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The Honolulu Advertiser

.Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2004

Papakolea to celebrate 70 years as homestead

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Seventy years ago, the community of Papakolea was officially named a Hawaiian homestead, and residents will mark the occasion with a public celebration and lu'au tomorrow.

Parents, kupuna and keiki gather twice weekly for the "Tutu and Me" childcare program at the Papakolea Community Center.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

More than 1,000 people are expected to take part in the event, which will include Hawaiian music, a big lu'au lunch and hula at Stevenson Middle School.

"We wanted to acknowledge the many years of past leaders who have worked very hard to enable us to be here today in this community," said Puni Kekauoha, president of the Papakolea Community Association. "It's a recognition. A time to pay honor to the kupuna and the community leaders. Our reason for being here now is to pass that on to the next generation."

The event, called "Ho'olauna Aloha, the Gathering of 'Ohana," will include a display of the historic events that have helped shape Papakolea and its adjacent homeland communities of Kewalo and Kalawahine. The display will feature photos, a time line and important documents.

In the late 1800s, many Hawaiians were displaced from their land in the rural parts of O'ahu and crowded into downtown tenements in search of work, according to state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands records.

Several of those Hawaiian families moved onto public lands above Punchbowl crater looking for a healthy, self-sufficient life. They created the first neighborhood of Papakolea.

Clint McKee and daughter Kiersty, 2, play during a "Tutu and Me" session. The Papakolea community will mark its 70th anniversary as a Hawaiian homestead this weekend with a public celebration.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Papakolea today is a 27-acre homestead with 270 homes and about 1,500 residents near the entrance to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The community was added to the Hawaiian Homestead Act in 1934.

The act provides for awarding Hawaiian home lands for homestead purposes to eligible applicants who are "native Hawaiian." That's defined as someone who has no less than 50 percent Hawaiian ancestry and who is at least 18 years old.

Approximately 200,000 acres of homestead lands are provided for in the Hawaiian Home Lands program. These lands are on O'ahu, Hawai'i, Kaua'i, Maui, Lana'i and Moloka'i for residential, agricultural, and pastoral homestead leases.

Kekauoha and other residents formed the nonprofit Papakolea Community Development Corp. and took control of the neighborhood community center from the city two years ago. She said running the center has become a step toward self-determination.

Every day, the community center is busy with classes covering early education, healthcare and hula. A kupuna program, the Boys and Girls Club of Hawai'i and Safe Haven all work from the center. Church services are held on Sundays.

You're invited

Who: Papakolea Kalawahine and Kewalo Hawaiian Homesteads

What: 70th anniversary celebration of the Papakolea homestead

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Stevenson Middle School, 1202 Prospect St.

Lu'au lunch: $15. Includes kalua pig, poi, chicken long rice, lomi salmon, squid lu'au, raw crab, 'opihi, fish, haupia and kulolo.

Entertainment: Aunty Genoa Keawe, Halau Ku Mana, Ernie Cruz & Co., Ale'a, Pomai and friends and Bamboo.

Info and luau tickets: Call 520-899

Kahealani Keahi-Wood, a Kalawahine resident, brings her 11-month-old daughter, Punohu, to the "Tutu and Me" childcare program. Between 40 and 50 parents or grandparents with children up to 5 years old attend the twice weekly classes, in which the youngsters learn developmental skills.

"The programs really help," Keahi-Wood said. "We've been so happy to have them, and it is not something you have to pay for. The (staff) works really hard for us to get these kind of services for the well-being of the Hawaiian people."

The development corporation is conducting its first fund-raising drive and hopes to collect $20,000 for community projects. With the help of the Rotary Club of Honolulu Sunrise, it is expanding its computer center and creating a keiki library and reading room.

"Recently, Papakolea has had a bad rap in terms of not being the most desirable area to be in," said Allen Kamemoto, past president of the sunrise Rotary. "But in working with the community now, I am just so impressed with what they are trying to do. Bringing up the standards and expectations of the community itself."

Kekauoha said the area does have some problems with drug use, crime and homelessness, but from the very beginning Papakolea has had strong community leaders with a vision for the future.

"The previous generation of leaders, Uncle Bob Feietas, worked to preserve and protect the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act," Kekauoha said. "They said protect that act and you will always have a place to stay. Today, we still work to protect the act and to serve the people's needs and provide a safe place that has sustenance."

Reach James Gonser at 535-2431 or jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com.