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Exhibition Program

Assault on Kanaloa Kaho‘olawe

Ka mauli o ka ‘Āina a he mauli kanaka

The life of the land is the life of the people

  • Ceremony marking the annexation of Hawai‘i by the United States dated 1898.

    Ceremony marking the United States’ claim of annexation of Hawai‘i, 1898

    Courtesy Bishop Museum

    Much of the valuable knowledge of voyaging was lost as a consequence of the suppression of traditional ways by American colonizers and missionaries, and by the invasion, claimed annexation, and occupation of Hawai‘i by the United States government.

  • White goat bones are strewn across black, volcanic rock and scrubby grass.

    Goat bones on the island, 1980

    Courtesy Dr. Mark D. Merlin, Professor of Botany, University of Hawai‘i

    As well as inhibiting Native Hawaiian customs, the occupiers seized property for their exclusive use and banished the people from their sacred lands. The arrival of outsiders put Kanaloa Kaho‘olawe in jeopardy. In 1793, goats were presented as a gift from British naval captain George Vancouver to Chief Kahekili of Maui who released them on the island. The introduction of this foreign species undermined the ecological balance of the land over the course of the nineteenth century. The rise of the population to about 40,000 animals, and the uncontrolled grazing of cattle and sheep allowed by ranchers, caused massive soil erosion.

  • A depression of rust-colored earth, the result of soil erosion, is pictured. In the background are green grass and trees, and blue sky.

    Soil erosion caused by uncontrolled animal grazing and bombing, near the topside target area west of Luakealialalo, 1993

    Courtesy Franco Salmoiraghi

  • In this black and white photograph, battleships are surrounded by black smoke during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    Battleships under attack in Pearl Harbor, 1941

    Courtesy University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, Hamilton Library, Hawai‘i War Records Depository

    In 1941, after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, O‘ahu prompted United States participation in the Second World War, the U.S. government declared martial law in Hawai‘i and seized Kanaloa Kah‘olawe for bombing and training exercises.

  • Artillery is scattered across the rust-colored, dirt-covered ground.

    Unexploded ordnance, 1994

    Courtesy Franco Salmoiraghi

  • Black and white photograph of tanks and APC’s landing on beach for military exercises.

    Military exercises at Hanakanai‘a, 1993

    Courtesy Franco Salmoiraghi

  • In this black and white photograph, a bullet hole is seen right above an ancient drawing of a person on a rock wall.

    A bullet hole near a petroglyph, 1994

    Courtesy Franco Salmoiraghi

    Over the next fifty years, many of the island’s ancient petroglyphs and sacred sites were damaged by military training activities which scattered unexploded ordnance throughout the area. Overgrazing by feral goats further decimating the uninhabited land.