TIMELINE: A history of heartache and healing on Kaho'olawe - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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TIMELINE: A history of heartache and healing on Kaho'olawe


  • 400-1750s

Native Hawaiians arrive on Kaho'olawe and dedicate the island to one of their major gods: Kanaloa, the deity of the ocean.

Over hundreds of years, the smallest of Hawaii's eight main islands would grow into a place where navigators for voyaging expeditions were trained and where priests carried out cultural and religious rites.


  • 1793

Goats are introduced to Kaho‘olawe; the animals would cause considerable environmental degradation on the island.


  • 1830s

A penal colony on Kaho'olawe is established as early as 1832. In 1853, the law establishing Kaho‘olawe as a penal colony is repealed.


  • 1850s-1941

Ranching begins on Kaho'olawe. In 1858, the Hawaiian government issues the first of many ranch leases for the island, according to the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission. During the ranching period, grazing of cattle, sheep and goats led to soil loss and erosion. 


  • 1941

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declared martial law in Hawaii. That led to the use of Kaho'olawe as a bombing range.


  • 1953

Kaho‘olawe is transferred to the U.S. Navy with the provision that it be returned in a condition for “suitable habitation” when no longer needed by the military.


  • 1976

Members of Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana begin a series of occupations of the island in an effort to stop military bombing. The organization also files a federal lawsuit and a year later, a federal court rules the Navy must conduct an environmental impact statement on activities on the island.


  • 1980

A consent decree is signed between the Navy and PKO, and the Navy is required to begin soil conservation, re-vegetation, and goat eradication efforts.


  • 1981

Kaho‘olawe is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a time, it would be the only site on the list where active bombing also occurred.

  • 1990

President Bush orders a stop to the bombing of Kaho‘olawe.


  • 1993

Congress votes to end military use of Kaho'olawe and transfer the island back to the state. Some $400 million is authorized for ordnance removal.


  • 1994

The Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission is established to manage activities on the island.


  • 2003

At a ceremony at 'Iolani Palace, the Navy transfer access control of Kaho'olawe to the state.

  • 2004

The Navy ends the Kaho'olawe unexploded ordnance clearance project. Some 25 percent of the island was not cleared of ordnance and unescorted access remains unsafe. Efforts to clean up the island — and restore its watershed and natural flora and fauna continue. 


  • Present

Work to restore Kaho'olawe continues, though those efforts have slowed as funding has dried up. Those tasked with taking care of the island say they hope to restore dryland forests on the island, eradicate rats and feral cats, and install a sustainable base camp and learning center.


Read more from our special series: Reclaiming Kaho'olawe

Imagining a future for Kaho'olawe by reclaiming its past: 'Feel the mana'
PHOTOS: Kaho'olawe: The Sacred Island
PHOTOS: The Bombing of Kaho'olawe
PHOTOS: Archival images of Kaho'olawe


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