Covenant shows Army, Native Hawaiian trust

| April 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

Loran Doane & Jack Wiers
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs

FORT DERUSSY — Leaders from across Hawaii, representing Native Hawaiian organizations, community groups, and political and civil interests, joined Army leadership, here, March 24, to formally sign a Native Hawaiian Covenant.

“The covenant recognizes that Hawaii’s rich cultural and historical experiences are shaped by the land and surrounding ocean,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, commanding general, U.S. Army-Hawaii.

Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, commanding general, U.S. Army-Hawaii, left, and Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, assist local native Hawaiian community leaders with the planting of an Ulu tree at Native Hawaiian Covenant signing at Fort DeRussy. (Spc. Jesus Aranda | 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)“We acknowledge that the Army has the responsibility of being good stewards for the lands it maintains and must be mindful to protect and preserve this fragile environment for future generations,” Terry said.

The pledge is a joint accord between the Army and the Native Hawaiian community. The pledge signifies the commitment to forging a stronger relationship of cooperation, appreciation and understanding of Hawaii’s native culture and resources.

The pledge also signifies the Army’s role in Hawaii and the inclusiveness of its Soldiers in local communities. 
The signing is meant to underscore the mutuality of the agreement and the creation of a new relationship between them.

More than 30 leaders from the Army in Hawaii and Native Hawaiian groups came forward during the ceremony and signed the document in front of more than 100 witnesses and media representatives from around the state.

“The signing of this covenant is a significant step to our vision of a relationship built on understanding, respect and trust,” said Annelle Amaral, Native Hawaiian Liaison to U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

The basis for the Army’s environmental initiatives are to prevent pollution, minimize adverse impacts on the land, and to conserve, protect and preserve the native plants, birds and cultural treasures.

“The Army in Hawaii and throughout the world is capable of providing sustainable installation support and services for joint warfighters, our Army families, and our local communities of which we are a part,” said Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, USAG-HI.

“We are capable and committed to protecting Hawaii’s cultural and natural environmental resources while still meeting the mission and goals of the Army,” he said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Leota, the 25th Infantry Division command sergeant major, signs the Native Hawaiian Covenant on behalf of the 25th Infantry Division, at Fort DeRussy, March 22. (Spc. Jesus J. Aranda | 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)During the past 15 years, the Army has developed a variety of community outreach efforts. These efforts include its Partnership of Ohana community relations program involving neighborhood boards, civic clubs and schools across Oahu and the Island of Hawaii. Additionally, the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council guides the Army in effectively working with Hawaiian leaders.

Neil Hannahs, who represented the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council, the Kamehameha Schools and the Bishop Estate Land Manager, also addressed the gathering.

Hannahs compared the covenant signing to the planting of a seed that required careful nurturing.

“The harvest is only assured if we commit to the care and growth of the seeds we plant,” Hannahs said.

Terry also stressed the covenant signing as a “first step – a public promise to the building of a mutually beneficial relationship between the Army in Hawaii and the native Hawaiian community.”

“These programs have allowed our Soldiers and family members living in Hawaii to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for Native Hawaiian issues and culture, and have provided opportunities for our neighbors to see that we share many of the same values and experiences,” Margotta said.

Before the ceremony, members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha performed a hookupu in front of Fort DeRussy’s Kukalepa Memorial. A hookupu is a gift given in exchange for spiritual mana (energy).

Built in 1999, the Kukalepa Memorial consists of five enormous wooden hand-sculptured pauku kino (torso-style statues). The statues commemorate fallen Maoli warrior ancestors who died in Native Hawaiian conflicts.

The ceremony concluded with the planting of an ulu tree on the grounds of Fort DeRussy. The tree will stand as both an offering and a reminder of the partnership between the Native Hawaiian community and the U.S. Army in Hawaii.

“The ulu is one of the trees brought by canoe to Hawaii by the first Hawaiians as evidenced by the many Hawaiian legends about the ulu,” said Amaral.

“The ulu served as a vital source of subsistence, and is viewed to Hawaiians as the ‘kinolau of Kukailimoku,’ which is the body form of the Hawaiian god, Ku,’ Amaral added. “Its importance symbolizes the significance and rewards of having strong cohesive relationships between the Army and Native Hawaiians.”

“Ultimately, the goal of our coming together to sign the Native Hawaiian Covenant is to build bridges of understanding and cultural exchange between Kanaka `oīwi  (Hawaii’s native peoples) and create opportunities for mutual enrichment,” Margotta said.

The signing signifies a collaborative effort of more than a year, according to Amaral.

Category: Community Relations, Native Hawaiian Community Program, News

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