Mauna Kea Science Reserve and Hale Pohaku Complex Development Plan Update:  Oral Histroy and Consultation Study, and Archival Literature Research,     continued                                                                           arwleft.gif (1297 bytes)         

Mauna Kea Oral History Interviews and Consultation
program (September - December 1998)

Study Background

This section of the study presents readers with the following information: (1) an overview of how the Mauna Kea Oral History Study was designed and undertaken; (2) an overview of the interviewee-released accounts recorded through interviews and consultation;
(3) communications received from Native Hawaiian organizations and individuals regarding Mauna Kea; and (4) an overview of primary recommendations made by interviewees and others who participated in the consultation process. As noted in the release of interview record forms (at the end of each interview - Appendix A), the transcripts in this study may supersede the recorded narratives. This is the result of the review process-when interviewees may make corrections or additions to their transcripts, and/or also ask that certain sensitive family information be removed from the public record.

Oral history interviews help to demonstrate how certain knowledge is handed down through time, from generation to generation. Often, because the experiences conveyed are personal, the narratives are richer and more animated than those that are typically found in reports that are purely academic or archival in nature. Thus, through the process of conducting oral history interviews things are learned that are at times overlooked in other forms of studies. Also, with the passing of time, knowledge and personal recollections undergo changes. Sometimes, that which was once important is forgotten, or assigned a lesser value. So today, when individuals-particularly those from outside the culture which originally assigned the cultural values-evaluate things such as resources, cultural practices, and history, their importance is diminished. Thus, oral historical narratives provide both present and future generations with an opportunity to understand the cultural attachment-relationship-shared between people and their natural and cultural environments.

Readers are asked to keep in mind that while this component of the study records a depth of cultural and historical knowledge of Mauna Kea and vicinity, the documentation is incomplete. In the process of conducting oral history interviews and consultation, it is impossible to record all the knowledge or information that the interviewees possess. Thus, the records provide readers with only glimpses into the stories being told, and of the lives of the interview participants. The author/interviewer has made every effort to accurately relay the recollections, thoughts and recommendations of the people who shared their personal histories in this study.

As would be expected, participants in oral history interviews sometimes have different recollections of history, or for the same location or events of a particular period. There are a number of reasons that differences are recorded in oral history interviews, among them are that:

(1) recollections result from varying values assigned to an area or occurrences during an interviewees formative years;

(2) they reflect localized or familial interpretations of the particular history being conveyed;

(3) with the passing of many years, sometimes that which was heard from elders during one’s childhood 70 or more years ago, may transform into that which the interviewee recalls having actually experienced;

(4) in some cases it can be the result of the introduction of information into traditions that is of more recent historical origin; and

(5) some aspects of an interviewee’s recollections may be shaped by a broader world view. In the face of continual change to one’s cultural and natural landscapes, there can evolve a sense of urgency in caring for what has been.

In general, it will be seen that the few differences of history and recollections in the cited interviews are minor. If anything, they help direct us to questions which may be answered through additional research, or in some cases, pose questions which may never be answered. Diversity in the stories told, should be seen as something that will enhance interpretation, preservation, and long-term management programs on Mauna Kea.

The author also notes here that reconciliation of information among informants is inappropriate within the interview process and is inconsistent with the purpose of oral historical research. The main objective of the oral history interview process is to record the ideas and sentiments personally held by the interviewees as accurately and respectfully as possible, without judgement. Adhering to these standards ensures both the quality and quantity of information obtained from individual interviewees, and facilitates the recording of information that will be of benefit to present and future generations. The oral history process also has another value to contemporary issues. It provides a means of initiating a meaningful dialogue and partnership with local communities by communicating on the basis, and in a form that is respectful of cultural values and perspectives of individuals representative of their community.

Development of the Oral History-Consultation Program

While conducting, and writing the previously mentioned archival literature study on Mauna Kea (Maly, published May 1998), the author also prepared a general list of names of potential interviewees who might be contacted as a part of an oral history study. During that period, Dr. Langlas of the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo Campus, was contracted to conduct the Saddle Road Realignment study (Langlas draft - February 1997). At that time, Dr. Langlas and this author discussed potential interviewees-several of whom were interviewed by Langlas-and that list was revisited with Dr. Langlas in August of 1998. In the 1996-1997 period, and subsequently as a part of the present study, I elicited further recommendations of interviewee candidates from the Mauna Kea Advisory Committee (MKAC), DLNR-SHPD, Lehua Lopez (Native Lands Institute), Mililani Trask (Kia‘āina - Ka Lāhui Hawai‘i), and kūpuna and families known to myself.

During the 1996-1997 period, and leading up to the present work, I also prepared-in consultation with members of Hawaiian organizations and community members-a basic questionnaire format which could be used to develop the oral history interview discussions. Between August 31st to September 4th, 1998, that questionnaire was reviewed by staff of Group 70 International and DLNR-SHPD, and was modified in conjunction with their recommendations. Figure 3 is the Mauna Kea Oral History Study List of General Questions, that was used to set the framework for conducting the interviews. The question outline was

Mauna Kea Oral History Interviews - List of Topics


The Mauna Kea oral history study is being conducted in conjunction with the development of the Mauna Kea Complex Development Plan, Master Plan and EIS being prepared by the State of Hawaii and University of Hawaii. During the oral history interviews, I hope to identify significant places, sites, features, or resources on Mauna Kea so that they can be avoided, preserved, or appropriately managed in the future. In the interviews, I also hope to document:

(1) how was Mauna Kea being used during your life time and in the lifetimes of your grandparents;

(2) cultural perceptions of Mauna Kea as seen from a distance; and

(3) how historic properties and cultural resources found on Mauna Kea should be treated.

For Discussion:

Family background (self and elders).

How did you become familiar with sites, history, and/or practices associated with Mauna Kea.

Reference Interview Map No. 1 (HTS Plat 613) and Map No. 2 (Island of Hawai‘i, 1928)

What activities took you to Mauna Kea - cultural and/or religious practices; resources collection; ranching; forestry; hunting; recreation… other?

Besides your family, do you know of other families (individuals) who traveled to Mauna Kea, and participated in activities on the mountain?

How did you go to Mauna Kea - what trails were used, and approached from where?

What are the significant sites and features that your have you learned about on Mauna Kea?

Place Names: Pu‘u Kūkahau‘ula; Pu‘u Poli‘ahu; Pu‘u Lilinoe; Waiau; Keanakāko‘i/ Kaluakāko‘i; Ka-wai-hū-a-Kāne; Pōhakuloa; Houpo-o-Kāne; Pu‘u Lepeamoa; Hale Pōhaku; Keonehe‘ehe‘e; Mākanaka; Pu‘u Papa; One o Wakiu; Kamakahālau; Pu‘u-o-kihe; Pu‘u Kālepa; Ahuopo‘opua‘a… others.

How would you describe Mauna Kea - what regions or areas do you use to define Mauna Kea? Where did you view Mauna Kea from, and did you hear stories of Mauna Kea when viewed from afar - it’s place in the cultural and natural landscape and relationship to other Hawaiian places?

Do you know of cultural sites / historic properties on Mauna Kea (for example - shrines, ilina, adze quarries, habitation shelters) - can you describe them and their locations?

There are a number of kūahu or altar like features, many with upright stones on Mauna Kea, that encircle the summit region; there are also a number of ahu that encircle Lake Waiau. Did you hear about any of these sites, and what they were used for?

Did you ever hear about the methods of internment on the pu‘u and slopes of Mauna Kea?

What do you think about the use of cultural-historic sites on Mauna Kea? Should they be protected as is? Should native Hawaiian practitioners continue using the sites, thus changing them from how they were left by the early Hawaiian visitors to Mauna Kea?

What do you feel about the telescopes on Mauna Kea; and further development of telescope facilities on Mauna Kea?

What steps would you recommend be taken to protect the summit area and cultural sites on Mauna Kea?

Figure 3. Mauna Kea Oral History Study List of General Questions

forwarded to some of the interviewees at their request prior to the interview, and was referenced during all of the interviews.

Additionally during the process of preparing for, and conducting the formal recorded interviews, the author spoke with more than 100 individuals who were known to him, or who were: (1) identified as having knowledge about Mauna Kea; (2) knew some one who should be contacted as a potential interviewee; or (3) who represented a Native Hawaiian organizations (i.e. Hui Mālama i nā Kūpuna o Hawai‘i Nei, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs {as mandated in the NHPA and NAGPRA}, and the Island of Hawai‘i Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs). Several of the contacts referenced above resulted in the informal recording of documentation regarding Mauna Kea, or generated written responses as formal communications from individuals and Native Hawaiian organizations. Notes written during some of those conversations, which add information to the historical record of Mauna Kea, are cited in Appendix B. The expanded notes summarize the discussion and paraphrase key points from individual conversations. Because the expanded notes were not reviewed by the individuals, they do not represent formal documentation, but provide an overview of selected information and may provide guidance for further work in the future. The formal letter communications received in response to inquiries are also reproduced from the original transmittals in their entirety, in Appendix B.

In accordance with Federal and State guidelines, one additional inquiry and request for public participation was made as a part of this study. An announcement and inquiry for assistance was developed in consultation with DLNR-SHPD and the Mauna Kea Advisory Committee, and was published in three local newspapers (Figure 4). During the first two weeks of September, an advertisement and articles regarding the Mauna Kea study were published in The Hawaii Tribune Herald and West Hawaii Today. That advertisement was also published in the October 1998 issue of the newspaper of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, "Ka Wai Ola o OHA." One call was generated as a result of the advertisement, and that call did not result in the recording of an interview.

In selecting interviewees, the author followed several standard criteria for selection of who might be most knowledgeable about the study area. Among the criteria were:

a. The interviewee’s genealogical ties to early residents of lands within or adjoining the study area. In this case, because of the remoteness of the study area, an individual’s descent from families who traveled to, and/or worked the Mauna Kea region, either as a part of on-going native practices and customs, or historic period land management and ranching operations;

b. Age. The older the informant, the greater the likelihood that the individual had had personal communications or first-hand experiences with even older, now deceased Hawaiians and area residents;

c. An individuals’ identity in the community as being someone possessing specific knowledge of lore or historical wisdom pertaining to the lands, families, practices, and land use and subsistence activities in the study area; and

d. Recommendations from Native Hawaiian organizations.

It is also noted here, that several potential participants in the interview or consultation process were unavailable, or did not wish to participate in the formal oral history interview study. All but one of those individuals were identified when they spoke at one or more of three formal public hearings held by the Mauna Kea Advisory Committee on August 31st, September 1st and 3rd, 1998. By agreement with hearing participants, the hearings were recorded on tape. Those tapes were transcribed by Group 70 International (with final transcript preparation by this author), but because of technical difficulties, not all of the testimonies were recorded. Portions of the testimonies made by individuals who did not participate in the oral history program, but which include cultural and historical information are cited verbatim in Appendix C as they provide readers with further information on issues raised about Mauna Kea.

Figure 4. Public Notice of Undertaking of Oral
History Study and Request for Input

Interview Methodology

As noted in the preceding section of this study, a general list of interview topics (Figure 3) was developed in consultation with staff of DLNR-SHPD, Group 70 International, the University of Hawai‘i’s Mauna Kea Advisory Committee (MKAC), and various members of the Hawaiian community. That form was used during all of the interviews and, at the request of some interviewees, was forwarded to them prior to conducting their individual interviews.

Also, in the process of initiating contact with potential interviewees and introducing them to the oral history study, each individual was told about the nature of the study-the kinds of information being sought. Everyone was told that the study was being conducted as a part of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Complex Development Plan Update and EIS. When the interviewees indicated their willingness to participate in a formal interview arrangements were made to meet and conduct the interview.

During the interviews several maps were referenced to identify, when appropriate, mark various locations being discussed. The maps included Register Maps 1641, 1718, 2785; the USGS Quad - Lake Waiau (1926); the HTS Survey - Island of Hawai‘i (1928); and HTS Plat 613. Figure 2 (at the end of this study) is an annotated map, identifying the approximate locations of sites referenced during the interviews. During each of the interviews clean copies of the maps were used, so that the interviewees would be able to mark locations they discussed, based on their own memory of historic sites and features.

The taped interviews were recorded on a Sony TCS-580V cassette recorder, using TDK D90 High Output standard cassette tapes. The interviews were transcribed and returned to the interviewees and follow up discussions were conducted to review the draft-typed transcripts of each interview. The latter process resulted in the recording of additional narratives with several interviewees. Following completion of the interview process, all of the participants in the tape recorded oral history interviews gave their written permission for inclusion of portions of their transcripts in this study.

The primary goals of the oral history study were to record -

(1) traditional and historic knowledge-as handed down through families-about the summit region of Mauna Kea;

(2) information pertaining to land-use, traditional sites, religious and cultural practices, traditional values;

(3) historic events in the lives of native Hawaiians and other individuals who share first-hand experiences on Mauna Kea (resulting from generations of cultural affiliation with the landscape and mountain resources; or are the result of extensive personal travel upon, or work upon the mountain); and

(4) community views regarding activities, including development of observatories on Mauna Kea.

As a result of the follow up interview transcript review process, the final released interviews supercede the original tape recorded interview. Because of the personal and sensitive nature of certain information recorded on tape, some of the interviewees withheld release of the interview tapes. Several interviewees also placed restrictions on the curation of the interview records. The releases provide specific requirements as to the release of tapes and records (Appendix A).

Upon completion of the agency review process, all interview participants and several consultation participants are to receive full copies of this study in order to help perpetuate the history in their respective families (cf. K. Maly and F. Oda, August 19 & 26, 1998:#6). Released interview records and other documentation will be curated in the Hawaiian Collection of the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo Mo‘okini Library.

  To Overview of  Information Recorded arrowudn.gif (1304 bytes)