Stories of Waihee: Reflections From Dr. Scott Fisher

Over the course of the last 15 years, my work with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust has allowed me to connect with a multitude of people with stories, knowledge, and skills to share. These gifts of ike have helped to shape how we approach land conservation in Hawaii, more specifically, how we malama the wahi pana that is Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. Beginning in the new year, and continuing over the course of the next two to three years, I will embark on a serial blog project — akin to historians of the past who published their findings in various Hawaii newspapers — to share the history, biology, geology, and cultural myths and legends of Waihee and express gratitude for the many people who have contributed to the restoration at Waihee over the years. 

The blog will be a journey stretching back 1.6 million years, when the volcano that we now call Puu Kukui, or the West Maui Mountains, finished its building phase, and will end with some reflections on our hopes for the future of this wahi pana.  In between we will share what we know, and what we have learned from our own studies, from archaeologists, kupuna, former cowboys, books, and newspapers. We hope that this collection of stories will serve as a resource for current and future generations, maintaining access to the vast ike we’ve collected over the years within a single source.  Over time, we hope that future generations will add to the story or inform our hypotheses as our current efforts come to fruition. This project will be a concise history, telling the story of Waihee, and what makes it a wahi pana, a place of legends, stories, and myths and a place where people have put their hands into the soil bringing life to the land for millennia.

So, it is with deep gratitude, that I ask you to follow me on this journey and to share your own recollections, hopes, dreams, or just mana’o about this special place.  At the end of the journey, we hope you will understand why we like to say so often, “He ali’i ka ‘aina, he kaua ke kanaka.” The land is the chief, and the people are its servants.

— Scott Fisher, PhD