Activists clear tents at Wailoa, leave garden

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Donna Grabow smiles while holding a painting she made of the kanaka garden in Wailoa River State Park in Hilo on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Gene Tamashiro speaks to friends and fellow activists while waiting for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to take the plants from their garden in Wailoa River State Park in Hilo on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald White Dove looks for the Department of Land and Natural Resources while burning sage in the kanaka garden in Wailoa River State Park in Hilo on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Gene Tamashiro holds the Kanaka Maoli flag while listening to activists speak about kanaka garden in Wailoa River State Park in Hilo on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Sarafi Mawae throws a ball to a dog while holding hands with Satya Lee in the kanaka garden at Wailoa River State Park in Hilo on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Activists wait for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to take the plants from their garden in Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo on Wednesday.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The kanaka garden remains in Wailoa River State Park in Hilo on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Activists occupying a portion of Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo were expecting state Department of Land and Natural Resource enforcement officers at 5 p.m. Wednesday, but by Tribune-Herald press time, some three dozen people were still waiting.

“I am perplexed, because it’s … almost 6 o’clock. And usually, these guys are really quite prompt when it comes to police action,” Gene Tamashiro, a leader who identifies himself as Hawaiian Kingdom Governance Authority, told a circle of those assembled and waiting. “So thank you for all showing up on time. We were not on Hawaiian time; we all showed up, right on time, expecting they would.

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“And surprises might still happen. The night is young.”

Officers of the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement on Tuesday delivered Tamashiro and the others a cease-and-desist order signed by DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case, ordering them to remove tents, other private property and a number of taro and banana plantings the group calls the “kanaka garden.”

By 5 p.m. the group had removed some sleeping tents and a small pavilion-type tarp tent but the garden, which was planted mostly on Sunday, remained.

Corbin Olson said he and a friend named Aero were the main architects of the garden, which “has a symmetrical design” that can be seen from within the garden but isn’t apparent from a street viewing. He added there were several varieties of taro in the garden.

Hawaiian sovereignty activists occupied the park in 2012 and 2013, with numerous arrests made and citations issued for illegal camping. Among those arrested were well-known Hawaiian elder Abel Simeona Lui. The kanaka garden was also uprooted by authorities several times during that period.

“If they come tonight, and they probably will, it will be five times that they pull the plants, pull the kalo, without due process,” Tamashiro told the group.

When an estimated 75 or so gathered on the lawn near the statue of Kamehameha the Great on Sunday, Tamashiro posted his own cease-and-desist order in the park on Hawaiian Kingdom Governance Authority letterhead. The group disputes the state’s title to the property, saying in the document that it is crown land deeded to the people of Hawaii byKamehameha III.

The document is also signed by Chad Haa, who claims to be lineal heir to Kamehameha III.

“I’ve been to DLNR meetings. I spoke there, and I shared with the public.” said Haa, who was also present. “My goal here is to get back what belongs to my family, which actually belongs to all the people of Hawaii.”

Tamashiro told the group the Hawaiian Kingdom Ko Hawaii Pae ‘Aina has “proof of superior title, which is the iwi in the ground — the bones in the ground before Captain Cook showed up.”

Thanking those who showed up, Tamashiro said he had “made my own bed” and would be there when authorities arrived, and those who were willing to stay were welcome, but not required.

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“We are the truth seekers. We are the tip of the spear of the peaceful revolution,” he said. “ … I am prepared to hold them accountable … that they have not provided facts and evidence of superior title to this ‘aina.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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