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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, August 1, 2004


Bumpy's villagers keep order

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

The only time Bumpy Kanahele's Hawaiian Village in Waimanalo gets into the papers is when it runs afoul of bureaucracy, like not having liability insurance. So I drove out to see for myself how dangerous this place is.

I parked in a tree-shaded circle below the village and walked up a gravel road.

A young Hawaiian woman in a 10-year-old sedan stuck her head out of the car and smiled, "You can drive up if you want to." I smiled back, "No, I want to get the feel of the place."

The feel of Bumpy's Pu'uhonua O Hawai'i (Refuge of Hawai'i) is that of Miloli'i, the fishing village on the south Kona coast, or maybe Kane'ohe 75 years ago. There's a lot of ti planted in the yards of 22 buildings strung out along the road, 18 of which are family cottages, all built by the people who live in them. There are outhouses and a well-used, high-visibility playground.

The last time I was there, about 10 years ago, the village had a new, raw feel. Now it's bigger and more livable, with a population of 70 — 18 families. The newer cottages have indoor toilets. It was quiet, the kids in school, the parents out at their jobs.

Kanahele said it took several years to shake down. At first they admitted anyone who needed help, then found that some people don't obey rules. "Now we know how the state feels evicting people," he admitted.

So who makes the rules? He said about six years ago the village established a Council of Aunties, who meet once a week on Tuesday. Since the council was formed, things have run more smoothly. The Aunties review the grades of students and see that those falling behind get extra instruction.

About a dozen of 16 children speak Hawaiian. Their grades are among the top in class. It's common in the village for 3- and 4-year-olds to start reading. One is adding numbers.

A young mother was found to be using ice. The Aunties told her to go into a rehab program or her family would be evicted. She went into the program. Today she is drug-free and takes good care of her children.

A family in the village took in the children of relatives on the outside who were using drugs. The grades of the children soon improved.

"It's definitely changed the lifestyle from living on the beach to having their own home," said Kanahele.

A Hawaiian Homes official asked his secret. Kanahele said two things are essential: dedication by the people involved and a minimum of meddling by government. Unless the residents are given some space to solve problems their own way, it doesn't work.

Kanahele said talks with an insurance company look promising. Without insurance, the village will lose its lease to 45 acres. With insurance in place, and about 10 years of experience, Kanahele said he'll be less suspicious about taking help from others to establish similar villages around the Islands.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.