Seeing conflict at Coco Palms another way

I read with great interest about the Hawaiian alii descendants and the Coco Palms owners. As I understand it, both come from governments that neither accepts, with laws that protect their land claims. It could sound like a great impasse, and something very costly to try to figure out legally. But there could be another way of looking at it.

Kauai Economic Opportunity offers mediation to the community at a sliding scale fee. Mediators teach both disputing sides not to assume that they know what the other side wants, but to ask. We listen. In my 19 years of mediating, I have heard some amazing resolutions to issues that initially seemed very difficult to work with.

I believe with all my heart that there are no problems that love and wisdom cannot solve. And of the two, love is stronger. Love can see beyond the mind’s limited perspective. I love the sacred area upon which Coco Palms stands and is surrounded by. Is there perhaps a way that the two sides could actually benefit each other by living side by side?

Many tourists come to Kauai hungry for the culture, spirituality and beauty of the island. Hauola (a Place of Refuge), Hikina a ka la, Malae, and Ka Lae o Ka Manu/Holo holo Ku are four major heiau areas within walking distance of Coco Palms. Poliahu, across from Opaekaa Falls and Kamokila Hawaiian Village is just two miles away.

Mediators don’t come up with solutions. The disputants do, but the issue is escalating. Might it be possible to honor the Hawaiian culture and sacred grounds on some of the land mauka of Coco Palms, and possibly bringing more business to Coco Palms because of it? Kauai alii lived there, and their lives, customs, crafts, recreation, foods, etc., could be demonstrated/taught there, by the people who are descendants of the alii and are camped there now.

In Whakarewarewa, New Zealand, the Maori live on the land. But it is open for tourists to walk on, and see how they live today, steaming their food in the steam vents, and doing their traditional haka dance. They charge admission, and there are craft shops and meals cooked in the steam for purchase.

Tourists could stay at Coco Palms. They might serve lunch or dinner to the tourist visitors. It could also benefit Smith’s Tropical Paradise with kayak or boat trips, luau, and beautiful walking grounds.

Here are some ideas for what might be offered at the alii grounds or Coco Palms:

1. Historical tours.

2. Authentic chanting, mele and hula classes.

3. Canoe maintenance, paddling classes and canoeing in Wailua Bay.

4. Working at the fish ponds, making and repairing nets, and catching fish.

5. Making of tapa cloth.

6. Using Hawaiian designs to decorate clothing articles they would purchase.

7. Making coconut palm frond animals.

8. Working in a Hawaiian healing plant garden/studying laau lapa au.

9. Tending a taro patch and making poi.

10. Making lei, including collecting the ti leaves and flowers.

11. Learning some basic Hawaiian language.

12. Playing the ukulele which could be borrowed or bought.

13. Making crafts from lau hala. There is always lau hala to gather near the heiau.

14. Learn about tatoos, and getting temporary ones painted on with Sharpies.

15. Studying the stars as a form of navigation.

16. Learning konane and making a game (black and white stone game).

17. Hawaiian storytelling.

18. Learning hoo pono pono.

Guest kupuna could come and teach workshops in their specialty.

What the Kauai Alii Park would have that would make it unique from other cultural centers are the fish ponds, a taro patch, coconut grove, proximity to so many sacred sites, and a sincere dedication to the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture, and an understanding of where aloha spirit really comes from, their ancestors.

Agreements would have to be clearly made on what and who goes where, but it could happen, or something else. They just need to come together and talk perhaps with a neutral mediator who makes sure that both sides stay respectful and on task.


Annaleah Atkinson is a Lihue resident.


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