Hawaiʻi Land Trust names new steward, educator for Māhukona on Big Island
Keone Emeliano has joined the Hawaiʻi Land Trust as the Māhukona steward and educator.
Māhukona on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island is the center for traditional navigation for the entire Pacific Ocean. It served as the hub for voyages between the Indigenous people of Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and North America long before the Europeans arrived on Hawaiʻi’s shores.
Hawaiʻi Land Trust, in partnership with the Kohala community and Nā Kālai Waʻa, a group that perpetuates traditional voyaging on Hawaiʻi Island, is in the process of purchasing the 642-acre Māhukona property so it can protect it forever.
Hawaiʻi Land Trust has raised $20 million, but still needs an additional $2.8 million. Go to mahukona.org to learn more.
Emeliano will work with the community to revitalize the land, remove invasive species and plant native ones, educate the next generation on ʻāina stewardship, and strengthen the culture of reciprocity between people and the land and water.
“I am excited to jump on board with Hawaiʻi Land Trust to mālama Māhukona,” Emeliano said. “My entire working life has been dedicated to caring for and protecting ʻāina in Kohala. I can’t think of a better way to use my deep passion and expertise than working for HILT.”
Born and raised in Kohala, Emeliano was a field worker for 20 years, helping manage the former land holdings of the Kohala Sugar Co., which included maintaining 21 miles of the Kohala Ditch system.
Via helicopter, he also managed the caretaking crews of ‘Āwini, Honokāne Nui and Kaukini, and worked with Hawaiʻi Forest and Trail and ‘Onipa’a Na Hui Kalo to restore lo’i in ‘Iole, Makapala and Pololū.
He recently worked for Hawaiʻi Water Services in Waikōloa and helped steward Pololū through a pilot program organized by KUPU, Nā Ala Hele Trails and the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.
Emeliano volunteered as vice president of the local Community Development Planning board and has coached basketball and volleyball through Kohala Community Athletics Association, Kohala High School and currently the boys’ team for N.S.P., a club basketball team of 10- to 14-year-olds from Kohala.
The previous Māhukona steward and educator was the late Patti Ann Solomon, a lineal descendant of Māhukona, voyager with Nā Kalai Waʻa; Kohala community leader; and an integral part of the Hawaiʻi Land Trust ʻohana.
“My family goes to Māhukona whenever we can,” Emeliano said. “I used to ask Aunty Patti how we could help keep the coastal trail clear. I want to make sure Māhukona is not developed, and everyone can go there and see the beauty of the area while also being respectful and taking care of it.”