Part Six – Understanding the Dream
by Sam Low
After speaking with John Dominis Holt, Nainoa returned home to his Grandmother’s house in Niu Valley, pondering what he had been told as he drove along the Kalanianaole highway. The answer was in the pain, Mr. Holt had explained, and it was very close – so close that Nainoa could not see it. What did that mean? Parking his car in the driveway, Nainoa walked up into the pasture behind his grandmother’s house to think.
“In those days my dad was on the Board of Trustees of the Bishop Estate,” Nainoa recalls. “Back in 1977 there was a movement by The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii to get the Federal Government to condemn the Kilauea Forest and to give it to them for conservation. My dad was angry about that because it was an effort to take land away from the estate, but he also recognized there was a need for a response. He studied the problem and discovered that the forest was in bad shape. So he started a reforestation program. I think the first tree planting started in 1977.”
Nainoa’s father – the forest – the pain – the replanting program; could these be clues to the meaning of the dream?
“I think that’s what John meant when he said the answer was close,’ Nainoa explains, “it was in my family history. When Tava and I were searching the forest, we passed the area that had been replanted with koa. I didn’t think of that when we walked through the forest, but all the answers were there. All the pieces of the puzzle were right in front of me – I just never saw it.”
“We were not just searching for Koa trees in the forest,” Nainoa continues, “we were searching for a sense of hope. When you step inside the koa forest it feels quiet and sacred – but it has been very abused. I think in searching the koa forest we created a spiritual relationship to that place and way down deep inside that connection was painful. But the solution to the pain was not clear. When Tava and I walked out of the Kilauea Reserve I was too focussed on managing a voyaging canoe project. It wasn’t until the confrontation with Ernie that I recognized that here was something more import then that. If that were the highest priority then we would have cut down the trees.”
At the time, Nainoa’s family – his grandmother Clorinda Lucas, his parents Pinky and Laura, his brother Myron, his sister Lita and her husband Bruce Blankenfeld – lived in three houses on a common plot of land at the head of a deep valley in Niu, under the shadow of Kulepemoa Ridge. Driving into the family compound, a visitor encountered first the canoe house of the Hui Nalu Canoe Club where a half dozen or so racing canoes were stored and where you almost always found club members laboring over a canoe, or meeting, or just hanging around in quiet comradeship. It’s a scene out of a more ancient way of life in Hawaii. Perhaps with a minor stretch of the imagination you could say it was a mini-ahupua’a – a place containing almost all that was needed, a supportive family and an extended ohana of friends and relatives. During a week or so of thinking about his dream and its meaning, Nainoa consulted informally with his ohana. Gradually, the answer to the problem of cutting down the trees in Alaska emerged.
“Even though we did not directly cause the abuse of our forest ,” Nainoa recalls, “we needed to take responsibility for it if we cared for the land. Our culture flourishes from that caring. So gradually the answer became clear, we needed to plant tees in our own forest before we cut any down in Alaska.”