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Native Hawaiian Practitioner support for protection of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

Dear Secretary Zinke and Secretary Ross,

As representatives of Native Hawaiian Practitioners dedicated to preserving the biocultural resources of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, we write to you in strong support of maintaining the current protections for these waters that are deeply valued by our community.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and its surrounding waters are held in the highest regard and respect from which it is believed all life began, and to which our ancestral spirits return after death. The expanded Papahānaumokuākea monument boundary ensures that these resources are safeguarded from any extractive, commercial, or industrial activities that are incompatible with our traditional beliefs.

The elevation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to a monument Co-trustee position of Papahānaumokuākea also rightfully placed the Native Hawaiian voice at all levels of decision making in the governance of Papahānaumokuākea. This act was applauded as it values the integration between traditional knowledge and contemporary science in management activities.

Maintaining the protections keeps in tact the cultural voyaging seascape in the Hawaiian Islands, since ancient Hawaiian chiefs would voyage between the main Hawaiian Islands and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Traditional long distance voyaging and wayfinding includes observing the sun, moon, stars, and elements of the natural environment, such as migratory seabirds and leaping fish, which depend on healthy ecosystems. This practice has been revived today and is particularly exemplified by the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Hōkūleʻa, a double-hulled sailing canoe that is concluding its epic three-year journey around the world in June 2017. The canoe traveled 47,000 nautical miles to 85 ports & 26 nations to raise awareness about how to live sustainably and care for our ocean, which inspired Hawaiians and also many other cultures to keep native traditions alive.

The Pacific Remote Islands, which is one of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world, holds historical significance for Native Hawaiians as 130 Hawai‘i men, known as the Hui Panalā‘au occupied the islands of Howard, Baker, and Jarvis from 1935-1942. This colonization allowed President Franklin Roosevelt to claim jurisdiction of the islands, which became an important base during WWII. We should not forget that two of Hawaiʻi’s sons died in the shelling of Howland Island by the Japanese on December 8, 1941. The expansion proclamation rightfully recognized these brave men.

In order to preserve the ecological and cultural integrity of one of the last remaining pristine ecosystems on Earth, we strongly believe the protections for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument should remain in place and we urge you to oppose any rollbacks in the scale or scope of protections. These areas are of great importance to preserving our ocean heritage for the benefit of future generations and we ask that you respectfully recognize our request they remain intact.

Please accept this letter as an official public comment for Docket No. DOI-2017-0002.

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