Prince Kuhio Day Fishing Tourney to raise awareness of Hawaiian gathering rights
KAANAPALI – Na Kupuna o Maui and the Nation of Hawaii are co-hosting a Prince Kuhio Day Fishing Tournament on March 26 along the shores of Kaanapali from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The contest is free and open to keiki, ages three to 13, participating in na keiki hoe wa’a o Maui, canoe paddling clubs, and youth enrolled in Hawaiian language immersion programs, including Kula Kaiapuni o Maui and Punana Leo o Maui.
Five hundred bamboo poles have been donated by various public and private organizations for use during the cultural event. Additionally, lunches will be provided to keiki and kupuna.
Prizes will be awarded to each age group for both boys and girls. Bikes will be given to the first and second place winners. Third place winners will receive boogie boards.
Registration is from 6 to 8 a.m. at Hanakao’o Beach Park (Canoe Beach).
Hawaiian ceremonies will precede start fishing at 8 a.m.
“Protocol is to walk the shore to Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock) to pay respect to the leaping of the souls; and, at the same time, we’re going to claim the pathway of our walk as part of our cultural heritage,” event organizer Aunty Patty Nishiyama explained.
“The keiki can fish anywhere from the Hyatt, right by the river, north to Pu’u Keka’a,” Nishiyama added.
Although the fishing tourney will be a fun activity for the keiki over Easter weekend, the underlying purposes are critical to Na Kupuna o Maui.
“It’s an awareness on many levels,” Nishiyama advised.
“The whole area from Hanakao’o Beach Park all the way down to the Sheraton is Hanakao’o,” the native kupuna leader continued. “When the state first gave permission for commercial activities, the commercial activities were supposed to be in only one area at Hanakao’o Point – that is, in front of Kaanapali Ali’i.”
“Now, commerce is king, and money rules,” Nishiyama voiced with disgust. “Culture and safety have taken a back seat, if they get a seat at all.”
“The state has granted so many commercial permits, it’s like boat-gridlock in the waters off Hanakao’o. We are being squeezed out,” she observed. “More importantly, it’s not an accident waiting to happen. Accidents have happened.”
Community leader Alika Atay affirmed Aunty Patty’s assessment of the situation.
“They had the Aloha ‘Aina March through Lahaina Town in October last year,” Atay said, “so earlier that morning, we participated in the ceremony that took place at Keka’a. From that ceremony, we then walked along the coastline to meet up with the people at Mala Wharf.
“I was blown away when we saw people who were just trying to enjoy the beach getting pushed aside by commercial activities. Early in the morning,” Atay continued, “the hotels trying to kapu and reserve their beach space by running out there and putting up their umbrellas and putting up their beach chairs on the beach; no one owns the beach,” he asserted.
“It’s dangerous with all the boats coming on and offshore,” he observed. “The state is failing in their fiduciary duty to look after the general public. Whether the general public are local residents or visitors, they are breaching their fiduciary duty of safety in the water and in the ocean by not policing these commercial activities and their behaviors on the beachside,” Atay continued.
“Our good friend, Uncle Billy Gonzalez, got run over by a boat when he was in the water, and the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) has still not really, to me, appeased my feelings of how they really addressed the issue of safety of swimmers along that coastline.”
Kupuna would like swim zones established.
“It’s mind-boggling that the state issues permits to commercial boat operators to pick up their customers on the beach right next to swimmers. This is clearly a dangerous, conflicting mixed use, and the problem is growing. I don’t care if they operate; just have them pick up their customers somewhere else,” Aunty Patty suggested.
The Prince Kuhio Day tourney also gives kupuna the opportunity to educate the public about Hawaiian traditional and customary resource management and gathering rights.
“How appropriate,” Atay observed, “that this event also aligns with a time when we honor Prince Kuhio. He was one of the greatest advocates of exercising your rights for Hawaiian culture.”
Aunty Patty interjected, “The water is our culture. We go in there for healing. We went in the ocean every week. Letting the state overpower us in our culture and to feed our family is foolish. That’s how it used to be just for to feed our family. Uncle George Fujiwara, May Fujiwara’s husband, was my dad’s fishing partner, and Mr. Delatori and Laborte; they were all fishermen. Man, if they were alive, I tell you”
“Poor thing our children,” Aunty Patty continued with distress in her voice. “Our children born and raised here – is that the kind of life that we are going to leave them? Why we’re doing gathering rights is because it is our culture. Why are they keeping us out from the shore? Why? It’s our culture. What is going to happen to our children’s future?”
Kehau Kimokeo is with the state Department of Aquatic Resources; she will also be on-hand distributing educational material to participants and their families.
“I am a part of the Marine Wildlife Program, and I’m the Maui coordinator. The project that we are in charge of is called the Barbless Circle Hook Project,” she said.
“We like to give outreach and education materials that support our marine wildlife and the sustainability of our island,” she added. “So a lot of what my program does is just teach that in order for us to be self-sustainable, we need to be like pono fishermen and just have more of a grasp on what’s happening in our environment and today’s society.”
Atay was passionate in his call to the community.
“I want to welcome all the folks who live on Maui to join us and come to this event. If you live here, this is your home. You need to realize that our home is so unique; and so, with that, I believe that for us, the people of Maui, we must always maintain our uniqueness and our authenticity of our Hawaiian-ness,” he said.
“I encourage everyone to come – for all families to bring their children and not to be afraid – and to come and to come walk the beach, to look around, to nana, to see what is changing and to participate in what we can do to keep Maui, Maui and avoid becoming a mini-Waikiki.”
For more information about the Prince Kuhio Day Fishing Tournament, call Aunty Patty at 281-5470.