Tiny Mokauea island has eventful history

Jenna Ishii
Jenna Ishii

By Teri Okita – bio | email

OFF SAND ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mokauea only stretches across 10 acres, but it's got a long history - first as an ancient fishing village and then, in more modern days, as part of a Hawaiian cultural revival.

In ancient times, the Mokauea fishing village thrived. Historians note the vast maritime activities that went on, including knowledge of the sea, currents, tides, and seasons. Some believe it was home to a master sailing canoe builder, and maps of the area were found dating back to 1817.

In modern days, controversy peppered the island's history. In the mid 1970's, Mokauea was often referred to as "Squatter's Island". When the state planned to expand Honolulu's airport, the eviction notices went out to about two dozen families. Some wouldn't leave. Police arrested several fisherman for trespassing, and then, the state hired contractors who torched five homes

But, in late 1975, because of efforts by environmentalists and Hawaiians, the tide began to turn. The state stopped the evictions and declared the island an important historical site.

The Mokauea Fisherman's Association formed, and in 1978, it hammered out a deal with the state to lease the land for 65 years, until 2043. The association pays 1,400 dollars annually in rent.

One of the leaders of the restoration, Jenna Ishii, says, "Here are the actually fishing families that have been here for years and years and years, and we're hoping that, once we restore the island, that they can pass on their fishing practices to the next generation."

Restoration has been going on for years, and the hope is to turn the two acre fishpond on the island into a sustainable fishing area, as well as a Hawaiian cultural preserve. Mokauea is actually the last native fishing village on Oahu, and the second to the last one in the state.

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