Hawai’i Land Trust Hires First Steward & Educator for Kūkūau Forest
Hawai‘i Land Trust has hired Hilo native Ulumauahi Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani as the first steward and educator for Kūkūau Forest on the BIg Island.
Kūkūau Forest is just above Hilo town and encompasses 1,600 acres abundant with koa and threatened ʻōhi‘a trees. The land was donated to in 2019 to the Hawaiʻi Land Trust, a statewide local nonprofit that protects, stewards and connects people to the lands that sustain Hawaiʻi.
As Kūkūau Steward & Educator, Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani serves as the forest’s restoration specialist, strategic planner and outreach coordinator.
Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani was born in Hilo and raised in the ʻāina hoʻopulapula (Hawaiian homesteads) of Keaukaha and Panaʻewa, where his family has lived for five generations.
He has been a student of Hula ʻOlapa with Hālau o Kekuhi for nearly three decades. Within the last four years he was given the privilege to elevate to Papa Pāʻieʻie Alakaʻi. This hula position requires the student to have intimate knowledge about the forest, the ocean, gathering regulations and reciprocity of both the forest and ocean.
Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani’s training in hula ceremony, protocol and oli (chants) have afforded him the opportunity to teach workshops and present to diverse audiences on these topics. His upbringing with his own ʻohana, the Hālau, and Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation has taught him to be constantly aware of forest life.
Through his experience with the foundation’s loko iʻa (fishpond) and kalo restoration projects, he has contributed toward a clean water cycle from the forests to the reefs. He brings to this new role his past experience in land and forest management with Kamehameha Schools and other conservation organizations.
Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani is also a presenter with Papakū Makawalu Papahulihonua, where he discusses important facts about the forest from a Hawaiian scientific point of view, tells stories that explain natural elements, and shares oli.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in geography with an emphasis on environmental studies and a minor in anthropology from University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.