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Nahoopii seeks to prepare isle for its future

February 17, 2008
WAILUKU – Twenty-seven years after being in the first group of high school students to make a legal trip to Kahoolawe, a Protect Kahoolawe ‘Ohana member has accepted an offer to become executive director of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission, it was announced at a commission meeting last week.

Michael Nahoopii said he was a15-year-old Kamehameha Schools student in 1981 when he encountered hardpan, brown landscape and “hundreds of goats everywhere” on Kahoolawe.

Nahoopii, 43, said he sought the commission’s top post because he wanted to “prepare Kahoolawe for its future and maybe create something that would be unique and exciting; to make Kahoolawe exciting again (and) relevant in people’s minds again.”

“People don’t think about it. I want to bring it back to people’s minds and hearts,” he said Saturday by phone from his Honolulu home.

Nahoopii graduated in 1982 from Kamehameha and in 1986 from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and holds a master of business administration degree in accounting from Chaminade University.

He was naval officer in charge of Kahoolawe from the early 1990s to 1995. As a civilian, he served as senior project engineer with Parsons-UXB Joint Venture during the ordnance cleanup from 1995 to 2004.

For the last four years, he has worked with the nonprofit Pacific American Foundation as project director for the Native Hawaiian Research Center and for the Malama Kaho‘olawe partnership.

He simultaneously worked with the foundation’s for-profit affiliate, The Hana Group. For the latter, he was safety manager for contracts providing security for Navy bases in Hawaii, including Pearl Harbor, plus six Mainland bases; and quality control and safety manager for Navy housing in Hawaii.

He said he sees opportunities for Kahoolawe to be a model of sustainability and a model of integrating Hawaiian culture, environmental restoration and care of the island, or “malama aina.”

The island “was a proving ground for leadership. The Hawaiian renaissance activists all started with Kahoolawe. They learned there how to be leaders. Once again, it can be a training ground for a lot of things,” he said.

Nahoopii teaches lauhala weaving and specializes in weaving hats. He is training to uniki, or graduate, as a hoopaa, or chanter, with halau Ka Pa Hula O Ka Lei Lehua, under the direction of kumu hula Snowbird Bento.

He is married and has a 15-year-old son. He plans to commute from Oahu and travel statewide seeking partnerships to share resources and expertise.

He said his priorities are to establish long-term procedures for Kahoolawe, to secure trust funding “so that it will always be protected” and to have “the ‘Ohana and KIRC working together for the common good of this island.”

• Kekoa Catherine Enomoto can be reached at

Article Photos

‘People don’t think about it. I want to bring it back to people’s minds and hearts.’

MICHAEL NAHOOPII, Incoming director



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