OOS 30-2 - Restoring cultural landscapes: Applying Hawaiian values in the twenty-first century

Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 1:50 PM
A107, Oregon Convention Center
Peter M. Vitousek, Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA and Kamanamaikalani Beamer, 'Ă„ina Based Education Department, Kamehameha Schools, Paauilo, HI

Many discussions of traditional ecological knowledge focus on small groups of people, in villages or rural landscapes.  Traditional knowledge in these systems is important, and its interaction with science presents significant practical and ethical challenges.  However, our experience in Hawaii – where Hawaiians developed socially and culturally complex societies based on intensive agriculture, and where Hawaiian society has continued to evolve in contact with western society – leads us to focus on large indigenous institutions or societies that are in deep and continuous contact with the world.  We ask two related questions – how can such institutions and societies sustain themselves while in contact with the homogenizing power of the modern world?  And, do they embody values, practices, and knowledge that can help the modern world along a transition towards sustainability?


We explore the land management practices of Kamehameha Schools, a large trust that exists to support the education of Hawaiian children and youth.  Kamehameha’s assets now exceed $8 billion and nearly 10% of all land in Hawaii, and they are involved in every aspect of the economic life of Hawaii. Kamehameha has worked to develop management strategies that recognize that as Hawaiians, their actions should be governed by the perspective of having a familial relationship with the land, and its life. The challenge lies in translating that perspective into guiding principles and practices for a 21st century institution.  Kamehameha has addressed this challenge by developing an explicit multiple-value framework for managing all its land.  Land and other assets must provide income; the institution needs income to function.  However, Kamehameha is an educational institution – and its assets can be used to support education directly, without first being monetized. Students can learn how Hawaiians once managed land, before the arrival of Europeans; they can learn how land can be managed under modern “best practices”; they can find ways to navigate managing land from an indigenous perspective in the modern world.  Similarly, land assets can support environmental values – watersheds can provide clean water for drinking or for agriculture, or for native stream biota or to feed beautiful waterfalls.  Land can support cultural values, sustaining significant gathering, artistic, or agricultural practices; land can also support the livelihood and well-being of Hawaiian communities. In practice, this set of values fosters the restoration of cultural landscapes, in which people live within rather than apart from the land.