Archie Kalepa stands on his ʻohana’s kuleana land in Kahoma Valley, Maui and asks the more than 70 people surrounding him and his family to listen. Everyone is still and silent except for the sound of the rushing flow of water. It is the sound of the once dry – Kahoma Stream.
After nearly 130 years, Kahoma Stream in West Maui is flowing again and the Kalepa ʻohana brought the community together to plant its first kalo in a community restored loʻi.
In 2007, concerned community members – Kekai and Kapali Keahi, and the Kalepa and Babayan ʻohana, learned KS owned the water rights above the valley and initiated discussions with then water resource manager Kāʻeo Duarte to return the water to the stream. The water had been diverted by the former Pioneer Mill Plantation since the early 1900s.
With the support of its trustees, KS worked with the community and returned the stream flow while many doubted the dry stream bed would ever return. By observing the stream and through trial and error, it took seven years.
With this precious resource restored, the community is able to continue the Native Hawaiian cultural practice of growing kalo. The stream is bringing the community and keiki back to the ʻāina and the oʻopu nakea are returning.
Historically, Kahoma was known for its loʻi kalo that once sustained Chief Kahekili and the former capital of Lahaina. The families and friends who have gathered for this historic planting day, cross a small slatted wooden bridge over the stream.
This tight-knit Maui community organized work days to clear paths, lined with stones that meander pass the original stone walls and lead to two prepared small patches for planting.
For Archie Kalepa, to hear the water running, isn’t about his family, it’s about the community, the people of Lāhaina; this is about connecting ma uka to ma kai and beginning to take care of this place.
“Veins of the earth that are fertile with water, allow our earth to heal,” said Kalepa. “We are beginning to practice our cultural rights once again. This is how we’re going to build our community so that the western way can understand our way, and the importance of what that means and how it needs to be part of our life.”
According to Nainoa Thompson who attended the historic event, there are eight streams in Hawaiʻi that flow from mau ka to ma kai. Today, there are nine.
Ola i ka wai. Water is life.
Visit the Hawaii News Now website for more coverage on the Kahoma Valley kalo restoration project.