Hawai‘i Land Trust names UH Hilo alumnus steward of Kūkūau Forest

Ulumauahi “Ulu” Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani is the first steward and educator for Kūkūau Forest on Hawai‘i Island.

Ulumauahi "Ulu" Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani pictured
Ulumauahi “Ulu” Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani (Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Land Trust)

Hawai‘i Land Trust has hired Hilo native Ulumauahi “Ulu” Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani as the first steward and educator for Kūkūau Forest on Hawai‘i Island.

Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani earned his bachelor’s degree in geography with an emphasis on environmental studies and a minor in anthropology from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Kūkūau Forest is just above Hilo town and encompasses 1,600 acres abundant with koa and threatened ‘ōhi‘a trees. The land was donated to in 2019 to the Hawai‘i Land Trust, a statewide local nonprofit that protects, stewards, and connects people to the lands that sustain Hawai‘i.

As Kūkūau steward and educator, Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani serves as the forest’s restoration specialist, strategic planner, and outreach coordinator.


Aerial view of dense native forest.
Kūkūau Forest on Hawai‘i Island (Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Land Trust)

Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani was born in Hilo and raised in the ‘āina ho‘opulapula (Hawaiian homesteads) of Keaukaha and Pana‘ewa, where his family has lived for five generations. He has been a student of hula ‘olapa with Hālau o Kekuhi for nearly three decades.

Within the last four years he was given the privilege to elevate to papa pā‘ieʻie alaka‘i. This hula position requires that the student has intimate knowledge regarding the forest, the ocean, gathering regulations and reciprocity of both the forest and ocean.

Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani’s training in hula ceremony, protocol, and oli have afforded him the opportunity to teach workshops and present to diverse audiences on these topics. His long association with the hālau and the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation has taught him to be constantly aware of forest life. Through his experience with the foundation’s loko i‘a and kalo restoration projects, he has observed how a clean water cycle is applicable from the forests to the reefs.

Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani also is a presenter with Papakū Makawalu Papahulihonua, where he tells stories, discusses important facts about the forest from a Hawaiian scientific point of view and performs oli.

Via Big Island Now News.