Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nau Mai, Haere Mai!

Original post at:

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    Indigenous Ecosystems are what we make them: Treat your 'Aina like your Imu.

    These pools of Makua, O'ahu are visited many for their beautiful beaches. But people still subsist and cultivated resources such as seaweed, crabs, fish and limpets.  To enhance a population of anything is to understand life cycles.
    The first time I heard the term Indigenous Ecosystems was in my biology and botany classes but it wasn't until a couple of years ago I met a lady who changed my world. We gathered plants and prepared food in an underground oven. It was when we were gathering ferns and needed to listen out for bears that I realized...this is real. In Hawaii there are no snakes, bears, large animals, the worst things are unseen ledges and traps set up by people.  Instead of speaking of indigenous ecosystems as the species relationship to the place she spoke of the peoples relationship to resources and place simultaneously.

    Ferns and Maples leaves seen
    were gathered in the woods of British Colombia.
    They were used to create steam in the pitcook
     (underground oven).

    She began to speak of the forests, which are in temperate weather. It was cold in the middle of summer, I had at least three layers of clothes on.  Anyways she spoke of berries and patches she is aware of to gather for pitcooks and other occasions where traditional foods are shared.  Cheryl has a relationship with her land and it is her relationship.  She taught me that we all need to identify with the land in our own way and be comforted and comfort the land in ways we are comfortable with as well.

    Indigenous ecosystems refers to the cultivation of land, sea, plants, life cycles and adaptation to seasonal occurrences.  Indigenous ecosystems are the cultivation of relationships with animate and inanimate sentient beings which support life cycles of closely associated individuals and populations.

    This term can be applied in rural and urban settings because where ever people go they work with or against the land.  Indigenous ecosystems where people continue to subsist from the land, bio-mimicry of seasonal food web relationships are utilized in order to harness maximum sustenance yield.  The reintroduction of fire to provide nurturing habitat for camas is one example in British Colombia as well as the opening of lo'i taro patches in Hawai'i.    Commercialization and increased access to technology (bulldozers, herbicides, spear guns, bombs) of any resource is highly debated in long term and short term effects.

    Snack created from most local gathered products: dried venison,
    dried marlin, dried opae, dried octupus.  Mixed with bought
    cashew nuts and wasabi peas. A local alternative to store bought trail mix.

    The important part of all this is that we cultivate the homes and lives we live in.  The land around us, whether we work it or not, whether we pick up trash that is ours or not, whether we pass lessons we've learned to the next generation or not.  As elders have said before "the land is a reflection of us and we are a reflection of the land".

    An idea that has been lingering is:

    "treat your land like your underground oven"

    more on that...


    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Optimisim of Grad School?

    10/16/12 instagram@kteabam:
    Hope ur grams r inspiring this morn...applying them will need more work, but can do.
    (instagram photogrid created from [top left clockwise]: @communityhi, @_nalaniiii, @samkapoi, @famoussayingss)
    Fall 2012 has been a real eye opener and test to if I really want to be in academia...and the answer is yes I do.  I have been reading of all things, how to succeed in graduate school, how to do successful scientific writing and also checking out books like craziness from the library in preparation for proposals and exams in the upcoming months.

    Things that keep me going are my instagram. As in a previous post graduate school is pretty isolated. A routine is atypical and revolves around an unsteady schedule of lab meetings, meetings, seminars, group meetings and in between those times organizing personal and peripheral research.  This is just how it is and I like it. Everyday is new and exciting and I get to learn or pick a book from the 1800s once in a while, even check it out of the library (!).  In between these times I check my 'grams' and one morning people felt more inspiring than others, just in time for me to get to writing and get some papers done.

    All in all this semester is just as trying as a semester with classes. The best part is the continued zest for learning, reading and exchanging ideas with colleagues, mentors, friends and people at the bus stop.  Just keeping it positive and more work is sure to come.  Whether in school, in the field, in a 9-5 or fishing/farming we are all adapting to a life style of survival we feel most comfortable in or it's just the situation we have to deal with for now. We'll get through it and hopefully with some laughter and a beer with friends.

    10/17/12 instagram@kteabam
    At Pint+Jigger after a successful advisor and community meeting downtown with kiawe (Prosopis pallida) smoked glass with black marlin porter and good company...the best beer ever, one glass pau.
    (photo by: @hcasurf)

    Thursday, September 20, 2012

    The opposite of Ohana: Grad School

    Community engagement and kokua....

    Being in graduate school is the opposite of what I advocate for within my own work, support of the ohana and nuclear family system.

    Although excited, proud and 'have been waiting for this moment' for a long time I live in a studio isolated from distractions and passings that can take me away from my studies (ie my ohana).  I believe that it is the goal of academia, and graduate school, to take people away from their family, what they are familair with and disconnect them from connections longstanding through encouraging international work (another form of colonization).

    As pessimistic as my tone may sound there are always positives to these items, but it just depends on what agenda you are working towards and if you are partial to traveling.

    Food is a vital part of everyday life. Although I prefer to eat with people it is a privledge when this occurence happens as I have trained my schedule to isolate and focus on being committed to deadlines set by departments, agencies, institutions and individuals who will fund my interest in the future.  It is ironic, sacrificing the present (which is a present) for the future (unknown, still present at the time).

    I have read some pretty inspiring quotes on instagram ( not #1 source for inspiration, but in these situations let's do it)'s one of them...

    "When you want something you've never had, you ahve to do something  you've never done"

    And I am applying this to my doctoral pursuit because that it exactly what it is, super akward but that's where I'm at.  It is interesting to have the feeling of being uncomfortable in order to advocate for others to gain acceptance in main stream society.  But that is how the system has been calculated and bred. wasn't working so guess it is

    me.freeblogging...and just trying to get her done.

    Mahalo for your time and attention. It is greatly appreciated.


    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Re-affirming Relationships: In person or Social Media?

    Sidewalk art in Victoria, British Columbia.  Taken during an Indigenous Governance (Twitter: @IGOV_UVic) exchange with the University of Victoria and University of Hawaii Indigenous Politics Program.  The abroad opportunity was found via professional feed on Facebook.  I participated in a two-week exchange in 2011 (Victoria, British Colombia) and that carried over in to a 2012 (Honolulu, Oahu & Hakioawa, Kahoolawe) exchange as well. What is more important is that Professors of these programs have been building personal/professional relationships for the past six years, a cross of social media and in person affirmations.

    So...I have a BUNCH of online social media connections or sites to help maintain:

    Facebook;     Katie Kamelamela, University of Hawaii at Manoa Ethnobotany
    Twitter;          Kamelamelabam,
    Blogger;         OneFathom, HuliKanaka,
    Tumblr;          Ethnodietology
    instagram;       kamelamelabam,
    Google+;        KatieKamelamela,
    Pinterest;        Katie Kamelamela,
    Linkedin;        Katie Kamelamela,
    Esty;               nohowale
    Freeblogging;  nohowale [spoke about in previous blog]

    and probably a few more I have forgotten about...

    Just because I have all these sites does not mean I am on them on constantly, but I have been using them to experiment with different formats and ways of storytelling [pictures, posts, tweets, storyboards, blogs, etc].  In addition I have also built and or helped to maintain websites such as:

    Teaching Assistant at University of Hawaii at Manoa
    BOT105: Introduction to Ethnobotany     (2008-2011)
    BOT444: Ethnoecology & Conservation  (2008)
    Conservation Ethnobiology Field School  (2009-2010)
    BOT446: Hawaiian Ethnobotany             (2011)

    Na Hua Maoli A Na Hua Malihini           (2007), under construction
    Plant checklist of Kaho'olawe Island        (2010-2011)
    Imuonui; UHM Botany Masters               (2011)
    With the draw of the smartphone and a small little computer I got at the beginning of 2010 to  help me do work while in the air, on ground or while on the water I have enveloped myself in social media (especially in the past few months).  It seems that social media is taking over (the world) and even real life relationships. But how did I (we) get here? and how is it affecting our professional, familial and friend networks?

    My sister is nice enough to email me pics of my nephew via smartphone.  I in turn instagram'd it, he's sooo cute! Technology in this way has helped me to keep in touch with my family when school & work are bustling.  Since my sister and I have signed up for instagram we are able to share pics automatically, along with our other friends :)
    In working with community members there are a range of relationships that I engage in: from family, to long time (5 years or more) to acquaintances.  Each encounter is different and a learning experience about peoples comfort level with social interaction (digital or in person), the subject matter we are engaging in (mostly contemporary practices) and the type of trust I have with people I am talking story or interviewing.

    As an ethnoecologist, who works with mostly rural Native Hawaiians, it is impossible to establish a relationship via email, text msg or even on the telephone at points in time.  Sometimes (most times) it just takes an old fashion check in with the telephone to establish a time and place to meet, a visit at a comfortable spot and some food (*a must when talking story with anyone).

     Picking up pa'i'ai from Mana Ai at the Windward Mall Farmers Market, available every Wednesday 4-7PM on Oahu.  This was a special pick up trip for interviews with a 95 and 84 year old kupuna (elders).  Keeping in mind that many older people may have a hard time chewing this pounded taro in a puolo (bundle) is also a treat for those who lived in the days when people made their own poi at home. In addition buying food made from community members also reinforces and maintains existing relationships, strengthening social resilience on the ground.  

    The most effective way to firm these relationships is with an occasional check in at a: community event, family celebration, school gathering, casual drop by or anytime that isn't inconvenient for the community members I'm wanting to build relationships with.  So far in my work this method is most effective with the makua/kupuna (parents/grandparent) generation (40-60 yrs).  When visiting I try and keep in mind the age of the person, where they are from, maybe even ask a close friend or relative prior to visiting what their favorite pupu (snack or small bit to eat) is, all to make the situation as comfortable as possible for everyone.

    "Science: Becoming the Messenger" workshop by
    the National Science Foundation
    Earlier this year, as a scientist, I attended a National Science Foundation (NSF) meeting in Honolulu about "Becoming the Messenger".  The largest message they had was UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA, including twitter, facebook, blogging, anything to make science more visible to the general population.  When the room heard this, and were encouraged to tweet insitu, a calm silence went over the room.  Throughout the day NSF representatives taught us how to package our message to public audiences, we did exercises in blogging and also were given the task to create a 3 minute video about our research.  Needless to say this was extremely challenging and made me feel like the community members I was interviewing.

    Since this workshop I have been experimenting with social media.  I mostly use facebook to follow things I am interested in such as: ethnobotany, homegardening, traditional foods, cultural challenges/issues/triumphs, art and other various hobbies.  As a result of utilizing facebook in a more "professionally" focused manner I have been able to take advantage of education opportunities, indigenous exchanges and participate in community events that I would not have known about other wise.

    Image shared by Doug Ray of Social Media Explained  a la @ThreeShipsMedia on Facebook via instagram

    In all there is a time and a place for all of these social medium (online/in person).  Younger generations 0-50yrs old are all on things such as Facebook or Twitter minimally, and it has been easiest to share my research, professional and familial life with others through these mediums (especially if I need feedback on ideas).  I have found pictures to be the best way of communication for me between others and myself, keeping track of everyday and special occasions.

    In the end the most important thing is Re-affirming Relationships either In person or with Social Media or both if mechanisms are available.  Next move: kick it back with a good old post card and stamp :)

    Please check out or follow any of my other sites: it might give me incentive to engage with them more, maybe :)

    Aloha and thanks for stopping by for a little bit of Hawaii, ethnoecology ethics and social media ranting (on and advertised by social media).

    A hui hou (Until we meet again).

    Saturday, April 28, 2012

    Freeblogging: (One way a Native Hawaiian deals with writing in Academia)

    Freeblogging is something I tripped over while looking to see how and what to write freely.  We have all heard of free writing but freeblogging? What an applicable idea in our technological age.  Earlier today, as I was filling my day with things to do and once again avoid my writing works, I thought about how I couldn't remember the last time I wrote a paper by hand, with a pen, on a piece of paper...

    I am always having a hard time coming to the computer and finding something to write but in freeblogging there just isn't an option you have to write...or your work is published. And the neat part is, well I think so, is that only you can view it. There are no links to facebook, twitter, instagram, foursquare, coconutwireless available on's just for you.


    1. Type (timed or untimed)
    2. Published online

    In much of my work (talking story, observing, experiencing, photography...) there are so many other things that happen which enhance the event going on.  Freeblogging is way I have found to flush out these ideas and a timestamp is applied.

    I have been using freeblogging as a form of recording:

    - daily observations
    - mental notes during talk story sessions
    - things I want to do later, improve
    - data collection for research
    - notes on photos taken in the day
    - recipes completed
    - plants planted, watered, transfered,
    - project goals and accomplishments
    - whatever you want

    I'm hoping it'll help out with my dissertation chapter writing in the next few months.
    Hopefully it will be helpful to other writers out there too.

    And back to writing...

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Clear cutting invasive bamboo forests for a breast cancer cure? or Clear cutting native 'ohi'a forests for urban sprawl?

     Why research current Native Hawaiian gathering practices? 
    Isn't it in the past?

    A few weeks a go, due to the restrictive timeline of scholarship applications, I was in need of an acceptance letter to the Ph.D. program of my current Botany department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  The letter was necessary to secure my application for the next school year funding (mahalo e Ke Ali'i Pauahi Na Hookama Post High Scholar Program).  I contacted the department chair of Botany, he forwarded the proper paper work and I wrote my petition as to why the continuation of my education and research of the relationships Native Hawaiians share with the contemporary environment in Hawaii was necessary within the department.

    Our faculty meets weekly every Tuesday at noon to discuss departmental business so I submitted my letter and CV the previous Sunday and just hoped for the best.  That Tuesday I went to work and checked  my phone frequently (esp. after 12:00pm) for a response from the chair of the department or my advisor for acceptance into the program.

    Instead I received a letter of nomination by the department faculty for the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) - Honolulu Chapter Awards.  I was confused because the requirement of the nominee is a Ph.D. candidate, which I was not (or not confirmed at least). So I was puzzled, puzzled for a few hours until my advisor sent an email (later around 9:00pm) congratulating me on acceptance into the UH Manoa Botany Ph.D. program and nomination of the ARCS award which for 2011 the botany nominee is in honor of Isabella Aiona Abbott (picture below), the limu lady.  Dr. Abbott conducted research relevant to traditional, Hawaiian Ethnobotany, discovered 200 new species of seaweed, shared traditional uses of seaweeds and provided a safe haven for local and Hawaiian students within the department for at least 20 years.

    Dr.Abbott in her October 21, 2010 UH Malamalama cover story, "Pioneering professor is first lady of limu".  She passed on October 28, 2010 at the age of 91

    Working in the community one of my mentors noted that awards were good but they were just brief recognitions of work that would take much longer than that moment to accomplish and see through.  A very humble person not really letting his many awards shine over the work he continues to do, he puts family first.  Dr. Abbott did the same thing her work was her life's work and it never finished, she still has a couple publications in manuscript.

    As a requirement for the nomination students from all College of Natural Science departments ( 1) microbiology, 2) mathematics, 3) information science, 4) physics, 5) chemistry 6) botany and other science, engineering and math focused areas are to gather and present an overview of their research interest with a 10min oral presentation and poster (3'x4').  Cramming 4 years of work into 10 minutes is a stretch but a good exercise in identifying or re-identifying important aspects of research focus and track.

    UHM Botany M.S. research presented for ARCS 2011 @ POST127

    Coming back to my mentor, I wondered why I was being nominated considering there are other projects in the department that Dr. Abbott has helped nurture.  But simply put she told me that "this year the ARCS for Botany is in honor of Dr.Abbott and we thought she would have been happy to you see you receive it." It was almost too simple of a concept but to be given a recognition award in honor of Dr. Abbott (the first Hawaiian female Ph.D.) makes my hopes of finishing the doctoral program that much brighter.

    So this morning we all met for presentations, and I don't think anyone really knew what to expect (especially me).  But everyone had a timed 10 minute talk with questions and stood by their posters after all oral presentations were completed.  Half of the presentations I didn't know what they were talking about but I enjoyed the enthusiasm all these different majors had in their research, kind of made me feel like how I feel about my research.

    There were heavy presentations such as working on a bamboo extract to cure breast cancer, splitting electrons in a 24 kilometer diameter tube having 40 billions collisions per second, outer galaxy explorations that utilizes the "sacred" mountain of Mauna Kea to get past the dust particles and other crazy esoteric (things that only a few people can understand) research, but the passion of the researchers is what kept me awake and interested in their presentations.

    Offering area used by Native  Hawaiians.                    Telescopes used by everyone else in the world.

    The interesting part about studying the relationships between people and their environment is the cross section of individuals in the ARCS presentation room and the types of environments that we choose to put our selves in for extended periods of time.  Such as spending extreme amounts of time in the basement of a building  splitting chemical bonds, or in State Archives sifting through 200 year old documents or hiking in National Parks to see the effects of photosynthetic pathways of grasses in conjunction with elevation gradients.

    All of our interests drives our actions, methods of approach and research.

    So when it came my turn to present research I have been conducting with feedback from the Hawaiian community, I wasn't even going to try and convince the audience about the importance of plants to society because I just didn't think it was my "normal" crowd.  So I did an oli from the area I conducted extended observations in, shared some pictures of current events supported by wild gathering practices and the results of my research so far (in which I was wrong in all of my hypotheses, and that's okay).

    I only had one question (which in the science world is kind of a "kiss of death" because either you weren't clear in your explanation of the project or they aren't interested in your research) and it was in regards to some families on Hawai 'i Island preferring to gather 'Ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) for firewood.  The question was "wouldn't that hurt the ecosystem?" (this question I think was in response to a question I had asked the previous presenter in regards to the clear cutting of invasive bamboo forests in China to make extracts to cure cancer.  I asked if there would be any ecological impacts of clear cutting and he said "absolutely no impact")

    'Ohi'a seedlings on O'ahu and a 'ohi'a tree with flowers on Hawai'i Island.

    My response was that the 'ohi'a trees that are being utilized for firewood to support traditional Hawaiian practices such as imu and other cooking methods,  are being deforested for the incoming urban sprawl outside of Hilo and not necessarily for firewood.  Families are not cutting down these 'ohi'a themselves  but friends and family members will share firewood with each other if they are aware it is a practice families do often, such as imu, and are clearing lots.

    Families, who rely on these resources, sustainably harvest firewood by only collecting dead pieces, this means they can use the piece right a way instead of waiting for the wood to cure and dry out.  People buying acres to build houses are clear cutting 'ohi'a forests, and reducing overall abundance of dryland forests, to make way for landscapes they grew up with such as grass lawns and other familiar plants (these are known as transported landscapes and most people do this, especially when moving to an area they are unfamiliar with).

    My father was raised in Kalapana on Hawaii Island (1955-65), just past where deforesting is currently taking place. When I asked him what was used for firewood he said 'ohi'a, confirming other Hawai'i Island families preference as not recent but historic. In addition in the 1856 edition of Ka Hae Hawai'i a Hawaiian language newspaper 'ohi'a was being sold in Honolulu, O'ahu for $14 a pile.  

    Currently there are 12 types of firewood available and on Hawai'i Island, with 16% being native species preferred for firewood if available.  On O'ahu there are at least 17 different types of firewoods being utilized, with no use or preference for native species.  On both islands Kiawe (Prosopis padilla), also known as mesquite, is highly prized (93% of surveyors preferred) as a firewood for its availability, wood density and taste it imparts on food. Kiawe is another species that is being cleared in undeveloped areas and utilized as firewood.  Community members would like access to this clearcut wood, (Kiawe or 'Ohi'a) especially if development is going to take place anyways, they would like to utilize it for cultural purposes specifically imu or smoking meats, as opposed to mulching it or letting it rot.

     image 2320877843-0
    Kiawe (Prosopis padilla) flowers, tree [300+ in Peru], comparison of  "long-thorn" and common Kiawe, with some wood burning pieces.

    I suggest current status of Hawai'i Island is what O'ahu was roughly 150 years ago, utilizing the native trees from soon to be house sites. We need to look forward in planting resources, native or introduced, to be sustainable and perpetuate common cultural and community building practices such as imu and simple things like fire building and recharging the aquifer.

    I will be presenting my Master's Defense in Botany during the first week of May at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in St.John building.  If you are interested in learning more about my research within historical or current Native Hawaiian gathering practices, especially with imu, please contact me (

    Mahalo to Isabella Aiona Abbott for making it possible for Hawaiian research to take place within the University of Hawaii at Manoa Botany department and to the previous and current local scholars...ho'omau.

    Mahalo to the Native Hawaiian community for allowing me to do the research that I do, to my 'ohana, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Botany department, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Ethnobotany track, my advisor Dr. Tamara Ticktin and the ARCS foundation for the support and exposure to research I probably wouldn't have access to.