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Penny Martin with TNC Moloka'i staff.
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Kako'o 'Aina Award winner Penny Martin
Longtime cultural and environmental educator Penny Martin received The Nature Conservancy’s Kāko‘o ‘Āina Award this past weekend at a community celebration at the Kilohana community center on Moloka‘i. The award honors individuals who have provided significant and long-standing support for conservation in Hawai‘i. Kāko‘o ‘Āina means literally, “one who supports the land.”
“Few people have served as ambassadors for Hawaiian culture and conservation as Penny Martin has on the island of Moloka‘i,” said Suzanne Case, the Conservancy’s Hawai‘i executive director. “She has helped the people of Moloka‘i work through difficult issues related to the use and conservation of the island’s natural resources and is truly a community treasure.”
Martin was born and raised on Moloka‘i and attended Kamehameha Schools. In 1976, she was one of two female crew members aboard Hōkūle‘a’s epic first expedition from Tahiti—an experience that taught her an important lesson. “Living on a canoe is like living on an island,” she said. “You have to learn to live with limited resources and work together to manage them.”
In 1991, Martin began working as a cultural and environmental educator for the Moanalua Gardens Foundation. Four years later, when the Conservancy initiated its monthly Moloka‘i hike program, she served as one of three original docents, leading educational hikes into the Conservancy’s Kamakou Preserve.
That same year, she became a community member of the Moloka‘i Hunter’s Working Group, helping to bridge deep-seated differences between conservation leaders and local hunters.
Today, she serves on the Conservancy’s Moloka‘i Advisory Council, where she is a key advisor on conservation issues that affect the community. “Penny does this with common sense and respect for the beliefs and opinions of all involved. She is trusted and respected by everyone,” said Ed Misaki, the director of the Conservancy’s Moloka‘i programs.
Martin is a co-founder of the Conservancy’s annual Moloka‘i Earth Day celebration, a popular community, family and educational event begun in 1995. She continues to work as a cultural and environmental educator, only now it is for Papahana Kualoa, Lelekamanu Program. Her job takes her into the classroom of every public school on Moloka‘i, where she teaches students about the connection between Hawaiian culture and conservation.
“Anyone who knows Penny knows that she is a great believer in Hawaiian values, and in particular the value of aloha ‘āina, or love for the land,” said Misaki. “Here on Moloka‘i, Penny lives the culture of aloha ‘āina.”
Dr. Sam ‘Ohu Gon, the Conservancy’s senior scientist and cultural advisor, presented Martin with a kāko‘o, or staff carved from ‘ōhi‘a wood.
“In Hawaiian, one who provides unfailing support is called kāko‘o, which is derived from the word, ko‘o—a brace or supporting structure that denotes strength,” he said.
The Conservancy’s Kāko‘o ‘Āina or “Supporter of the Land” award was established in 2005. Previous winners include Jan TenBruggencate, a 30-year science and environmental reporter with the Honolulu Advertiser; wildlife biologist and photographer Jack Jeffry; Maui biologist Art Medeiros; and the east O‘ahu community group Mālama Maunalua.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.