Valerie Grussing: Next we have Trisha Watson. She’s one of the Culture Resources members of the US Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. She has a JD and a background in environmental law, and a PhD from the University of Hawaii. She’s chair of the IUCN Theme on Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities Equity and Protected Areas, which serves as advisor to the World Heritage Convention. She’s also on the steering committee of the World Commission of Protected Areas.
Trisha Watson: Hi. I didn’t write a paper, because I can’t do that. I have the attention span of a squirrel, so I’m just going to talk at you folks. I have my phone up here just to keep time, because I could talk for days. I’m not going to do that to you.
First of all, I’m not going to cover everything, but we’re awesome in Hawaii, so you just need to know that and accept that. This is the only thing I’m going to read to you. Hawaiian cultural landscapes in traditional Hawaiian context, nature and culture are one and the same. There is no division between the two. The wealth and limitations of the land and ocean resources gave birth to and shaped the Hawaiian worldview. The Aina: land, Wai: water, Kai: ocean and Leva: sky were the foundation of life and source of the spiritual relationship between people and their environments. I went to school for a really long time, obviously, for all those degrees, but really, I was, the great fortune of my education came from elders and other community people like Kepa Maly, who really would have been a far more entertaining speaker than I will be.
The knowledge, the intangible cultural heritage of our people is vast. Traditional Hawaiian land divisions, if you can imagine our island like that. That’s the island I’m from, Oahu, which most people probably, if you’ve come to Hawaii, you’ve been to Oahu. If you can see the island there, if you can see the different colors, hopefully you can. Our island is split. Oahu is split into six different Moku. In 800 AD, my great, 17 more greats grandfather, Mailikukahi, developed a geopolitical land system called the Ahupua’a system. He took the island, and then divided it into six districts.
Within each district, he further divided into the Ahupua’a system. Each district is then further divided into pie-shaped wedges that extended from ridge out to the reef. Each basically watershed system goes up all the way out and contains an ocean area. It was either one mile or to the fringing reef. This system, you can see, there are 23 different divisions that essentially correlate with biomes that basically had a fully sustainable system. What’s rather amazing is this basically survived to today in various legal and policy forms. When we talk about a Hawaiian cultural landscape, I very much, as do others, think about this system.
Also, when I talk about a Hawaiian cultural landscape, I’m going to talk about first settlement versus second settlement. First settlement was really the arrival of Polynesians to Hawaii. While we’ve talked about the impact of human settlement throughout these two days, I think it’s important to remember that while there was human impact, it was nominal and very minimal, the human impact in the footprint that first settlement left compared to the second settlement, which is when foreigners come to Hawaii.
The Ahupua’a system basically is where you have the high waters that come down. They come and feed into the valleys of Hawaii. You have agricultural. Forest areas are highest up. Agricultural systems that feed down. Hopefully you can read that to some degree, and what we call vol, or realms. You have the living area of people in the lower coastal areas, and then you have fishing villages along the coast.
I’m going to give an example. We don’t really ever go up, in traditional times, into the highland areas. That’s why when you look at images of or studies of ecological footprints along first settlements or the first settlement period, you don’t see that in upland areas. I think that’s something important that we’ve not talked about, is the fact that in traditional cultures, for places to be sacred, you won’t necessarily see that there was human presence there. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t value those places if you don’t find evidence of material culture there. It meant that in certain cultures, to revere them, you didn’t go there. That was specifically because we valued the ecosystem services that came from certain places. We weren’t going to settle where our most valued water sources came from.
In this eaxmple of Pu’u Kukui, in the mauka area, which is the mountain area, you can see the value of the water source versus what happens down makai, which is equally valued, but is a far more habitable area, which is why you’re going to find a lot more archaeological activity.
As you can see, this is not the same area, but this is just some historic photos. These are, as you’ve seen in the illustration, on the left, you have our lo’i. These are our taro pond fields. Taro was the staple crop of the Hawaiian people. I think this is 1888. This is a photo from Kauai of historic pond fields and agricultural lands. You can see these taro terraces that come all along the valley. On the right, this is Alekoko fishpond, also on Kauai.
I’m going to talk a little bit about fishponds. The primary maritime culture of Hawaii was the fishponds. This was a picture, a drawing from 1825 of a fishpond village in Oahu, actually from the district that I’m from. In addition to extensive fishponds, we had over 400 originally at the time of the second contact. You had navigation. You had salt pans. You had all of the homes you can see at the bottom of the photo, hopefully you can, that there were homes and different just regular human living along the coastal areas that were extensive.
This is a different area on the island of Oahu, but this illustrates it as well. You have these extensive landscapes that, even by the early 1900s, you still had of the four hundred, one hundred traditional Hawaiian fishponds that were fully functional throughout the state of Hawaii.
This is one area where you can see the different arrows pointing to all the different archaeological sites that are fishponds, hieau, which are religious sites, salt pans and different archaeological sites along the coastlines in just one district. Of four hundred, this is just one area where you had extensive mariculture activity throughout the Hawaiian islands. This is not even the island where we had the most concentration of traditional Hawaiian fishponds.
What is important to remember, and I think an extensive challenge in Hawaii, is that these fishponds are still used. My company, for the last three years, worked on a project to restore, to work on programmatically restoring traditional fishponds throughout the state. For twenty years, traditional Hawaiian fishpond practitioners struggled, and I mean struggled with just getting the permits to protect and restore fishponds. It took seventeen permits to be able to restore a fishpond and hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to secure those permits. It took twelve different agencies, and these are community groups. Even fishponds that, and you can see. Clearly, from the aerial photo on the left, they’re still there. You couldn’t move a rock in a pond without securing a number of permits.
What we ended up doing, and this was a twenty-year problem. The EPA poured millions into looking at the problem, and it was just, you had to go through Department of Health. You had to go through NOAA. You had to go through everybody. I found the last panel very interesting about the challenge of working across the agencies. How we ended up fixing this problem was, we ended up doing, they told us to go site by site. I’m feisty, for those who know me in the room. I aspire to be Jon Jensen and tell everybody they’re full of crap. That’s what I did. Instead of doing, they told me, “Pick a few ponds and go site by site.” I guess I told them they were all full of crap.
I said, “No. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to say every pond is eligible.” We picked all four hundred ponds. We did a programmatic EA, and we did a programmatic program. What we did was, we did an essential fish habitat study. We went through the ESA. We did the MMPA studies. We did everything. We brought everybody to the table. By doing that at an agency and state level where we looked at it as a system instead of looking at them as sites, we were able to create a comprehensive program where communities are able to now just come in to get approval under this programmatic approval that we got.
We basically did it under a nationwide permit with Army Corps. Then we did the same thing, which is a master CDUP, which is a Conservation District Use Permit, at the state level. Communities are able to go in and use that to restore and protect and maintain these individual sites that way. Really, that was because we stopped looking at them as sites, individual fishpond sites, and looked at them as parts of systems that provide ecosystem services. That was something that I just thought I’d mention after the last panel.
When we work with communities, what’s always really important is, indigenous communities don’t always have a lot of capacity. You folks are talking about how you work on a planner level. What’s really hard for us is, Hawaiians don’t think on a two-dimensional level. We don’t even think on a 3-dimensional level. We don’t think just terrestrial. We think about depth. We have names for every point along the horizon. We go up into the sky. We’re navigators. We have celestial maps. We think not only about the significance of a rock or an area or the depths of the sea or the stars in the sky. We also think about the spawning seasons. We think about moon calendars. Then we also think about the importance of ceremony. We think about the importance of individual gods. We also think about natural heritage, tangible cultural heritage and then the intangible cultural heritage.
When we’re working with communities, which I often do, we like to do baseline assessments that get communities to take stock of what they have along these different grids. Like I said, there’s a lot we could cover, but those are just the different areas that when we go into communities, this is basically the baseline assessment that we like to have them do.
We pull from all of these different data sources. The bottom right is just from Mauna Kea, you guys have probably heard about the fun time we’re having over that. That’s from the Archaeological Inventory Survey, the bottom right. The top is just a beautiful picture but one of the telescopes shooting something up into the sky. The middle is an 800-page oral history that was done on Mauna Kea. The bottom left is from the EIS, so just information that was done in compliance of the state EIS. The top left is a moon calendar, and then the bottom center is just to depict the gods that are present. That’s Poli’ahu in a painting that was done of her.
If you don’t know what’s going on in Mauna Kea, it’s been quite the controversy. Protestors have been occupying the mountain for six months now. There have been, I think we’re over 50 arrests over the mountain, and a telescope that’s being built there. Probably the most entertaining photo is in the upper left. If you don’t recognize him, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, that is Gregor or however you say his name. Yeah, he got up there. He keeps Instagramming. Everybody’s got in on the action.
We like to focus far more on Capacity Building and Education. This is a program we’re taking part in on Lana’i. That’s the island that’s owned by Larry Ellison. For years now, we’ve been working with the students there, teaching them about archeology, teaching them how to restore their own landscapes, develop their own conservation plans. We work with them. Jon Jensen was actually part of this program. That’s the Sea Education Alliance program on the right where we actually take them out on the vessels, but we also take them up into the mountains. This is two years ago.
This is this past summer, where they did a lot of the base capacity building on the skills. They’re actually doing the restoration currently, where they’re restoring fishponds. They’re restoring terraces. This was the third year of a three-year program, but we’re getting additional funding to keep the program going. It demonstrates that you really can teach the next generation.
We do all of this because we really, in the middle of the Pacific, recognize that the elephant in the room is the necessity to do renewable energy projects. This is, I’m trying to think where this is now. I can’t remember. I’m actually one of the delegates for the COP in Paris. We realize that climate change is a very, very real problem. We recognize the need to preserve historic preservation sites, but we also recognize that we have very, very close relations in the Pacific that are facing real challenges. It’s just not about the individual sites, but cultures and nations that may be lost. We realize it’s about much more than us, but about all the cultures in the Pacific that need us to find solutions to these very real problems.
Thank you very much.