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Legal and Policy Contexts for Stewarding Indigenous Land and Sacred Sites


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Presenter Bio

Mehana Blaich Vaughan is as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, with a joint appointment to UH Sea Grant and Hui ʻĀina Momona. She works with a consortium of scholars who collaborate with Hawaiʻi communities to develop solutions to natural and cultural resource management, food security and sustainability issues. She holds a PhD from the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program for Environment and Research at Stanford University.

Mehana comes from the rural Halele‘a district on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i. For over ten years, she was a middle and high school teacher who worked on developing place-based education programs with Kaua‘i community groups. She has also been involved in a number of community planning efforts, including work related to community stewardship of natural resources in Wai‘anae on O‘ahu, in Miloli‘i on the island of Hawai‘i, and on Kaua‘i.

Mehana’s research interests include community efforts to care for natural resources at the local level, collaborative resource management partnerships, contemporary management based on indigenous systems, participatory research methods, watershed ecology, and place based education. Her dissertation research focused on collaborative management of a coastal fishery in Hāʻena, Kauaʻi by government agencies and community members. She investigated the creation of state law based on customary local management practices, and suggested means of improving initial phases of collaborative resource management partnerships. She also worked with Native Hawaiian fishermen to understand community level benefits created though sharing of subsistence harvests. Her future research includes:

  • Investigating and enhancing community capacity to monitor the health and use of natural resources, as well as to enforce sustainable harvest practices
  • Documenting stories of community leaders and policy makers in Hawai‘i with decades of collaborative, local-level, resource management experience whose knowledge of past agreements, land uses, and planning efforts are invaluable
  • Understanding how Hawaiian values and practices related to resource care and management are being transmitted and changing across generations
  • Investigating effects of land use on coastal fisheries at the ahupuaʻa level.

Mehana is grateful to her children, husband, family, and to all of the Hawai‘i communities that have supported and informed her work.

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Mar 16th, 4:00 PM Mar 16th, 6:00 PM

Kaiāulu Policy Contexts for Stewarding Indigenous Lands