KAHOOLAWE (HawaiiNewsNow) – Target bombing on Kahoolawe officially ended 20 years ago – on October 22, 1990. For such a tiny place, Kahoolawe has had a unique and, at times, difficult history.
But of all the islands, this is the one that has led many Native Hawaiians back to their roots.
For 50 years, Kahoolawe was in the Navy's crosshairs. The biggest boom came in 1965 during Operation Sailor Hat.
500 tons of TNT - detonated twice. Despite the rugged scars left behind and its complicated history, Kahoolawe may be the key to carrying Native Hawaiians into the future.
Davianna McGregor, from the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana and the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission says, "It's led my generation back to get in touch with our souls as Hawaiians. That this island really has called our generation to revive the Hawaiian culture."
Back in the 70's and 80's, protests by the PKO became the catalyst for the Navy's ceasefire and the Hawaiian cultural renaissance that followed.
PKO member Kaliko Baker says, "They put their lives on the line to stop the bombing and for me, that's what I think about when I think about this 20 year celebration of no bombing."
PKO and KIRC have escorted about six thousand people to the island over the years. Many Native Hawaiians consider it the trip of a lifetime.
The surrounding waters and the inhabitable parts of the land are included in a new cultural plan being unveiled by PKO on this 20th anniversary. The plan envisions Kahoolawe as a cultural and spiritual center for Hawaiian practitioners and looks to pass the mantle on to Hawaii's youth.
"We've been doing this for a long time, and we can't do it forever. And we need the next generation to have the passion that we had," says KIRC's Michael Nahoopii.
But like everything else, what's needed now is money. The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission draws its federal funding from a limited trust that could be depleted within two years. Commissioners are looking at grants and charitable contributions to stay in the black.
As Native Hawaiians look to the future, it's the smallest of the eight main islands that could play the biggest role in a new, sovereign entity.