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Canoe clubs visit Kahoma Valley to learn about taro farming and water rights

By Staff | Jun 6, 2019

More than 150 members of West Maui canoe clubs attended Kamalu O Kahalawai’s recent workshop in Kahoma Valley.

LAHAINA – In an effort to raise awareness of the deep Hawaiian cultural value of taro farming and water rights, over 150 members of the West Side triumvirate of Lahaina, Kahana and Napili Canoe Clubs gathered in Kahoma Valley two weeks ago for a workshop presented by Kamalu O Kahalawai (Shade of the Mountains) in support of the movement.

The group included canoe club members of all ages but was not centered on paddling competition.

“Our focus was to enlighten all of them – kids, newcomers to Maui, everyone – about what has happened over the past 130 years or so regarding the once-thriving taro farms – some say thousands of them – that nurtured so many families in this area,” explained Kekai Keahi of the leadership group that included Archie Kalepa, Kapali Keahi, Tiare Lawrence and Kanoe Steward.

“These were once the fertile growing grounds for thousands of families and were believed to be the most in Hawaii at one time,” said Kekai, a longtime coach and family charter member of Kahana Canoe Club.

“Our mission is to perpetuate the culture through the paddling clubs and bring awareness of the importance of Kahoma Valley.”

He went on to explain that the effort is centered on education of what occurred not only at Kahoma but in Honokowai and Kauaula valleys as well.

He added that talks with government officials and Kamehameha Schools representatives have gone on for five or six years regarding Kuleana lands and State Constitution on Farming edicts on water rights.

“We want everyone – the kids, the new people on Maui – to understand the beauty of the culture here. We need to understand that all is finite, and that once it is taken away, it’s gone. There is an historical significance here,” Kekai said.

He hopes this is a precursor of things to come to open the eyes of the canoe club members and become an educational experience.

“This aspect and the hands-on labor to refurbish the taro patches will promote the ideology of island versus continent ways and the need to manage the land. It is most important that the West Side canoe clubs come together in this way,” he explained.

“At the end of the day, there was a feeling of togetherness as one. The chants, protocol and communication brought everyone together as one.”