Nonprofit to build traditional hale on Kaua‘i

The Kaua‘i-based National Tropical Botanical Garden will build traditional thatched structures called hale on Kaua‘i and Maui to introduce new generations of Hawaiians to island culture and history, NTBG spokeswoman Janet Leopold said Saturday.

“We are very excited. Projects like this strengthen our ties with Hawaiian culture,” she said.

The nonprofit received a $97,513 grant from the state’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs to build hale near NTBG botanical gardens on Kaua‘i’s west and north sides and in eastern Maui.

“We are excited especially because it ties the three communities together. In addition to individually bringing the local communities into the gardens for this project, we will be using expertise from other communities,” Leopold said.

The project, called “Three Traditional Hale for Three Hawaiian Communities,” will first send NTBG staff members to Maui, and then bring staff members from the nonprofit’s garden in Maui to Kaua‘i to share expertise and the workload in coming months, Leopold said.

The uses for hale were varied, she said.

“It’s a traditional thatched or lashed structure. In some cases, it’s like a meeting house. Or in the case of how it’s going to be used at our Maui garden, it can be a canoe house,” Leopold said.

The hale will be built among the canoe plants first brought to the islands by ancient Polynesians traveling by canoe. The plants are now grown at the NTBG’s botanical gardens and preserves.

“As we’re teaching people about the plants that were important to Hawaiian culture, they will see this traditional structure, as well,” she said.

The hale will become new educational, research and cultural resources, she said.

At the NTBG’s McBryde Garden in the Lawa‘i Valley on Kaua‘i, staff members from Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau will join community members and students from various Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau schools to build the hale.

Community members and students will also help build a hale at the NTBG’s Limahuli Garden on the island’s northern shore.

The first hale will be built by community members and students from the Ma ka Hana ka ‘Ike (Knowledge exists through work) program at the NTBG’s Kahanu Garden on Maui, according to an NTBG news release.

“NTBG has been working with the Hawaiian community for close to four decades. Research and education in the cultural use of plants (ethnobotany) has been part of our mission and activities almost from the time we broke ground for our first site back in 1970,” NTBG Director and CEO Chipper Wichman said in the news release.

The NTBG, which is supported primarily through donations and grants, oversees 2,000 acres of gardens and preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida.

Leopold said the organization’s motto is: “saving plants, saving people.”

Leopold said a “huge project” is now in the planning stages for the McBryde Garden. “We call it the McBryde Garden Renewal Project. It’s going to improve the resources and experiences in the McBryde Garden for our students, visitors and scientists,” she said.

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