Ulu Va’a

Wa’a Culture and Ahupua’a Habitat Restoration

Ulu Va’a was established in 2020 by North Kohala Community members to engage Hawaii youth and community in wa'a culture and ahupua’a habitat restoration practices. Our intention is to build navigational skills that are transferable to life skills. In this program we will build a wa’a program and strengthen and support ongoing habitat restoration programs.

Ocean and Land Stewards

We have built three canoes for Hamakua and two for Kohala that are still in use today. We are also active in coastal conservation, lo’i restoration, and supporting the KHS garden to cafeteria program which is a leader in the state. Our greater vision is to bridge our island communities by leading youth driven education programs that will build the next generation of ocean and land stewards in community based resource management.

Meaningful, Hands-on Culturally Based Programming

Due to the increasing population in the islands, the clear-cutting of native forests, history of cultural loss and ecological deforestation, we see the need to engage Hawaii youth and community by bridging existing wa’a and ahupua’a habit restoration programs. The Hawaiian voyaging traditions understand that the atmospheric rain belt brings water to our island and is generated and supported by trees and forests. Our keiki need connections to culture and regenerative practices. Ulu Va’a will provide these needed actions.

There are many programs that relate to culture, environment and habitat restoration yet there is a lack of connection among these programs and a lack of opportunities for Kohala youth to engage in these programs. One of the greatest challenges facing our Kohala community and peers is drug use. Looking at this as a lack of connection and sense of purpose we see this as an opportunity to engage our community in meaningful, hands-on culturally based programming. Additionally there are many wa’a programs around the state, having a strong wa’a program here in Kohala will prepare our youth to be active participants in these future opportunities.

Our goal is to bridge the gap between our forests, diets, and canoes. Our programs include canoe building, school and home gardens, coastal, reef, forest and watershed restoration

Our Objectives

  • Build a 37 foot double hull, double masted Hawalian voyaging canoe.
  • Plant in coordination with the Kohala School Complex, community partners, and lo’i kalo in Kohala and Waipi’o to grow traditional foods to provision our voyage and our programs.
  • Host weekly community workdays and ongoing community education and engagement events.


We will ensure our completion of a 37 ft double hulled canoe build following a set of proven boat plans and by networking with various members in our community. The canoe build, a Tama Moana, is an ethnic eco friendly James Wharrem (boat builder company) design.

We will complete the project at Kepaniwai Ola Inc. woodshop at the old Hala’ula sugar mill. This site is the only industrial zoned shop here in North Kohala. When the wa’a is complete we will collaborate with existing community organizations like Na Kalai Wa’a Moku o Keawe. Hip Agriculture, Aloha Wa’a, Kanu o ka ‘Áina, Hamakua Cultural Center, Ulu Mau Puanui, Kamehameha Schools, Big Island Substance Abuse Council (BISAC), Mana Farms and the Konohiki Restoration Project.

The plan for Ulu Va’a is to continue to mentor youth by working and partnering in our community and schools by creating a platform for more education and outreach. The delivered results will be supplying a wa’a for schools and connecting similar programs that exist to fortify and scale the impact.


The completion and sailing of this wa’a will be the result of this initial funding and support. We will track the number of participants in our programs and will continue our work in schools and provide access for the students who are interested in participating with our project. This will be an expansion of the work already happening with Kohala High school students in the garden and loi restoration work.


We have $15,000 in cash pledges from local residents and businesses. We have $5,000 worth of supplies donated for the project. We anticipate raising the rest of the funding through local fundraisers and in kind donations. The woodshop to conduct the build as well as all of the labor will be provided in-kind.


Ulu Va’a is a 501(c)(3) organization under the umbrella of the Inter-Nation Cultural Foundation.

Inter-Nation Cultural Foundation is a global donor-direct Ca 501(c)(3) non-profit, established in 1998. All donations are tax-deductible. Sanctioned specifically by the IRS as a donor-direct non-profit, one of only seven in the country.

Our goal is to bridge the gap between our forests, diets, and canoes. Our programs include canoe building, school and home gardens, coastal, reef, forest and watershed restoration.

— Ulu Va’a