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Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Feb. 7, 2024

National Park Service photo of Mauna Loa Trail from the 1931 Park Superintendent's Report. The trail was built by
 the Buffalo Soldiers who are honored during Black History Month. NPS Photo

BLACK SOLDIERS BUILT MAUNA LOA TRAIL IN THE EARLY 1900s, the accomplishment celebrated during Black History Month this February. A statement from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park says that most of its visitors "never set foot on Mauna Loa Trail. Even fewer people know the remarkable story of the Black soldiers who in 1915 built a trail between the summit of Kīlauea and the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Loa volcano."
    A new video from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Forging a Path with a 12-Pound Hammer,
Buffalo Soldiers helping to measure the depth of Halema‘uma‘u
 lava lake. USGS photo
celebrates Black History Month and the story of the African-American soldiers who built the remote 30-mile trail. The 10-minute film is available free to everyone on the park website.
    Why would these enlisted men, who faced segregation even in racially diverse Hawaiʻi, undergo such a grueling task? Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, needed a route so geologists could reach and study the distant summit of Mauna Loa. At Jaggar's request, soldiers from Company E of the 25th Infantry Regiment stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oʻahu were assigned to construct Mauna Loa Trail.
    Using only 12-pound hammers and gunny sacks to move rock, these tough men toiled on the harsh, rain-soaked slopes of Mauna Loa. Thirty-nine days later, Buffalo Soldiers finished the job.
    Between 1915 and 1917, six companies of the 25th Infantry came to what is now Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. In addition to building the Mauna Loa Trail, the Buffalo Soldiers helped measure lava within Halemaʻumaʻu crater and were among the first to recreate at the newly established Kīlauea Military Camp.
    For more information about the Buffalo Soldiers in Hawaiʻi, watch the video and visit the park website: https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm.
    The statement from the Park says, "Black history is American history. During February, and throughout the year, National Park Service sites, programs, and digital platforms provide resources to connect with, and reflect on, African American history and heritage."
    The term Buffalo Soldier was also made famous in a song by Bob Marley and the Whalers, which was remade in the Maori language by the musical group Ruia and Ranea in New Zealand.
Buffalo Soldiers 25th Regiment on parade in downtown Honolulu. U.S. Army Museum Photo

LEGISLATION THAT WOULD MAKE THE SHAKA THE OFFICIAL GESTURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAI‘I passed one state House of Representatives committee on Wednesday. It is  
Carrying the ball with a shaka to a touchdown against
Kamehameha School in 2019 was Trojan Izaiah Pilanca-
Emmsely, captured by a Kaʻū alumnus and photographer.
Photo by Tim Wright
headed for more committee approvals, with the likelihood of a vote on the House Floor for the Hang Loose measure.
    Steven Siu, who released his short film in 2023 called Shaka: A Story of Aloha, testified at the House of Representatives on Wednesday in support of House Bill 27-36. 
    Public testimony is welcome through the Hawai‘i Legislature's online portal.
    Kaʻū High School alumnus Tim Wright said he supports the measure to codify the Hang Loose shaka gesture and provided some of the language connected with the proposed bill: "While there are multiple theories about its origins, all agree that the shaka originated in Hawai‘i over 100 years ago. Moreover, despite various cultural influences, the shaka embodies positive sentiments of aloha. The legislature recognized the shaka as a vital symbol for Hawai‘i, with the power to enhance the State's economy, global image, and resident pride. By enshrining it in law, Hawai‘i ensures recognition as the birthplace of the shaka, even as its usage spreads worldwide."

KAʻŪ'S U.S. SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO said on Wednesday that she is upset about politics
Hirono calls for Ukraine funding and for comprehensive
immigration reform to protect U.S. borders. She wears
the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Photo from Hirono
regarding protection of the U.S. border becoming increasingly entangled with funding to support Ukrainians in their war to prevent a Russian takeover. 
    Hirono, a member of the Armed Services Committee, issued a statement after she voted yes on the Senate's national security supplemental funding bill that would provide support for Ukraine. The bill needed 60 votes to advance but failed with a vote of 50-49.      
    Hirono said she voted for the bill even though she objected to a number of immigration provisions in the package. "Our country is in desperate need of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, like we attempted in 2013, to address our border and the millions of undocumented immigrants, including more than 500,000 DACA recipients, who live in and contribute to our communities."
    She said she welcomes "the opportunity to engage in open, good-faith negotiations on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”

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