Four busted for planting ‘kanaka garden’ on state land in Hilo

  • DLNR photo This photo shows the planting of a ‘kanaka garden’ in Wailoa State Recreation Area on Sunday. Longtime Hawaiian sovereignty activist Gene Tamashiro and three others were cited by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and will have future court dates.

A longtime Hawaiian sovereignty activist and three others were cited Sunday by Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers for their third attempt to plant what they call a “kanaka garden” at Wailoa State Recreation Area in Hilo.

Gene Tamashiro and the others — 58-year-old Joanna Pike of Laupahoehoe, 42-year-old Aero-Travis Olson-Coomer of Pahoa, and 23-year-old Mia Pavao of Pahoa — were cited on what the DLNR called “a variety of charges, including unlawful introduction of plant life on public property and altering geological features by digging into manicured grass.”


According to DLNR, about a dozen people responded to the state park in Hilo in response to social media posts. A Facebook post by Kaneshiro on Sunday proclaimed: Truth is Sovereign. KANAKA GARDEN LIVES! Kamehameha Statue Today 2pm!

The four were cited after DLNR Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers observed all four either digging up grass or planting trees or shrubs.

This is the third time Tamashiro has been ticketed for what the DLNR describes as “illegally planting vegetation in the park.” The previous incidents occurred in 2013 and in January 2021.

Although Tamashiro and others in 2013 planted a kanaka garden, which consists of taro and other plants considered indigenous in Hawaii, a check of court records didn’t turn up a criminal case filed against him that year.

Tamashiro’s citation in 2021 for destruction of public property and agricultural activity ended up in an acquittal in a bench trial on Dec. 21 by Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach. Laubach also dismissed a charge of abandoned property, with prejudice, which means the state can’t refile the charge.

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