Governor Elect Neil Abercrombie announced the appointment of William Aila to the position of Chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), an important post that covers protection of the environment and cultural resources, including Native Hawaiian sacred places and burials. Aila is the harbormaster of the Wai’anae Boat Harbor, a community activist on Native Hawaiian and environmental issues and a leader in efforts to protect and reclaim Makua Valley from the Army. This could be a good development for groups seeking stronger state protection of iwi kupuna (ancestral remains) and working to end military destruction of Hawaiian land in Makua and other locations in Hawai’i. In the past, Abercrombie has urged the Army to find alternatives to training at Makua. So let’s hope that the appointment of Alia to head DLNR signals a commitment to fulfill that promise. At the same time, we must ensure that other locations such as Pohakuloa, Lihu’e or Kahuku are not sacrificed to further military expansion as the trade off for Makua. Remember that the Stryker expansion involves the Army seizing an additional 25,000 acres of land, whereas, Makua is about 5000 acres.
However, Abercrombie has also built his reputation in Congress by securing military spending in Hawai’i, much of it related to construction projects to intensify the military presence in Hawai’i. As Hawai’i Business reports, key elements of Abercrombie’s economic recovery plan include military spending:
• Again, using federal dollars, and particularly spending by the Defense Department, build a “21st-century” infrastructure in areas such as energy, information, irrigation and rail transit.
• Make technology and innovation a backbone of the economy, including a stronger emphasis on dual-use technology businesses, which create technology for the military that can also be used in civilian applications.
We need to ensure that this new administration does not make Hawai’i more dependent on and subservient to the military-industrial complex.
The military presence in Hawai’i also brings dangers to the communities and the troops themselves. The toxic legacy of Agent Orange still destroys the lives of US troops as well as Vietnamese. The University of Hawai’i has the dubious distinction of helping to develop and test Agent Organge in the 1960s. Several UH workers who worked on the project were exposed to the toxin and allegedly died from health effects of the exposure. A new project Make Agent Orange History partnered with the Matsunage Institute for Peace to conduct a mock dialogue on Agent Orange. I am not clear what the outcome of the project will be. We have current issues with Agent Orange contamination on Kaua’i and Depleted Uranium contamination on O’ahu and Hawai’i island. I hope the Matsunaga Institute will become more active in seeking the clean up and restoration of these sites and prevention of further military contamination of the ‘aina.
Military accidents are another danger. In 2006 two U.S. soldiers died as a result of a mortar blast at Pohakuloa. The families of the soldiers sued the manufacturer, General Dynamic, the same company that makes the Stryker combat vehicle. The jury in the civil suit recently found that General Dynamics was not liable for the deaths:
An 81 mm mortar round that misfired in 2006, killing a 27-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier at the Big Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area, was not defective, a jury in a federal civil trial determined yesterday.
A new online educational resource project of the Hawaiian independence group MANA has been launched. Mo’olelo Aloha ‘Aina is now online. It includes oral histories of activists from key Hawaiian struggles of the past 30-40 years, including the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana. Here’s the announcement and link:
Check out this new website with stories and mana’o from kanaka aloha aina who have been involved in different land struggles in Hawai’i! The Moolelo Aloha Aina project website is at: http://moolelo.manainfo.com/
Here’s a little bit about the project:
The Moolelo Aloha Aina project gathers oral histories of Aloha Aina activists who have engaged in direct action land struggles in Hawaii. It is intended to be an educational resource for anyone to use. As a project of MANA (Movement for Aloha no ka ‘Aina), we hope it will inspire new generations to become active in protecting and caring for the ‘aina.
The project creators started by interviewing some key people from a few struggles from the 1970s–Kahoolawe, Kalama Valley and Waiahole-Waikane. You can catch mana’o from Soli Niheu, Pete Thompson, Emmett Aluli, and Walter, Loretta and Scarlett Ritte, on the site, among others.
Since the website is intended to be a living archive, the creators encourage filmmakers or anyone with a video camera to get involved by contributing to the archive. The project coordinators are also looking to collaborate with educators to help increase the young people’s awareness of the legacy of activism that is such an integral part of Hawaiian history and current reality.
You can check out a digital story (a short video) describing the project at: http://vimeo.com/16689150
Please feel free to spread the word by forwarding this message!