raised.

The same argument is being made for waiwi, as the scale insect will not eliminate it, but diminish it enough to be brought under control. But a concern is with the scale insect and whether it will indeed die out when waiwi has decreased or find ways to survive in the hospitable environment of the Islands.

Scientists point out that that bio-control uses no expensive pesticides or defoliant poisons that leach into the ground water source. They maintain that as long as the insects are host-specific, their populations will die out once their food supply is diminished.

Those who oppose argue that even though waiwi is not native to Hawai`i, it has become a beloved part of island food supply and enhances island sustainability.

Before a decision is made, additional comments may be taken at a later date due to various concerns expressed by the public.


Honolulu’s Trash May Be Coming to the Northwest

By NWHT Staff

Waimānalo Gulch, Honolulu’s main landfill, is scheduled to close next year and the city has gotten bids from companies that could haul at least 100,000 tons of trash each year out of Hawai`i to the Pacific Northwest. Landfills in Eastern Washington and Oregon already receiving trash from other states have expressed interest in O`ahu’s trash, which would have the dubious honor of being the farthest traveling trash – 12 to 18 days for barges to cross the Pacific, then make their way up the Columbia River.

Addressing concerns over transporting invasive seeds or microbes to the Northwest, the trash would contain not more than 3% yard or agricultural waste and before shipping, would be compressed into bales that are shrink-wrapped in plastic to deprive any living organisms of oxygen.

But not everyone in the Northwest is convinced of containment or eager to receive O`ahu’s trash. When the U.S. Agriculture Department released an environmental assessment that allowed the shipment of Hawai`i’s trash to the Northwest, Idaho Governor C.I. “Butch” Otter, concerned over potential problems with invasive species, asked that Idaho be removed from consideration as a destination. The Oregon Invasive Species Council has similar concerns but learned about the proposal only a few days before the end of the comment period and missed the deadline.

O`ahu generates 1.74 million tons of solid waste each year and has free trash disposal service, whereas Maui County residents pay $12 a month for trash disposal. Many residents of Leeward O`ahu (where Waimānalo Gulch is located) are unhappy that the city didn’t close the landfill on May 1 st as promised by the previous administration, but the State Land Use Commission granted the city an extension until November 2009. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman not only asked for the extension to keep O`ahu’s only landfill open but is also hoping to increase its size by 92.5 acres. (The landfill currently occupies 107.5 acres.) An environmental impact study by the city’s consultant recently concluded that doubling the size of Waimānalo Gulch Landfill would pose no major environmental threat and proposes keeping the landfill open for 15 more years, because even if O`ahu ships some of its trash to the Northwest, a municipal landfill on the island would still be required.

To compound the problem, when the city of Honolulu received bids for shipping trash to mainland landfills in mid-June, prices ranged between $99.83 and $204.21 per ton, much higher than expected and likely to exceed the $7 million budgeted by the city.

Unfortunately, shipping 100,000 of O`ahu’s yearly 1.74 million tons of solid waste to the Pacific Northwest would only make a dent in the serious problem of trash in the Islands.


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