State uproots ‘kanaka garden’ at Wailoa park


  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Activist Gene Tamashiro near the statue of Kamehameha the Great in Hilo Thursday with citations from the Department of Land and Natural Resources in his right hand.

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Division of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers talk to a woman Thursday near the statue of Kamehameha the Great in the Wailoa River State Recreation Area.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald An activist walks through the uprooted kanaka garden in Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo.

An early morning operation Thursday to uproot a “kanaka garden” planted earlier this week by Hawaiian sovereignty activists was a multi-agency response, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

According to the DLNR, officers from its Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement were supported by officers from the Hawaii Police Department and the state Sheriff Division.


Law enforcement rolled into Wailoa River State Recreation Area at about 5:30 a.m. and a crew from DLNR’s State Parks Division removed taro plants and banana trees planted without permits by the activists, DLNR said.

Longtime activist Gene Tamashiro, the group’s 64-year-old leader, was issued citations on three violations of Hawaii Administrative Rules and ordered to appear at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 19 in Hilo District Court.

The citations charge him with leaving abandoned property on public lands, which were two flags he allegedly planted in the park, plus unauthorized use of state lands for agriculture use and introducing plants onto public property.

The early morning confrontation — like the occupation of the park itself — was peaceful, and the DLNR supplied video of the encounter. When Tamashiro was told the park was closed, he re-asserted his claim the Hawaiian Kingdom Ko Hawaii Pae ‘Aina has proper title to the land, deeded to the people of Hawaii by Kamehameha III.

“The park is closed according to whose jurisdiction, state of Hawaii?” Tamashiro asked DOCARE Officer Lawrence Terlep Jr., who replied, “That is correct.”

Saying he’d received no evidence from Attorney General Clare Connors or DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case that the state had superior title to the land, Tamashiro told Terlep the DLNR’s actions to uproot the plantings and clear the park is “unlawful.”

“My remedy is a nation-to-nation settlement, and we can also correct this through U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2, supremacy of treaties,” Tamashiro told Terlep.

In a statement, the DLNR said officers made contact with two women who initially refused to leave the park, but they eventually left on their own accord. Wailoa River State Recreation Area doesn’t open until 7 a.m. each day, but six or seven people were tending the football field-sized garden well before dawn, the department said.

The DLNR delivered a cease-and-desist order Tuesday, saying if the group didn’t remove the plantings and tents in the park by 5 p.m. Wednesday, those items would be seized by the state as abandoned property. The group removed the tents, but left the taro and banana plants in the ground.


The DLNR said the plants were taken to the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, and the viable plants will be returned to the ground.

Email John Burnett at

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