Something to observe, to question, to learn. A finger points the way. 

Ki‘ei aku i ka hālāwai, hū.

Gaze out to the horizon, whoa.

– Excerpt E Alu Pū network oli

Aloha friends, ‘ohana and supporters,

Browse KUA’s image archive over the last decade and you’ll see a familiar scene: Someone, often kupuna (elders), points somewhere just beyond the frame. Others gaze in that direction. A finger points to the moon, to limu on the shoreline, to trace movements on the tide, winds or rain up mauka (mountain side)….a flash out on the horizon. Something to observe, to question, to learn. A finger points the way. 

I imagine the genesis of the scientific process started this way. An observation made. Questions ensue. Tests, analysis, deeper interpretations and understandings follow. Process repeats and refines. Over time insights sharpen, Human relationships to the environment are informed. Over and over for a long time, long before it is written down.

KUA serves networks of communities engaged in the regeneration of ancestral place-based observational learning, situated knowledge and practices of spiritual, philosophical, ethical and practical impacts on their lives in balance with their environment. Recent professionalization of scientific processes don’t negate the value of indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and practice. Ways of knowing can co-exist and complement each other.

This year E Alu Pū, like their ancestors before, crossed the world in difficult times to engage in governance and diplomacy at the World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France. They looked out, saw traces of change, in the undulations of the ocean. With indigenous peers they jumped in. They helped change the narrative. They pointed at pathways toward the power of people, their places and traditions.

The horizon of the last two years was hazy. It left many dizzy and bewildered. Its difficult to realign the canoe in unfamiliar currents. Yet many rural and Native Hawaiian communities rose to the challenge. Their global peers did too. Since KUA’s founding our community leaders have pointed to our fundamental infrastructure; our environment and a more virtuous relationship to it. A relationship and foundation to be rebuilt.

Here at home: community fishery management efforts continue, the significance of indigenous aquaculture inspires food system discussions and actions, community leaders designed an app to collect observations and catalyzed deeper explorations into kilo (observation) and in 2022 communities will celebrate limu’s (seaweed’s) significance for our entire community.

Returning from France we saw Native Americans hired to oversee and lead environmental governance at the highest levels of the US government. The White House issued a memo “to recognize Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK)” and set forth a mandate to better integrate and respect ITEK in federal decision-making nationwide.

Now local, national and global environmental issues witness shifts at least in rhetoric that seem to elevate the voice, perspective and empowerment of indigenous people, and local and underrepresented communities. Foundations and governments discuss increased focus and movement of resources to more local levels of governance and to community efforts where situated knowledge and practical mālama (caretaking) occur.

We observe: Amidst instability it’s difficult to see the destination. However, communities have pointed in the direction we need to go. They pointed in the direction long before this pandemic and they will continue to point our way through it.

We look forward to 2022. To re-weave the social fabric of our connections to each other. To point once again together and re-affirm the destination.

Kevin Chang,
Executive Director, KUA

Read PDF version HERE

*Photos by Kim Moa



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