Land Stories: Farming and Kaua`i Culture

“When you care for a cultural site, you must learn to ask the people of the past to open the door for you to the future.” – Rupert Rowe, po’o, Kaneiolouma

Project Overview

Spearheaded by Story For All, Land Stories is a collaboration between several local organizations in Kaua`i under the guidance of Hawaiian spiritual advisor Kumu Kauilani Kahalekai. We are so grateful to be learning from and contributing to the knowledge and culture of this sacred land.

For this project, we are interviewing individuals with personal, lived experience farming or taking care of land on Kauai’s south shore in the Koloa and Po`ipu regions. Native Hawaiian’s tended to the land for centuries, creating sophisticated water systems and a farm culture where everyone had the ability to contribute and benefit from the land. Then came the sugar plantations, creating jobs and changing the landscape of the Hawaiian islands, starting with the first sugar plantation and mill here in Koloa.

Since then, independent farmers, landowners, local government, billionaires and others have taken the lead in land management and care. The interviews cover all of these eras and are archived at the Kaua`i Historical Society and Koloa Public School and Library. We shared these stories through a series of public events, creating the space for dialogue with the local community. Finally, we produced a curriculum for young people that is rooted in the oral histories. Presented at Old Koloa Regenerative Farm, which lies on a former sugar plantation, and Hawai`i Technological Academy, this storytelling curriculum ensures that valuable history and knowledge is passed on to future generations.

Land Stories is about preserving the cultural wealth of Kaua`i as a basis for building respect and appreciation for one another and the land we share and depend upon. It’s about providing our community with a rich history of this precious land and how to care for it. It’s about building historical perspective and inspiration for present and future generations to sustain, protect, and care for our beloved `aina.

This program is funded by a grant from the Hawai`i Council for the Humanities, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.