The Kalaeloa Heritage Park is not just a place of cultural and historic preservation but a place of cultural practices. Amongst those practitioners are Kauhale builders, where one learns how to build a traditional kauhale by using traditional lashing methods. There are Kakau practitioners or cultural tattoo practitioners, feather gatherers or Kahili practitioners where birds are flown to us from Midway Atoll. Considering the amount of wild populations of native plants, including those planted by visiting students, the Kalaeloa Heritage Park is a place of La’au Lapa’au or gatherers of medicinal plants. I am speaking of Kumu Moira “Ipo” Maeda-Nakamine and her haumana.
Ipo was born and raised in Waipahu. Her dad is from Honouliuli and her mother used to work at the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station so the heritage park is almost like home to Ipo. It is also important to mention that Ipo is also a Kumu Hula and a practitioner of lomilomi or traditional massage. She makes a point of mentioning that she developed these interest from her mother. Ipo has been coming to the heritage park to survey the abundance of medicinal plants growing in the park. Amongst those La’au she pointed out to us were Kaunaoa that is used in cancer treatment and Uhaloa that is used to treat sore throats. She also identified several non-native plants that I always considered weeds. She became especially interested in la’au at the park when she learned we do not use poison within the interpretive area.
The long range plan for the interpretive tour of the park is to allow practitioners to set up “cultural practitioner” stations along the interpretive trail where they can share their cultural practice with visitors. For those of you who have been on the Alaskan cruise the model we have been using in the construction of the heritage park is the Native Alaskan Heritage Park in Anchorage Alaska.
On April 23 Ipo and her haumana visited the Kalaeloa Heritage Park in an effort to give her students a sense of place with respect to their la’au interest. In addition to her group of La’au Lapa’au and Lomilomi Practitioners Kumu Keola Chan, a Lomi A’e and Kumu Kilo Akama, a Lomilomi Practitioner brought their haumana for a day of learning and cultural experience. It was a day of shared cultural experiences.