Maui residents were among those honored in Washington on Wednesday with a 2011 Partners in Conservation Award for their role in helping to repair a Big Island heiau that sustained earthquake damage five years ago.
Leaders of the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site earthquake repair project received the award from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for their "exemplary conservation results with community engagement and local partnerships," a release said.
"It was a team effort. We worked (with) people from all the islands," said Maui's Francis Palani Sinenci, who was a contractor for the National Park Service on the project.
Crews conduct repair work on Mailekini Heiau on the Big Island. The National Park Service and the group, Na Papa Kanaka o Pu‘ukohola Heiau, received a 2011 Partners in Conservation Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior for its work on Big Island heiau that were damaged by an earthquake in 2006. Several Maui residents were in Washington to accept the award.
Hawaii residents (back row from left) Annie Kawaiaea, John Kapono‘ai Molitau, Daniel Kawaiaea Jr., Eric Matanane and Francis Palani Sinenci and (front row) Loretta Kawaiaea and Daniel Kawaiaea Sr., meet with Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka (front row center) in Washington the Kawaiaeas, Molitau and Sinenci, who all have Maui ties, were part of a group that received a 2011 Partners in Conservation Award for their role in repairing earthquake damage at a Big Island heiau.
Office of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka photo
Sinenci, a master stone-worker and master builder of hale, or traditional Hawaiian structures, spoke to The Maui News via cellular phone a day after the National Park Service and the group, Na Papa Kanaka o Pu'ukohola Heiau, received the award for the project.
"The Partners in Conservation Awards demonstrate that our nation's greatest conservation legacies often emerge when agencies and citizens from a wide range of backgrounds come together to address shared challenges," Salazar said in a release. "I am pleased to recognize the efforts of dedicated people from across our nation to conserve and restore our treasured landscapes, address water issues and forge solutions to complex national resource issues through good government and strong partnerships."
The awards were given to 17 organizations Wednesday.
It took volunteers and experts more than four years to repair the scared temples known as Pu'ukohola Heiau and Mailekini Heiau, a release said.
The U.S. Department of Interior said the volunteer partnership resulted in a savings of more than $3 million and a complete repair of the temples, but one of the most meaningful achievements experienced was the hands-on engagement of 600 Native Hawaiians and "Hawaiians at heart" from across the state and the Mainland.
Sen. Daniel Akaka met a group of Hawaii residents who were in the nation's capital to accept the award.
"Their aloha for this site, for the history of the Native Hawaiian people, and the preservation of our culture is clear. I am proud of their efforts and appreciated hearing about the effort they put into repairing the heiau," Akaka said via email.
In its release, the U.S. Department of Interior recognized a group of participants, including those from Maui and ones with Maui ties, Sinenci confirmed.
They included: Daniel Kawaiaea Sr., John Kapono'ai Molitau, Ke'eaumoku Kapu and Kyle Nakanelua from Na Papa Kanaka o Pu'ukohola Heiau and also Daniel Kawaiaea Jr. from the National Park Service along with Sinenci.
Sinenci said there were at least 40 other Maui residents who also contributed to the project.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.