Easton’s dream, “Watchers and Caretakers of our Aina” is to engage his Kailapa community on the Big Island of Hawaii through the practice of WACA, “a watcher and well-informed resource manager of our lands and oceans.”
Easton, 17, is a Native Hawaiian living in the town on Kamuela which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. “At the right time of the year, countless whales play and nurture their young. The place is where residents await that perfect moment, right as the sun meets the ocean.”
It’s a rapidly growing rural community where the closest shopping center or supermarket is a half-hour away from his homestead where half of the homeowners are Native Hawaiian.
“It is a special place where the winds blow to declare its freed, no longer passing through the sandalwood trees that once grew on the hillside, instead whipping across the open range.”
What motivated Easton to develop this dream?
Easton wants to enhance his community’s knowledge about Hawaiian culture through science and help them link traditional Hawaiian practices to contemporary science.
“I feel there is need to reconnect our families to the elements and engage them to take on the responsibilities of conscious, sustainable, good fishers and caretakers,” says Easton.
The Dream as a Solution
As caretakers of the “aina” (land), Easton plans to plant native Hawaiian medicinal plants to prevent coastal soil erosion.
“The plants once grown will prevent sediment reaching the ocean, this improving the health of coral and our reef ecosystem. Plants will eliminate waste from entering the oceans and impacting sea life, water quality and visual impact.”
Easton points out that the leaves, flowers and stems of the native plants will also provide potential healing properties and participants in his project will apply hands-on research to identify the active ingredients of the medicinal plants.
“Our kupuna (elders) still use native Hawaiian plants for medicinal purposes,” said Easton. “For our community to plant, watch it grow, harvest, prepare it through different methods and use it for the care of our bodies will connect our people to the aina.”
The Potential Impact in the Future
Easton grew up in Kailapa and has seen the change in how the younger generation overfishes and doesn’t gather from their homelands only what they need.
Kailapa will provide a learning environment or ‘lab’ that helps youth and families reconnect to their cultural and natural landscapes.
“With the awareness and trainings, we will cultivate a new generation of resource managers that align with the cultural values of Hawaii and promote a productive and healthy fishery and community for future generations.”