Environmental Clinic Update

Environmental Clinic Update:  Koʻolau and Haleleʻa Moku of Kauaʻi

Mahina Tuteur, Post-J.D. Research and Teaching Fellow

For the Fall Semester 2017, the Environmental Law Clinic took on an important project assisting a community-driven effort based in the Koʻolau and Haleleʻa moku of Kauaʻi to preserve access to a culturally significant historic trail, known as the Alaloa (long path) or Ala Aupuni (old government road), and the traditional and customary Native Hawaiian practices that depend on access to the Alaloa itself, as well as the shoreline ma kai (seaward) of the trail.  Students have been working closely with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (“OHA”) to analyze existing and potential options and opportunities to maintain cultural connection to the ʻāina through the Alaloa, which serves as a vital link to ka wā ma mua and ka wā ma hope (the generations before and the generations to come).  The clinicians’ factual and legal research will both help community members better understand the existing legal framework and implications for their rights, and provide guidance to OHA on how to ensure appropriate access for its beneficiaries.

A critical part of this effort involved a site visit on September 29 – October 1, 2017, during which students visited parts of the Alaloa and listened to community members’ stories about subsistence practices at Lepeʻuli, Kaʻakaʻaniu, and Moloaʻa, heard a presentation from a local trail and Hawaiian history expert, met with local government officials, and engaged with community leaders to discuss desired outcomes.  Clinicians also invested a significant amount of time crafting potential legal strategies with Maui attorney and Richardson law alum Tom Pierce, who has years of litigation and other experience with trail and access issues.

Students returned to Kauaʻi on November 9 to share presentations on their factual and legal research with community stakeholders.  Students offered: (1) various proactive legal options, including the pros and cons of pursuing each route; (2) the evolution of traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights case law in state court, as well as research on the traditional and customary practices that the Alaloa supports; and (3) the possibility of negotiating a managed access agreement with private property owners along the Alaloa.  The students received excellent feedback from community members that will inform their recommendations to OHA.

The existence and use of Alaloa throughout the pae ʻāina, which traditionally facilitated travel within and beyond ahupuaʻa for subsistence, cultural, educational, religious, and other purposes, are increasingly threatened by development pressure, private landowners, and climate change.  The Environmental Law Clinic’s research will therefore inform OHA and communities beyond Kauaʻi on how to proactively protect access to these vital cultural pathways for years to come.

This project would not have been possible without the kōkua of many partners.  Mahalo piha to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Jocelyn Doane in particular, Wahineʻaipōhaku Tong, Uncle Teddy Blake, Aunty Aggie Marti-Kini, Aunty Kuʻulei Punua, Randy Wichman, Tom Pierce, Mike Dahilig, Mason Chock, Russell Ito, the entire Sproat ‘ohana, and the Waipā Foundation for hosting the presentations.