Activists erect makeshift checkpoint

  • Kalaniakea Wilson speaks to a motorist at an unauthorized checkpoint along the Maunakea Access Road on Monday. TOM CALLIS/Tribune-Herald
  • Kalaniakea Wilson speaks to a motorist at an unauthorized checkpoint along the Maunakea Access Road on Monday.

    TOM CALLIS/Tribune-Herald

  • TOM CALLIS/Tribune-Herald

    Kalaniakea Wilson, far left, stands with another “kanaka ranger” at an unauthorized checkpoint along the Maunakea Access Road on Monday. Participants erected the red building, called “Hale o Kuhio.”

About two dozen people calling themselves “kanaka rangers” held an unauthorized checkpoint Monday along the Maunakea Access Road.

They staged themselves about 700 yards from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and erected a small shack next to the access road on property belonging to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.


The makeshift structure was named “Hale o Kuhio” after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole, who spearheaded passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. A few inverted Hawaii flags were flown.

Organizers, including members of a group called the Beneficiaries Trust Council, said they are frustrated by delays in putting beneficiaries on DHHL land around Maunakea and were staging the checkpoint to mark Prince Kuhio Day.

By keeping track of who was on the road, also used to access land held in trust for Hawaiians in the area, Kalaniakea Wilson said they were practicing resource management. No one was being told to leave or denied access, he said.

“It’s a Hawaiian management program. It’s a ranger program,” Wilson said. “It’s not a protest.”

Wally Ishibashi, DHHL commissioner for East Hawaii, said the checkpoint wasn’t sanctioned by the agency, though he understands the organizers’ frustration.

The beneficiary wait list is more than 22,000 statewide. Ishibashi said some of the longest delays are with pastoral or agricultural lands, such as those around Maunakea, where DHHL holds 67,000 acres in trust.

“They’re getting desperate, and desperate people do desperate things,” he said.

Ishibashi said lack of water infrastructure is one of the reasons for the delay in issuing leases in the area.

“We’re land rich and cash poor,” he said.

The checkpoint wasn’t related to the Thirty Meter Telescope or other issues surrounding management of Maunakea, though some of those present were part of the TMT protests held on the mountain a few years ago. TMT opponents held a similar checkpoint ahead of a roadblock during one of the protests.

In this case, there were no reports of anyone blocking the road, and a state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman said an enforcement officer was monitoring the situation. The road above Halepohaku was closed because of snow.

When a reporter was present, participants, wearing reflective safety vests, were waving to motorists to encourage them to stop. The motorists were then asked where they were going. A stop sign stood in a traffic cone on the side of the road.

The interaction lasted a few moments, and drivers were wished a happy Prince Kuhio Day.

Lakea Trask, who participated in the TMT protests on the mountain, characterized the action as direct land management by those who are supposed to benefit from the land trust.

“We’re here to assert and exercise our rights,” he said. “… We’re the kanaka on the land. This is direct accountability.”


Asked if the checkpoint would continue beyond the holiday, Wilson said that’s up to the “community.”

Email Tom Callis at

  1. Graystash March 27, 2018 4:44 am

    We are “Land Rich & Cash Poor” Really ? please ex plane the millions of $$ that DHHL receives every year and just what are you doing with it ??

    1. Kalaniakea Wilson March 27, 2018 4:49 am

      They certainly are not placing wait list beneficiaries on the land

      1. Graystash March 27, 2018 5:20 am

        I really believe that DHHL is a total scam !!

        1. diverdave March 27, 2018 11:06 pm

          DHHL has NOTHING to do with any reparation for anything real or
          imagined. That was made quite clear when John Wise and Prince Jonah
          Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole presented the program to Congress almost 100 years ago in 1920.
          Kuhio argued that it was necessary in order to save a “dying race”. He
          further stated that “all Polynesians know how to do is fish and farm”.
          (Kind of a racist notion today even if it did come from another Polynesian).

          The program was meant to be a commercial farming ventur “experiment”. It was to be started first on Molokai growing pineapples, and if the “experiment” worked it would be increased to other islands.

          Of course the premise that the“experiment” was based on was that the Polynesians were a “dying race” even though there is evidence that the good Prince knew that the population of
          Polynesians had been increasing since 1900.

          The business plan, yes it was a commercial venture, was that as the lease payments came in on leased properties those payments would go to fund new leases. Everyone knew, as the testimony shows, that there was not
          going to be enough land for all Polynesians that would want some.
          But, it was decided that there was enough that if the“experiment” worked
          that enough Polynesians would be helped to make it worthwhile. If the
          “experiment” didn’t work it could simply be stopped. The name of the
          experiment was obviously a misnomer (Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands, notice
          how they have now separated “Homelands” into two words “Home Lands”).
          It was never about homes. It was about FARMING!

          1. diverdave March 27, 2018 11:10 pm

            Does that sound like a “buy Tutu a condo in Kona” program?

            Now almost a hundred years later the Polynesian-Hawaiian race has not
            “died”(in fact it is the fastest growing race in the U.S.), and the
            “Rehabilitation Act” as it was
            commonly called at the time, has gone
            so far afield from its original intent that it has reached a point that it cannot be realistically implemented.

            There was another more
            sinister reason why this program came about. It was discussed behind
            closed doors in smoke filled rooms. It was known at the time as the
            “Japanese problem”.

            Japanese had been homesteading property at an alarming rate. (Before 1920 anyone of any race could homestead government property). The King Kalakaua leases that were made under his dynasty were coming up for renewal, and these included vast areas of good bottom land much of it controlled by big sugar cane plantations. It
            was feared that these would also be gobbled up by the huge Japanese and
            Chinese population in the islands. So, this plan took that property mostly off the table, and set up remaining homesteadable properties for
            this race based homesteading program under the reasons already discussed

            The Japanese and the Chinese were without a doubt the most discriminated groups in the Islands until Statehood.

            The”blood quantum” idea first came about when John Wise and Prince Kuhio
            argued for the Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act of 1920. It was first
            discussed that anyone with as little as 1/32 blood quantum should be
            allowed to apply. But, this went against Prince Kuhio’s main argument that the “Rehabilitation Act”, as it was commonly called at the time, was not just a back to the land opportunity, but to “save a dying race”.
            In addition, there was only so much land, and there wouldn’t be enough for all, let alone folks with greater blood quantum.
            So, the 50% amount was agreed upon.

            Inany case, almost 100 years later we know that Polynesian-Hawaiians are
            NOT a “dying race” and the program has been a dismal failure, as well as
            all the other 800 plus Polynesian-Hawaiian only race based programs in
            this state.

            Yet another example of racism run amok on all the “other” good citizens of this State.

  2. Agroforestry Design March 27, 2018 6:51 am

    Generations have died on the DHHL waiting list, apparently partly due to a “lack of water infrastructure”, while Hawaii Island’s population has surged as people from the US buy and move on to land with no water infrastructure.

    1. PUNATIC March 27, 2018 6:59 am

      from the US?….you mean like Hawaii?

  3. windplr March 27, 2018 7:08 am

    So these folks are setting up road blocks, posing as ‘officials’, stopping motorists, asking questions and who knows what else. At a minimum this is a tactic of intimidation.

  4. Steve Dearing March 27, 2018 7:17 am

    Racists scamming the American taxpayers. Racists have no right to stop anyone for any reaon on public property. For law enforcement and the courts to cater to racists is unacceptable and intolerable. For criminals to be manning road blocks obstructing public access while law enforcement hides reflects that civil war is imment.

    1. John Demming March 27, 2018 10:11 am

      @windplr:disqus and @SteveDearing – This wasn’t a roadblock, it was an unsanctioned checkpoint. According to the article, which I am not defending, “No one was being told to leave or denied access”. No broken laws and no public compaint was reproted. The checkpoint “kanakas” were on their land, waving down cars to voluntarily stop and answer a couple of questions. No public access was interrupted. No matter what I think about the underlying Homeland issues, your alarmist and judgmental comments regarding this circumstance are way off base.

      1. windplr March 27, 2018 11:18 am

        “a stop sign stood in a traffic cone on the side of the road”
        These people were impeding the flow of traffic, in other words, a road block. Additionally, erecting a stop sign on a public highway is illegal. How would anyone encountering this road block in a vehicle know that everything about it was fake?

        1. John Demming March 27, 2018 12:17 pm

          Again, according to the photo, placed, yes, but not erected? If no one stopped, no infraction. How would any one “know”? By asking, and the flag, and the makeshift hut, and…I do see your point that if one vehicle stops, and everyone stays in their lane, there could be a massive “blockage” especially on that highly trafficked Maunka Kea road and that could cause back pressure into the Saddle which in turn could cause further serious traffic issues.

          1. Steve Dearing March 27, 2018 12:54 pm

            Your criminal dogma clearly reflects the demo rats stuck on stupid agenda. Protesters stand beside the road, racist fools stand in the road causing a public hazard.

          2. diverdave March 27, 2018 11:15 pm

            Correct Steve, the correct term I believe is “highjacking”. Highly illegal and unsafe.

      2. Steve Dearing March 27, 2018 12:48 pm

        This is a serious break down of law and order. Highway Bandits obstructing public roadways is in fact illegal, you have no right or authority to stop me to harass or question anyone. It indicates all the elements of a coming breakdown of law and order. History will certainly repeat itself due to the divisive and racist demo rat agenda.

      3. diverdave March 27, 2018 11:00 pm

        John says, “The checkpoint “kanakas” were on their land”. It is NOT their land. DHHL holds land to be used in an experiment started 100 years ago. No one will ever own that land, only possibly leased if 50% or better blood quantum.

    2. JusDis March 27, 2018 3:57 pm

      It’s non-violent civil disobedience. What’s the problem with that? People need a way to express their frustration with a broken system. Expect to see more of this in coming years (not just in Hawaii) as social, demographic, and environmental issues collide with a political system unable to address any of the core issues.

  5. Sara Steiner-jackson March 27, 2018 7:18 am

    Hawaiian Homeland Reservations are dysfynctional. Look at all those lava lots at Makuu and Kalapana. But the lots are empty…. because they want too much money, no one can afford it. People die waiting. Uncompassionate.

  6. pomai March 27, 2018 12:16 pm

    So much development on the big island.
    After 90 years on the deathlist still waiting

  7. Dean S March 27, 2018 7:04 pm

    “Poor and desperate” men stopping people in the road.

    Nothing can wrong with that. Lol.

  8. leilani March 29, 2018 1:19 pm

    Wally Ishibashi said, “we’re land rich, and cash poor.”

    Yes because the State has been leasing out our entire Mauna, the tallest in the world, our fresh water aquifer and one of the most sacred places in this world to people around the world for $1 a year.

    Below our Mauna the US military is poisoning Pohakuloa, 5x the area of Kahoolawe and it’s polluted with toxins like DU-238 (depleted uranium) that has a half life of 4.5 billion years. No one can ever use that land unless Pele erupts over it..

    The false missile alarm proved that we are not safe. There would be no safe place with the military here in Hawaii, it’s because they are here that we are NOT safe.

    Why can’t we be the ones to help bring aloha to the world by being neutral. We live on islands, they need to stop poisoning our paradise already.

    This is my roots here on this moku o keawe. Some places should be left alone, like the Mauna’s, streams, shorelines. Before the state makes decisions to lease beneficiary land they should allow “only beneficiaries” to vote and send testimony whether they oppose or agree.

    The Crown Lands do NOT belong to the State, it belongs to the beneficiaries of the “Trust.” Just like anyone else who might receive a trust, these crown lands are alodial lands that can never be bought or sold, it’s the highest form of ownership. It will be handed down in perpetuity forever.

    I’m sorry if I’m upsetting some of my fellow boomers, but the truth is we weren’t taught this because it was illegal for our grandparents to speak our Hawaiian language and passing down knowledge slowly became lost as well. Like there’s more than 1.8 million acres of Crown lands and the states been leasing so much of it for $1 a year to people who are “Destroying It.”

    I am sad because our kupuna couldn’t practice their culture, religion, hula, traditions and language! Many were never taught that our grandparents got beat if they were caught doing these normal things.

    Now I’m a grandmother who’s learning from guess who? I’m proud, happy and a little sad all at the same time. But full of love and hope for the future because they have so much energy, spirit, wisdom, empathy and healthy goals and dreams for the future.

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