Grace Cajski received support from the Yale Sustainable Food Program’s Global Food Fellowship for her environmental humanities project on Hawaiian fishponds. Cajski shared this account of her project with the Yale Sustainable Food Program. To learn more about the Yale Sustainable Food Program’s Global Food Fellowships, please visit this page.
Growing up in New Orleans, I loved going to the water with my father. We’d kayak. We walked along the bayous and boated across the lake. My father is from Oʻahu, and, in the summer, we’d go back to his childhood home. There, we sailed, explored, and visited with family and friends. One of whom was Vernon Sato, my father’s old neighbor. He was a phycologist and aquaculturist. In his retirement, he wrote a book about Moliʻi fishpond, an ancient Hawaiian fishpond. Sometimes, he’d take us there.
Nine hundred years ago, the Hawaiian population was growing into the hundreds of thousands. They invented fishponds, loko iʻa, to feed their community. It was the first aquaculture system in the Pacific Rim. Chiefs, or aliʻi, designated a kiaʻi loko to care for and operate the fishpond. Caring for a fishpond was an art, and the knowledge it took to understand the pond and its creatures required years of apprenticeship. When the West colonized, when it forbade most Hawaiian practices and converted communal land into private property, this artistry was lost.
Read the full story on the Yale Sustainable Food Project website.