NOTE: The video above was updated to reflect the events that followed: another uprooting by DLNR, and fencing erected to surround the garden plot.
HILO, Hawaii – It was a mass rebellion at the so-called Kanaka Garden on the Hilo Bayfront on Saturday.
As advertised, about a hundred or so people showed up to defy the Department of Land and Natural Resources by digging into the earth to plant kalo, the cultural symbol and food source of the Hawaiian Kingdom, here at this public corner of Wailoa State Park.
The activity has been outlawed by the powers that be, but these folks paid the warnings no mind… they even used the notice signs to dig deeper as they brought the forbidden garden back to life.
David Schlesinger has seen support for the garden grow, even through the ups and downs.
It was a large and diverse group on Saturday. But they were unified under a desire for sovereignty…
The unauthorized plantings began in September of last year… an Aloha Uprising demonstration that started at the base of the King Kamehameha statue.
Gene Tamashiro led the effort in those early days. After those plants were leveled by official caretakers, the group moved several yards away from the kingdom icon, and slowly plants began to appear here and there.
Come April 2013, the park had sprouted an entire garden of kalo, banana, and coconut… it was dubbed the Kanaka Garden.
But the government was not amused. The DLNR issued a specific warning to cease and desist.
The konohiki of Kawa, Abel Simoena Lui – evicted from his home in Ka’u when the county did not recognize his allodial claim to the land – joined Tamashiro at the garden. Lui was one of the ones arrested in the first sweep, a few days after this video was taken. Authorities uprooted the crops and leveled the garden to flat dirt.
But the renegade gardeners were not deterred.
The next day, Abel and Tamashiro found support from the children of Keaukaha – and were invited to ride as unscheduled participants in the Merrie Monarch Festival parade.
And the plants returned. Again, the government removed them.
The supporters of the Kanaka Garden regrouped and prepared for another event – the one held on Saturday – originally billed as a defiant replanting. Tamashiro says the authorities paid him a visit right before.
When the day arrived, the assembled crowd wanted to take action. The support network had grown to include well knwon Hawaiian cultural figures in the community.
Albert Ha’a, who traces his lineage back to Hawaii’s ruling alii and an inspirational kupuna for Tamashiro, urged the crowd consider a different route to the replanting. Tamashiro also gave the crowd a chance to reconsider during a fiery speech.
But by then, it was clear the movement had gained more momentum then any one person could control.
Once the music started, the grass covering laid down by authorities was rolled away, and the kalo was returned to the earth.
As of Sunday, the Kanaka Garden in Hilo was still standing.