Bringing Papahānaumokuākea to the People
Posted by Narrissa Spies | , United States
I ka wā mamua, ka wā mahope
The future is in the past
To Native Hawaiians Papahānaumokuākea is where all life began and where our kupuna (ancestors) return after death. It’s the place we call home. To scientists the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are home to biodiversity hotspots and underwater laboratories ideal for studying climate change impacts and unique ecosystems.
Despite the shared values for this place, most of the 1.42 million people who live on the Main Hawaiian Islands will never visit Papahānaumokuākea.
New and powerful opportunities to connect with the area came to light during the effort to expand Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Scientists described newly discovered species, such as 4,000-year-old coral, the oldest living organism in the world. Native Hawaiians shared why all of the natural resources of Papahānaumokuākea are “bio-cultural resources,” worthy of the highest protection and respect. Individuals spoke of their transformative experiences of traveling to these remote atolls and islands.
The challenge is to sustain this connection.
A virtual education project would continue to minimize the negative impact on natural resources while maximizing the public’s exposure to Papahānaumokuākea. The content could be made available to everyone from keiki (children) to kupuna (elders) and inspire future generations of cultural practitioners and scientists to preserve the resources in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Submitted by Narrissa P Spies, Native Hawaiian biologist and PhD candidate at the University of Hawai‘i and Ka‘ala Kaho‘ohalahala-Watanabe, Nahi‘ena‘ena Elementary School, 5th Grade