KAHO`OLAWE: A New Awakening A Historical Perspective

by Charles Maxwell Sr.

Excerpts from the forthcoming book
Warrior Within - Chapter 5
Kanaloa (Kaho'olawe) is re-discovered

August 30, l975 Kuhe’ia Bay (Pedro bay), Kaho`olawe, six of us had left Maalaea Harbor about 5:00am for Kaho`olawe. There was myself, my son Charles Jr., Herbert Santos, Bear Nacua, Albert DeRego and Paul Fujishiro. We arrived about an hour and a half later at Pedro Bay. Herbert, Boysie (Charlie Jr.) and I were on one boat, Paul, Albert and Bear was on his boat. Before we went into the Bay, Herbert went in and placed empty clorax bottles on unexploded bombs that were sticking out of the water. After he did that, he called the other boat to come in. Arriving on a beautiful sand beach, the bow of the boat went right on the sand and we jumped off. I had noticed that this island was beautifull and looked exactly like Makena or Oluwalu on Maui and felt then what a waste it was to be bombing the island. After unloading we had gone about 3/4 of a mile above the bay hunting goats when 3 helicopters came overhead. Everyone ran for cover to hide from the helicopters and in an instant, I thought to myself, "why should I hide, I'm Hawaiian and this is my land". I took off my T-shirt and waved it to the helicopter, trying to catch their attention, so that they would arrest me and the plight of the Native Hawaiians could be aired. They just looked at me and waved and continued on their way.

That evening, my bad knee was bothering me so I was left back in camp and everyone else went to hunt goats. I went on a hill overlooking Pedro Bay, where I had left my Ho`okupu, (offering to the island), and sat overlooking the bay with Maui, Molokai and Lanai in the horizon. Some of the other guys had laid a net in the bay, using two unexploded bombs to attach the nets too and it had caught some papio. You could hear the fish flapping its tail in the water and what struck me at that time was that I and the fish were the only living things in the bay. The quite was deafening. There were no birds, no horns no people only extreme serenity. I can remember thinking of our ancestors who could have sat at this very spot, watching the sun setting, in the back of Lana`i, and in ancient times our Kupuna would be chanting to their aumakua, (personal gods), for protection throughout the night. At this time I too started praying to my gods and my aumakua and was so overwhelmed by the moment that I wept for our people, who at one time owned this island and used it for sustenance and now, in the hands of the haoles, its bombed, mutilated and scarred and our people of today would never experience the beauty of Kaho`olawe. At this time I had made a vow to reclaim Kaho`olawe for the Native Hawaiian people.

When the others came back from hunting, all the food was ready for them and after dinner, we spoke about Kahoolawe. Some of them had been to Kahoolawe on regular bases over the past 15 years and had seen many things happening on the island. They use to drive the trucks that are kept there, back and forth to their favorite fishing spots. They use to see the helicopters come in with high ranking officers and women and they would have parties right on the beach by their base camp.

After dinner, we prepared the camp site for sleeping on the sand at "Pedro Bay" and were fascinated at the preparation to the camp site. We had to make a trench, perimeter around our sleeping area and fill it up with hot ash from our fire place throughout the night, so that the centipedes would not bother us while we were sleeping. Hunting was very unique also because the men would walk into the hills for several miles then herd the goats close to the camp site, shoot them close to the water so they could be cleaned with ease and attempt to catch the rest to take back alive. During the night, there were several goats tied to the kiawe trees and they would be quite. Because they were not hunted as much, we use to shoot them with 22 rifles at close range to gather meat and not for sport.

That night, just before we fell asleep I had told them that someday, I would come back and claim Kaho`olawe for the Hawaiian people. They all laughed at me and warned me that I better not screw up their hunting grounds. Exactly 8 months later, January 6, 1976 we re-claimed Kaho`olawe for the Hawaiian People.

The person who knew the island like the back of his hand was Herbert Santos who could navigate night landings in to the bays with just a flash light. "Bear" Nakua was our right hand and would work with Herbert like a team. They had previoursly hidden water and can goods in the caves of Kaho`olawe.

In 1975 I was the vice-president of the Aloha Association and had been to Washington D.C. several times working for reparations. I was told by many people that although our cause was just, we as native Hawaiians were unknown, and many people that live on the mainland does not know that there are even Native Hawaiians living in Hawaii. I knew at that time that we would have to create a national incident to make the rest of the United States aware of our plight. I also knew that we would have to do something on property that was controlled by the federal government and we had two choices, Kaho`olawe or Pearl Harbor.

I decided against Pearl Harbor, because it was not symbolic and we would be stopped right away whereas Kaho`olawe would be more practical, it was not occupied and I had the man power to pull it off. I attempted to get support from the members of the ALOHA Association, however only Richard Hoopii would help me and not even any members of the Maui ALOHA organization. I approached Uncle Harry Mitchell who was a Maui delegate, but he did not want to get involved. He became involved later after his son Kimo Mitchell was lost at sea attempted to leave Kaho`olawe.

Only my family and several of my trusted friends new of my plans. We had explored all avenues and decided that we should "invade" Kaho`olawe on January 6, l976, the 200 birthday of America.

Russell Means from South Dakota had learned of our occupation and gave me a call. He told me that we should occupy Kahoolawe with women and children and go armed. I told him that would not prove anything and people would be hurt. He said that we would have to really commit our selves and go amass together. That the native Americans and Hawaiians would blow out the candle on the white mans 200 birthday cake.

We had informed our Kupuna, Auntie Edith Kanakaole and others, who started fasting and praying for the success of this mission. We had hand picked people from each island to go with us and had devised a plan on how and what would happen once we got onto Kaho`olawe. I had gotten Walter Ritte from Molokai and had told him that once we had got to Kaho`olawe, his job along with who he would pick would be keeping the camp supplied with meat. Coats Cobb Adams would take care of the fishing and act as security, along with his committee. Sonny Kaniho represented Hawaii and all the other islands had representatives.

Gail PreJean would go from Oahu, altogether we had 56 people. The fisherman came to our help in supplying transportation to Kaho`olawe. Their job was just to get us onto the Kaho`olawe and leave because they were very concerned that they would loose their boats. We were well aware that we would be arrested by the Navy once they found that we were on Kaho`olawe and we had thought and prepared for a stay of about 3 days. That once we had landed we would set up a council and abide by stringent rules, because it was dangerous with all the unexploded shells on the ground.

I had reserved the Waikapu Community Center as a staging area and throughout the afternoon and evening of January 5; we kept shuttling people to Waikapu from the airport. Sometime in the evening, I was informed by one of the Kupuna that Walter Ritte, Emmett Aluli and his friends were smoking pakalolo. At this point I had gotten everyone together and "chopped their okoles" and had informed them that there would be no weapons, liquor or marijuana on the island. I had everyone get rid of whatever they had and I personally saw to it that they were clean. It was very dangerous to drink or "get high" on the island with all the unexploded ordinances.

We had gotten a boat for the press and had gathered at the Maalaea Pier at 5:00am. and had learned that the news papers new about it and that Gail PreJean had informed the L.A Times about the occupation and they had called the Navy to inquire.

A fast meeting was called and all of the boat owners were informed of this fact and they could pull out if they wanted too. None of them did. We met as a landing party and we all agreed that if the Navy would stop us, we would make believe that we were leaving come back to Maalaea and Lahaina, then sneak back later to Kaho`olawe as a group, That if could not land as a group, we would go on another occasion.

After all the prayers and farewells, my son wanted to go onto the island with me and I remember telling him that some day he would understand what we were doing. We left Maalaea at about 6:00am. and headed for Kaho`olawe. The feeling was awesome and as we left Maalaea harbor, I could see Kaho`olawe in the distance as the sun rose and looking back at the pier our families were waving and crying. It was like we were not going to return. As we got half way to the island, I read a note that was given to me by my daughter at Maalaea Pier, she had written a poem called, "Hawaiian Awakening" It read:

Beaten, tortured, island all alone,
Hear the winds cry, the mountains moan,
A culture, a land, destroyed by white man’s greed,
Taking our pride and honor, they planted their seed.

Spreading the lord's word too our Hawaiian race,
Be civilized, be westernized, to save face.
We've followed their rules much to long,
Our protests are heard in our music and song
Kane look upon your children this year,

Spread your blessings, banish their fear,
A ship will come to a deserted land,
Upon this vessel will not be Whitman,
But, a proud culture from long ago,
And in these men's veins Hawaiian blood flow,
They go in peace, not to fight,
But to reclaim their native Hawaiian rights,
1976 a year of our new awakening,
Kaho`olawe a land, the Hawaiians with be OVERTAKING!!!!!!

Written by: Debbie Ann Punalani Maxwell January 2, 1976 "A tiny flame has been lit on Kaho`olawe, pray to god that it will become a torch, and then a beacon."

When he got to about 3 miles off Kaho`olawe, we were approached by the coast guard cutter and a helicopter. They hovered over use and told us that if we landed we would be arrested and the boats would be confiscated.

All of the boats met, and we had all agreed to make believe that we were going back, everyone would scatter, some would go towards, Kaupo, some for Lahaina and we would go back to Kaho`olawe at 4 O'clock in the afternoon. We all left and halfway back to Maalaea, we had learned Walter Ritte and his groups had landed on the island without the rest of us.

While at Maalaea, George Helm, who was with Ritte came back to Maalaea and asked us for all the supplies that we had, and he informed us at that time that about 9 them had landed on Kaho`olawe. He was informed that we had planned this for months and that we should all land united on the island. He stated that they were not going to leave the island, so our committee informed them that they should do it on their own. We were being closely watched by the Navy and could not leave Maalaea. We remained at Maalaea for the entire day and gave out news reports that Hawaiians from all over the state would be landing on Kaho`olawe and this was not true but it sure confused the Navy who sent a lot of helicopters to Kaho`olawe and started to arrest the people from the first landing. They picked up 7 people but could not find Walter Ritte and Emmett Aluli.

On January 8th 1976, in the early morning, we had a call from the Navy that they had picked up Walter Ritte and Emmett Aluli who was under military arrest and were being brought by Helicopter to the Kahului Airport, in handcuffs.

Upon arriving at the airport, I was led to the airport's manager’s office and waited for the arrival of Walter and Emmett. They were brought from Kaho`olawe by helicopter upon arriving at the Kahului Airport, and were brought to the office. Upon seeing Emmett and Walter, I knew that they had gone through some heavy experiences on Kaho`olawe. Walter was clinging to some bones he said was sacred, (goat bones) and Emmett was speaking about the goddess "Hina", who protected them the two days that they stayed on Kaho`olawe.

My personal observation was that they had some heavy experiences or they were going through some kind of withdrawals, (from not having pakalolo). Especially Walter who was shaking when he spoke. Emmett and I tried to keep him away from the press and the Television cameras so that he would not say something out of place, but we were not successful as he was very talkative at this point.

After speaking with Sgt. Gill. Ah Sam Sr., who was the arresting Officer and the only Native Hawaiian with the Navy Police, I called Washington D.C. from the airport manager’s office. I called Senator Inouye collect and asked him if he could talk to the Navy and un-arrest Ritte and Aluli. He told me that he could not because we broke the law but I told him that I made this landing as a show of protest and the land belonged to the Hawaiian people.

He spoke to an Admiral in Pearl Harbor, and they were let loose. I was involved for a month or so afterwards and was personally asked by Emmett Aluli to step down as he felt that I was not supporting the cause of getting them on Kaho`olawe at all cost, so I did. About 6 months later they formed the Protect Kaho`olawe `Ohana.

Myself and the fisherman were parties to the suit (Aluli et.all. vs. Brown)

In march of 1993, I went back to Kaho`olawe with our dancers of the Pukalani Hula Hale, Nina and my two grandsons, Uluwehiokalani Maxwell and Kamalani Kamali’i. Our hälau stayed on the island for 4 days and everyone had a tremendous experience.

At night we shared our thoughts and I related to everyone that were their the wish I had 17 years earlier, where everyone could experience the spiritual awakening Kaho`olawe had to offer and by me seeing all the children and adults from every walk of life on the island, made my wish come true.

The 4 days our halau stayed on the island was a lot of hard work. They hiked to the top of the mountain and cleaned archeological sites and also the pa hula (hula mound). At night under the gas lanterns they danced a chant about how the goddess Pele brought the first water to Hawaii and she started with Kaho`olawe or Kanaloa as the island was original called.

By Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.

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