Kōkua aku, Kōkua mai: An Indigenous Consensus-driven and Place-based Approach to Community Led Dryland Restoration and Stewardship

Elsevier, Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 506, 15 February 2022
Kamelamela K.L., Springer H.K., Ku'ulei Keakealani R., Ching M.U., Ticktin T., Ohara R.D. et al.

The well-documented and forced migration of Indigenous Peoples from ancestral lands has fragmented connections to, and understandings of place. Yet Indigenous Peoples are reconceptualizing and revitalizing these connections including by leading forest landscape restoration efforts. Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) supports the design and practice of ecological restoration across rural to urban gradients – including both ancestral lands and contemporary places, with thought leaders advocating for biocultural approaches to address biodiversity loss, land occupation, and the colonial legacies of social and economic marginalization of Indigenous Peoples. To date, there are few examples in Hawai‘i, where in 1893 the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom disenfranchised most Indigenous People of land, freshwater, and coastal resources. Here we describe the Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Community-Based Subsistence Forest Area (P-CBSFA), that was formed in 2017 to steward 34-ha of land within the Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a State Forest Reserve, North Kona, Hawai‘i Island and is led by multi-generational lineal descendants of Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a. We focus on how this stewardship initiative has relied on holistic acknowledgement in the engagement of historical context, a Native Hawaiian conceptualization of the restoration process, and a collaborative and consensus-based restoration practice that includes non-profit organizations and state and federal agencies. This initiative, the first community-based and subsistence-focused forest restoration project on State of Hawaiʻi administered lands, is using a biocultural framework to transform 34-ha of non-native and fire-prone grasses into a native species dominated dryland subsistence forest. To do this, the P-CBSFA relies on a relationship ethic to: (i) build trust among partners; (ii) articulate an exportable vision of ILK-based restoration; (iii) walk in awareness of historical and contemporary injustices; (iv) enhance cultural values of the landscape; (v) establish and rely on formal, empathy focused communication; (vi) focus on community directed benefits; and most importantly (vii) cultivate joy. From this framework, the P-CBSFA emerges to provide a multi-dimensional passageway through which lineal descendants of Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a are formalizing governance and decision-making authority over their ancestral lands.