The after school students check out the India blue worms from the worm bed. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Mangauil shows Honokaa Elementary School students, Siddney Shumate, Elizabeth Miranda and Precious Kaneapua what weeds to pull. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Lanakila Mangauil shows Honokaa Elementary School students, Siddney Shumate, Elizabeth Miranda and Precious Kaneapua what weeds to pull. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Practicing a chant can happen at any time during the after-school program in Honokaa. PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON | SPECIAL TO NHN
Honokaa High School students perform in their May Day program under the direction of Mangauil on April 26 in the school gym. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Mangauil chants at the Honokaa High School May Day festivities.
Manguil chants at the Honokaa High School May Day festivities. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Mangauil surveys the crowd gathering in the gym for Honokaa High School’s May Day program. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Lanakila Mangauil stands at the edge of the Honokaa Elementary playground and points at the sun-spotted garden setting in front of him. Six of his after-school charges are climbing over rocks, running down the trails and playing with broken sticks.
“This was the ‘ditch school’ spot for years,” said Mangauil. “I’ve talked to parents who went to Honokaa school 30 years ago, and they know of this place.”
Owned by the county, land situated between the elementary school and the track behind it, was covered with tall weeds with a cave-like entrance that was ignored by everyone except the kids who went there to hide. Mangauil went in one day to see what was there and found rubbish, empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, used condoms and even a crack pipe.
“I knew this had to stop. My goal was to clear the land and make a walking trail, to plant a food garden with herbs and food for a community garden,” Mangauil explained. “People told me we couldn’t do this without permission, that it was county land, but it’s about taking care of our ‘aina and our children.”
With the help of concerned community members, the clearing started, with helping hands of both adults and children. Mangauil said that if the kids were out playing on recess break, they would ask to help.
“Sometimes all I had to do was yell out, ‘Kokua!’ and 75 to 100 children would spend their recess pulling weeds and picking up rubbish,” Mangauil said. “It’s been an amazing transformation and a prime example of what can be done when we work together.”
There is always work to be done, and Mangauil, called Makua by his students, calls out to them to start pulling weeds. The children, ages 5 through 10, gather immediately. One student even exclaims excitedly, “Oh, yeah!” and they all watch as Mangauil compares leaves of two plants to show them which one to pull.
Off to the side is a school garden, a terraced taro and sweet potato patch, a compost worm bin, and a trellis built to hold liliko’i vines. Once just manicured grass, the garden is in its third generation of lettuce, and the last harvesting yielded 250 pounds of carrots and 150 pounds of sweet potatoes.
“All of this was done with little hands,” Mangauil said. “Even the rock terraces, these kids helped to build it up.”
Ku’ikapono LLC is Mangauil’s organization, dedicated to preserving the land and people of the land. Translated, Ku’ikapono is “to stand in righteousness.” By partnering with Honokaa schools, Mangauil uses the elementary school space for his after-school program, held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to teach children Hawaiian language and culture as well as how to truly care for the land.
At 26 years old, Mangauil shows his dedication through his actions and service. He is in his fourth year of teaching Hawaiian studies classes and is heavily involved with assisting both schools with their May Day programs, volunteering his time and knowledge with no pay.
“When Lanakila found out six weeks ago that someone had dropped the ball on May Day preparations, he stepped in to help,” said Vikki Catellacci of Hamakua Youth Center. “He is one of our young Hawaiian leaders who really stands up for the ‘aina.”
Helping with the school’s May Day program is a calling for Mangauil, who wants to “bring back the glory I remember.” Calling the Honoka’a Elementary School May Day the “Mini Merrie Monarch,” he is excited for the ho’ike (presentation) of the children’s performances. To be held on Friday, May 24th, the elementary May Day is a chance for students to show what they have learned and for the community to come together to honor Kamehameha.
Mangauil believes it is extremely important for the upcoming generation to become involved and knowledgeable of the events around the Hawaiian Islands. In his classes, his students as young as 5 years old know each of the districts of the Big Island by looking at an outline of the island. Older children know each of the mountains and the layout of the island chain.
“These are place-based teachings to connect our children to the island,” said Mangauil. “We need to teach them to care about our land management through cultural stories.”
As an example, Mangauil said he talks to his students about TMT, or what he calls “Too Many Telescopes”, a movement to stop the addition of an 18-story, eight-acre telescope on Mauna Kea. His students, who know the Hawaiian stories of the sacred mountain, are passionate in their response when finding out that there are plans to bulldoze and dig down deep into the earth.
“They say ‘No!’ and ask how control of the mountain was gained. The little ones ask, ‘What? Why?’ What can we do?’” Mangauil explains.
After being told he should stop speaking of controversial topics, Mangauil said he has responded with, “These aren’t controversial, these are current events. Are we trying to keep secrets from our children? Are we raising them to be blind?” “But administrators are just doing their jobs,” he said.
Another topic Mangauil is passionate about is the GMO farming being done on Hawaii Island. Using true examples of GMO’d products, he likens the process to the H.G. Well’s science fiction classic, “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”
“When the kids ask me why, I tell them that GMO farming is done on an island, because if something goes wrong, it’s contained,” said Mangauil. “I know in my heart I’m doing the right thing — we don’t need to be raising spineless kids.”
Pua Case, an educator and vibrant leader of many causes here on the Big Island, said Mangauil is totally committed to the youth, not just in Hamakua, but everywhere.
“I believe that he (Mangauil) is deeply committed to all that is Hawaii. Not just the chants and dance that he is so gifted with, but also everything else that goes with it,” Case said. “He is passionate about what is right for Hawaii — the environment, what we put in our mouths, the mountain, and sustainability. He is not afraid to stand and march, or to speak the truth about what is impacting Hawaii.”
On Saturday, April 27, there was a re-planting of the “Kanaka Garden at Wailoa”. Mangauil attended, along with other caring citizens, who dug up a plot near the King Kamehameha statue in Hilo to plant taro and native plants. A controversial act that may result in stiff fines from the DLNR, Case pointed out that the younger generation Mangauil belongs to is not as fearful as the generation before him.
“I want to see more young people like him; it makes me have hope,” Case said. “They are willing to step up, step out and stand tall.”
Catellacci, who has seen Mangauil’s dedication to the youth and ‘aina, agreed and said Mangauil is seen as a leader.
“Lanakila is a chanter for the royal court, he leads the Honokaa Peace Parade, he recently led the town blessing of Honokaa in March and he volunteers for the youth center,” Catellacci said. “When he is called to do anything, he is there.”
Mangauil, a prime example of the next generation of caring, active participants of life, is humble with his reasons for giving so much.
“I was born and raised in this town,” Mangauil said. “It’s my duty to give back. The place has given to me, and my community needs this. I love our school community and maybe we can try, by example, to change our world.”