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The FORBIDDEN Island…NI’IHAU.
Perhaps so few talk about it because so few know about it. Well…those who live here know plenty, but it’s not often talked about as The Forbidden Island is an Island where time forgot…a place where time stopped in the 1800’s. For Tourists they hear of a Forbidden Island in passing as they over hear Locals from time to time, but as for tourists and tourism you won’t hear much about NI’IHAU at all. It’s not that we have avoided this subject it’s just that it’s a place Tourism or kama’aina who live here don’t talk much about and if you want to visit this highly forbidden place you’ll be going on a Hunting expedition and the Cost is very high so even fewer people ever see it.
There is a long past to NI’IHAU Island so lets just start off by saying NI’IHAU is UNTOUCHED…250 or so Kanaka Maoli, Native Hawaiians who still all speak Hawaiian live there. They live the same way they lived Hundreds of years ago…no power, no electricity (except solar), no roads and no true running water source as there is very little rain there because of the low mountain range and Kauai. There are however Natural Lakes which is something not often seen in Hawaii. There is very little Vegetation and flowers so the Hawaiians of NI’IHAU use the Sea Shells of NI’IHAU that only show up on the beaches of this island…they use them for Lei making as well as Trade. They are very valuable to those outside of NI’IHAU because they are not only found there on the island they Leis are made by the Hawaiians themselves using old cultural traditions. Some NI’IHAU SHELL LEI’s sell for $30,000.00!
Back in the 1860’s King Kamehameha the IV put the island up for sale. At the time a Kauai resident, Elizabeth Sinclair bought the island for $10,000.00. The crazy thing about this purchase is the King gave her 3 choices of property to buy…The Island of NI’IHAU…Waikiki on Oahu or Pearl Harbor. If she only took Waikiki…lol…it may be laughable today, BUT this is the interesting story with Elizabeth Sinclair…She truly believed in PRESERVING Hawaiian Land and the Hawaiian Culture and once she passed away the island deed went to her descendants of today…THE ROBINSON FAMILY. Her Family continues her commitment of maintaining the current status of NI’IHAU to a time long gone. So why I brought up…what if she bought WAIKIKI?…Well…if she SO VALUED the ways of the past, the Aina and the Kanaka Maoli Culture could you image what Waikiki could have looked like today if her family the Robinsons owned it today? Perhaps Oahu would be a completely different place still lost in a bit of a time lapse…what a dream…unfortunately it’s truly just a dream. But you can also look at it this way…What would have come of NI’IHAU? Perhaps it would be the same as all the other islands and there would be a Culture on the brink…At least we can see and say the Hawaiian Culture is alive and well on NI’IHAU and it represents the Largest Fully functional Hawaiian culture in one place.
Now that we have given you an INTRO to the Forbidden Island…Lets talk about some things you probably didn’t know about NI’IHAU:
1.) The Island of NI’IHAU and the Island of KAHO’OLAWE are OFF LIMITS unless under certain strict circumstances.
2.) There are over 35 Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals that call NI’IHAU home…one of the largest populations on the main Hawaiian islands.
3.) The KING of Hawaii would never sell an entire island for $10,000.00 unless he knew something the Sinclairs didn’t. The Sinclairs had been Cattle Ranchers and Farmers and to them NI’IHAU was perfect to build out a large Cattle Ranch. When the Sinclairs was shown the island it was Lush and green, seemingly perfect for ranching. What the King however didn’t them them that for Two Years NI’IHAU had gotten highly unusual Wet Weather for two seasons making NI’IHAU look like a tropical Paradise, but the King new it was a desert wasteland and so took the opportunity to sell it to suckers because it was worthless to him. The following season it started to become dry once again…The island went back to being desert. There are two reasons for this…1. There is no mountain range on NI’IHAU to stop the clouds over the island and 2. The island sits in the RAIN SHADOW of Kauai which is the wettest place on Earth and so by time any remaining clouds reach NI’IHAU there is no rain left.
4.) The Sinclair family who owns NI’IHAU also bought LANAI, but sold it in 1922 to the HAWAIIAN PINEAPPLE COMPANY known today as DOLE.
5.) In the early 1930’s NI’IHAU became FORBIDDEN after Mainlanders came to NI’IHAU bringing Measles and Killing 11 Natives on the island, all children. It was devastating for the Native Hawaiians and the Robinson family and so they made all visits to NI’IHAU forbidden. Hence…The Forbidden Island.
6.) Those who live on NI’IHAU are free to come and go as they please. Many go off island and live on Kauai during the summer months because NI’IHAU is so dry that time of year…but no one comes to NI’IHAU unless you are friends of the Robinsons, get personal permission from them or do a Hunting expedition there for a large sum of money.
7.) There are 80,000 Hawaiians who are full Native Kanaka Maoli. this makes up only 6% of the total population of the Hawaiian Islands. Fewer than 2,000 of those 80,000 Hawaiians Speak HAWAIIAN as their first language…250 of them are on NI’IHAU.
8.) The Native Hawaiians on NI’IHAU are known for their amazing craftsmanship of the gemlike Shells that wash up on NI’IHAU’s Beaches…They are known around the world as the most beautiful and most expensive Lei’s on earth.
9.) The Robinsons Ranch closed in 1999…since that time the residents had been struggling to survive with selling only their Shell Lei’s off island and around the world until the Navy built a small radar tracking installation. Today NI’IHAU’s income is 20% Shell Lei’s and 80% of the income comes from the Millions of dollars the Military gives to lease the land in NI’IHAU from the community and Robinson family. The Robinson Family spends a part of the money on the local community there.
10.) THE NI’IHAU INCIDENT took place during WWII when a Japanese Fighter Pilot crashed on the island after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Unknown to those on the other islands The Pilot Terrorized the residents for a week with his guns, but two residents KALEOHANA and KANAHELE were able to disarm the fighter pilot. KANAHELE was shot tree times during the fight, he grabbed the pilot and cracked open his skull against a volcanic rock wall. For this act he was given the Purple Heart and Metal of Merit bu the US MILITARY.