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Return to Koa Forest After 30 Years Reaffirms Hawai‘i-Alaska Kinship and Shared Commitment to Ancestral Knowledge and Nature

Honolulu - (May 28, 2019) – As a precursor to the Ho‘oilina Conference, Kamehameha Schools (KS) and the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) hosted Sealaska leaders on a day trip to Hawaiʻi Island yesterday to revisit KS’ Keawewai and its native forest on the upper slopes of Keauhou where almost 30 years earlier, Native Hawaiian and Alaskan leaders gathered in ceremony to promote the restoration of Hawai‘i’s declining koa forests. 

The visit back in 1990 was to accept the precious gifts of two Sitka spruce logs from Sealaska to build the Hawaiʻiloa canoe, and to affirm a commitment to restore Hawai‘i’s threatened forests. 

The purpose of yesterday’s visit was to remember, honor and celebrate those acts of kindness that have strengthened the bonds of kinship between Hawaiʻi and Alaska and helped restore this sacred environment.

Participants of yesterday’s trip to Hawaiʻi Island included KS CEO Jack Wong and Executive Cultural Officer Randie Fong; Sealaska Chair Joe Nelson, President and CEO Anthony Mallott, and former President and CEO Byron Mallott; and Hōkūle‘a crewmember and KS West Hawai‘i Regional Director Kaimana Barcarse. The Mallotts and Fong were both part of the first visit to the area 30 years ago. Other cultural leaders who were part of the 1990 visit were Alaskan Tlingit tribe elder Judson Brown, Pinky Thompson, Herb Kāne, canoe builders Wright Bowman Sr. and Wright Bowman Jr., and Nainoa Thompson.

“Continuing to build relationships with Hawaiians and other indigenous people is important to Sealaska,” Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott said. “The Hawaiian and Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people have a deep connection as ocean and canoe people, who are deeply tied to their environment. Good relationships between indigenous people who have common histories can help advance common goals.”

Yesterday’s visit started with a stop at Kīlauea to offer chant and request permission to visit the sacred land of Keauhou. After arrival at the native forest, the group was able to witness the growth of the forest since 1990 – a result of KS’ koa reforestation efforts that involved students and the community. Each person then planted native plants pa‘iniu and ‘ōhāwai followed by prayer, chant and reflections from the group about the importance of working together in unity to protect nature, as well as the knowledge and traditions of our ancestors.

“We planted seedlings back in 1990 at a site we are visiting today. The purpose of this is to say we honor that act, and we celebrate the past, and as we are celebrating and remembering we are planting new seeds for the future,” Fong said.


Kawaiaha‘o Plaza

567 South King St
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 523-6200

KS Hawai‘i

16-716 Volcano Rd
Kea‘au, HI 96749
(808) 982-0000

KS Kapālama

1887 Makuakāne St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 842-8211

KS Maui

275 ‘A‘apueo Pkwy
Pukalani, HI 96768
(808) 572-3100