“We are but servants of the land” is the mentality that thrives among the ʻĀina Ulu ʻohana.
“It’s an old formula, which involves stewardship, sustainability, cultural practices that are meant to be at harmony with places,” says Brandon Ledward who is the Director of the ʻĀina-Based Education Department at Kamehameha Schools.
‘Āina Ulu is a collaborative, land-based education and stewardship program of Kamehameha Schools. ʻĀina Ulu collaborators Papahana Kuaola and Paepae o Heʻeia hosted this year’s conference, which aims to strengthen the programs for future success.
“We are able to interact and plan as a family at the ʻĀina Ulu Conference,” says Kīhei Nahale-a, an ʻĀina Ulu collaborator from Papahana Kuaola.
“The purpose of ʻĀina Ulu is to bring together community partnerships and land to begin to vision a new future for our children,” says Brandon.
Hiʻilei Kawelo, a collaborator from Paepae o Heʻeia sees the value of this collaboration in moving our culture and cultural practices forward into the future. “Prior to 2000, there was no mention of ʻĀina Ulu, there was no such thing as ʻāina-based learning, it was either your lifestyle or not your lifestyle.”
“ʻĀina Ulu starting in 2000 began with a handful of community partnerships with incredible leadership at the community level,” says Brandon. “So over the 13 years, we’ve seen tremendous, tremendous amount of work done across the state, right now we have about 24 partnerships.”
“And so for us, having been given the loko iʻa of Heʻeia to take charge of, I feel like it’s allowed us to create and to reclaim a practice that would have been lost otherwise,” says Hiʻilei.
“This is why we care for the land rather than using it for development,” says Kīhei.
For Brandon, there is a bigger blue print in this plan and one that would leave an everlasting green footprint:
“The biggest gift of what ʻĀina Ulu gives to folks, is the idea of looking past of what’s today, remembering what was there and then visioning for the future. When you’re out here, the ʻāina is really the kumu, the textbook, the laboratory, and I know it really speaks to our children’s ʻiʻini, their desire in terms of how they want to learn and what they want to do for their community. From a Hawaiian perspective, it’s really about kinship and kuleana. Knowing where you come from and understanding where you want to go as a community and hopefully, you always keep the ʻāina as that foundation. We can’t do anything without our community partners. And when we gather them at times like this at our ʻĀina Ulu ʻAha, you just get to marvel at their different perspectives.”
“Āina Ulu and the work of Kamehameha Schools Land Assets Division and Ke Aliʻi Pauahi and leaving these lands for us, it’s really shaping the future of our people and reconnecting us to our ʻāina,” says Hiʻilei.
Let us all join in on caring for the land, as it is our duty. Log onto the Kamehameha School’s website at ksbe.edu/communityeducation for more information.