First Landing is a story of how nine inhabitants of Hawaii landed on the island of Kaho’olawe on January 4, 1976, as a symbolic protest of the island’s use as a bombing range by the Unites States Navy, and other branches of the United States military. Since 1941, when the U.S. Government forcibly removed native Hawaiian families from Kaho’olawe, the island had been exploited for military target practice resulting in significant destruction including desecration of innumerable sacred sites. In fact, for decades, the U.S. military and the militaries of other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Chile and Peru, among others, annually participated in naval maneuvers in Hawaii commonly referred to as, the RIMPAC Exercises.
But the chink in the Navy’s armor began in the early 1970’s; strangely enough, not as a war protest by university students and community peace advocates, but rather as a cultural revival among Native Hawaiians who were re-discovering their roots, traditions, customs and practices, including one which became the theme for the Stop the Bombing protests, “Aloha Aina, Malama Ka Aina,” “Love the land, take care of the land.”
Though brief, the first landing protest on Kaho’olawe set off a chain of events and a groundswell of emotional and political upheaval among the Hawaiian community that was to change Hawaii and our lives forever. And, in the end, it was the pivotal event that led to the stopping of all bombing of Kaho`olawe, and the return of the island to the Hawaiian people twenty years later.