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On this episode of Hawaii’s Best, our host Bryan Murphy sits down to chat with Anela Evans, a cultural practitioner from the island of Lanai.  Anela discusses her work of cultural preservation at the Four Seasons, where she invites tourists to learn all about Lanai’s history and how to best respect its culture.

Bryan and Anela discuss how Lanai, with the population of around 3,100 people, has been ecologically devastated throughout its history and how through her efforts of conservation, Anela has been able to share its culture and beauty with others who are willing to embrace it.  She lets us know the most important thing an individual can do when visiting the Hawaiian archipelago, is to take a posture of receiving.  In this way, our cultural practitioner notes, guests are able to receive an experience that is authentic, local, and can be in many ways the unexpected detour that many of its visitors long for but cannot plan.

Anela brings insightfulness and warmth to cultural preservation that is a breath of fresh air to the tourism industry and welcome addition to the Hawaiian spirit of aloha. So join us on this episode to learn what really is at the heart of a Hawaiian experience and how its culture can be preserved for future generations to enjoy. 

In This Episode

  • Growing up on Lanai  [4:55]
  • A day on Lanai [6:!5]
  • A desolate island [9:56]
  • Hopes for guests [14:26]
  • Future of tourism [16:20]
  • Taking Hawaii home [19:45]
  • Visiting Hawaii for the first time [26:05]
  • Final Thoughts [31:12]

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    Anela Evans: I want people to walk away with a more true sense of what hub It is beyond what is offered, you know, in the more heavily trafficked places that visitors go, you know, there's so much more that Hawaii has to offer.

    Bryan 1:00
    I'm just really pumped about today's interview you heard a little bit from anila Evans. She's a cultural practitioner on the island of Lanai II. Today, we're gonna be talking all about Hawaiian culture, but specifically, the culture on Lanai. And each of the islands has kind of their own culture. And we're going to hear from her all about what life was like growing up on Lanai II. And also what makes it so special and such a beautiful place. If you've been hanging out with us for any length of time. You know, what makes Hawaii beautiful, and that is culture and that is people at Hawaii's best, we are up to a lot of amazing things that are gonna be coming your way shortly. So you want to stay tuned for that. Usually right now, in a typical episode, I'd be highlighting some of the things that we're doing and, and maybe some of the things that I want to draw your attention to, but I really think that this episode is so important. I don't want to distract anything from the conversation. I want you to hear my conversation with anila rather quickly here because it is so important. If you love Hawaii and

    you're traveling to Hawaii and you maybe you've experienced Hawaii, on vacation or a trip, understanding the culture is really what Hawaii is best is all about we, we bring you some of the best experiences and some of the best things and the food to eat and all that good stuff. But at the heart of it is its people and its culture. This episode is so special to me. And I hope that you find value in it as well. Because when it comes to the heart of why this is what it's all about. It's all about understanding a culture that may be different than the one that you grew up with. And when you're visiting a place, it's important to have a good understanding of the culture that you're traveling to. So that's why I'm so excited for you to hear this conversation with an elevens who is a cultural practitioner on the island of Lanai and you can find her on Instagram at ANE la LI and also at the end of this conversation, we reference her her site that she's working on where she's creating products and that is day of conquest. So You can go to Day of conquest calm, or find her on Instagram on her shot page at day of conquest. So why don't we go ahead and head on over and talk story with anila Evans on the island of Lanai.

    Aloha and thank you so much for coming on Hawaii's best today. How are you doing today and tell us a little bit about yourself.

    Anela 3:26
    Aloha Bryan, I'm doing very well today. My name is anila Evans. I'm from the island of Lanai II. It's a very small island in the point island chain. We have a population of about 3100 people in the entire island. We're very small and tight knit community. And today I'm actually coming to you from ahoo Honolulu. My mom relocated to Honolulu a few years ago and I came to visit her as well as support my nephews who are on two very prominent local football teams. So they're playing each other tonight. Yeah, it's

    Bryan 4:06
    gonna be fun.

    Anela 4:07
    Yeah, it will be. Do you

    Bryan 4:09
    tend to get on Oahu often or the other islands?

    Anela 4:13
    I try to come to

    at least once a month. I lived here. When I was going to high school I boarded at Kamehameha and it went to you h Manoa for my bad she was like seven years total. I got my bachelor's and my master's degree there. So I'm pretty familiar with who I have a lot of family and friends here. So I like to come to all our who do my shopping, visit my friends and see my family and then go home to the peace and quiet. And the lack of traffic. Yeah, it's a nice little getaway. But I love London II and there's no place I'd rather be.

    Bryan 4:52
    What was it like growing up on it?

    Anela 4:54
    I mean, the only way I can describe it is I may be biased but I think that I had the best childhood that any child could ask for, you know, we had free roam of the outdoors. I mean, we were constantly immersed in activities such as horseback riding, we, every summer, we go to the beach every single day, and just play in the surf all day. I grew up, you know, going places with my dad, and it was the best. I mean, we didn't have to worry about any type of anything that someone in the big city might need to worry about, you know, and even today, you know, kids that are six, seven years old, still walk home from school. I mean, everybody knows everybody. So you know, everybody sort of has each other's back and looks out for everybody. So I feel like I'm very blessed to have the childhood that I had taught me a lot and I think it's one of the reasons why I am the I'm today, there's no other way to describe it. But

    Bryan 6:04
    that's awesome. What did a typical day be like for you on a

    Anela 6:08
    typical day? No would include waking up, going for a walk. And I always try to take a walk in the mornings, and then I go to work. I work at the Four Seasons as the cultural practitioner there. So I go to where panel is sort of the guests and educate them about son that he, its history and its unique culture. Then I go home and I play with my dog. My commute is maybe 10 minutes. At the most Yeah, I mean, there's not a lot of time that we spend stuck in traffic or, you know, sort of in the right things. It's very stress free. very laid back and relax, then that's the way I like it.

    Bryan 6:56
    Yeah. How long have you worked at the Four Seasons?

    Anela 6:59
    I have I've been there a little less than a year prior to that, I moved back to London. After finishing my master's degree, I finished my master's degree in 2011. And then shortly after, I moved to Maui, where I was working on the reserve commission, and I had the opportunity to work there because during my undergraduate and my graduate degree while I was working to get those at University of Hawaii, I had a professor who sort of took me under her wing and mentored me. And part of the experience in her class is service learning. And one of the opportunities that was presented to the students is the opportunity to go to college and participate in conservation efforts to restore the island for listeners that that are not aware. A lobby was bombed for a period of time. fears by United States military. It was sequestered on December 8 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed to be used as a weapons training range bombing was ceased in 1992. It went on that long. Yeah. Oh, wow.

    Yeah, realize that.

    Yeah. Wow. So even during the occupations when, you know, people were fighting to stop the bombing and occupying a holiday, they were still actively bombing on the island. So, occupations began in 1976. And it took, you know, 15 years for the military to finally stop completely after 1992. There was a period of 10 years in which they cleaned up the island. And then the island was returned to the State of Hawaii to be held in trust or a federally recognized Native Hawaiian government or governing entity. However, during that period of cleanup, they didn't clean up everything. And the original sort of document that allowed for the military to take over use of the island was that when the time came that they no longer needed it that they would return it in a state suitable for human habitation. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. And the protest, lobby ohana as well as the state of providing both engaged in conservation efforts to restore the island. So everything from, you know, planting native plants to building infrastructure that will support conservation efforts, things like that is what I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do. What was the state of the land, maybe you can kind of this is audio, but maybe Yeah, like this scraggly, desolate type of a desolate very highly eroded severe loss of native forest. In a, I think it was like in the 1890s Calico, who was at that time, the king of Hawaii visited coal lobby to sort of go on a quote unquote pilgrimage at a certain place on the island because the waters of that Bay were so revered and esteemed, as you know, sacred or very sacred. So calaca had, you know, his party that traveled with him his court rate, and there was an article that was published in a Hawaiian language newspaper that talks about what they saw when they visited coal lobby, you know, and it talks about these beautiful lush forests full of native greenery. And so you know, we have that to compare to what we see today. And the fact of the matter is that erosion did not begin with the bombing. actually start With the introduction of grazing animals, so there are no grazing animals or land mammals with the exception of oppa, which is a native bat. So there's no non manimals with the exception of that will pick up that I needed to have it. Yeah. So when they brought in grazing animals such as sheep, goats, dear animals like that, you know, they cause severe devastation to the landscape, they ate everything. They really enjoy eating native plants, they still do today, the erosion and the loss of data for sankofa lab, we began with the introduction of those types of animals, and it just, you know, escalated with the bombing. So, today, even though you know, throughout the course of my time when I volunteered there, I've seen a lot of change and there has been a lot of good effort put in by the protest lobby or Hannah and the State of Hawaii. It's still in a state of desolation, pretty much there are still areas that are completely bare, red there. hardpan is what the sort of type of surface that are prevalent in those areas. So essentially all of the top soil washed away and in and washed away into the ocean. Right. So the ocean from the coal lobby is impacted as well. But what the island serves as is, for many people that have visited there and myself included, is a inspiration. And a lesson for us in Aloha, aina. And Aloha, I know is essentially can be interpreted into English as love for the land, right? But the way I see it, I know is encompassing of the entire natural environment, right? And in our Hawaiian Christian school, And genealogies we come from the land. So aina is encompassing of us as well. Right? So it promotes a sense of holistic well being, and I guess there's no separation. Exactly. There's no separation, you know, for, for humans to thrive, it has to thrive and vice versa. Right. So, it's, it's a very prevalent lesson in that. And throughout all of it, you know, there are very amazing examples of a hyena and, and places where those lessons can be learned and can be brought to the forefront. And I think that, you know, that is the underlying sort of theme and and governing factor of Hawaiian lifestyle, right, essentially is the core of our culture. And it's definitely one thing that I like to share with people Well, that visit, or even, you know, children that I that I have opportunity to work with. So it is very impactful.

    Bryan 14:09
    Yeah, maybe speaking to that a little bit. I mean, I can imagine at the Four Seasons on it, you have a family or people there maybe for a week, two weeks, what are you hoping to leave your guests with?

    Anela 14:24
    I think that at the Four Seasons on the Nikkei, and even in four seasons, culture around the world, you know, we do our best and sometimes go above and beyond to extend our aloha our, our value of Aloha and our and our other Hawaiian values towards our guests, as well as towards our other team members, right. And that's an extension of the community that we live in, and that we really try to help each other. We help our neighbors And we are one big family. And we work with the people that we live with, right? We work with the people that we see in our community that we see in the stores that we see at the post office. Our kids go to school with those people's children. So, you know, essentially it is one big family. And we do our best to extend that feeling towards our guests. And that is a true sense of Aloha and what Hawaii is really about, you know, we help each other. We extend our aloha towards Lanai II with our guests, you know, by sharing our cultural practices by sharing our stories, our traditions, right by educating our guests that know the name of our island is not Lanai, its land that he right and the name of this rock. The name of this island is not sweetheart rock, it's pool pit. And this is why right you know, so allowing them to try to get a better sense of face I think is sort of what our goal is, especially our, the team that I work with my department at the four seasons. So yeah, I think that is the best way to

    Bryan 16:13
    a broader question would be, from your perspective, what does the future of tourism and respect for the Hawaiian culture where do you see a coexist or relationship? How would you define that? Or how would you ideally like to see that?

    Anela 16:32
    Ideally, I'd like to see more culturally sensitive and authentic experiences for our guests. I want people to walk away with a more true sense of what Hawaii is beyond what is offered, you know, in the more heavily trafficked places that visitors for, you know, there's so much more that Hawaii has to offer. And I think that we, as you know, indigenous people of this land need to get the opportunity to contribute to the conversation of where the visitor industry and where the economy in Hawaii is going, you know, within the next 20 or so years in general, I think that nowadays we are at an advantage because there's a lot more like consciousness about, I guess, indigenous peoples and their life and our lifestyles, as well as consciousness about caring for the environment, right, which is, essentially what indigenous cultures are rooted in. Right is, is our relationship to the environment. And so I think that we're an advantage for that. And I think that Hawaii and Hawaiians can, are have a lot to offer, when it comes to facilitating experiences that allow people to, to learn those things and to get a sense of care for you know, That the environment and opening their eyes to other ways of life. So, you know, what I hope for is that we will sort of have a shift in the visitor industry and have a view where people are not coming here to look for just a fantasize Hawaiian getaway that was sort of created and please on, you know, the spectacle of the other, right? Rather, people come here and try to immerse themselves in the authentic ness of the culture and really ask themselves, how can have I eat in packed me rather than leaving here impacting our reefs or our islands? Right, right. And I think that the way that that can happen is, you know, people open their minds to different sort of teachings and mindsets that we have here are that we may be able to help them See,

    Bryan 19:01
    you hit it on the head, I was thinking mindset came to my mind too. And it's all about how with that mindset, and having that respect when visiting and that goes so far, because the love of the Hawaiian people, they just you just give and give and give. And if you posture yourself with that mindset to receive, man you're gonna receive very well and yeah, more so than that my tie that's going to make an impact on you know you're going to be left with kind of this hole in your heart of the love for the land and people. Exactly. And going beyond that, you know, taking it home with you, and really thinking about, you know, how you can initiate and how you can tie the things that you learned when visiting Hawaii into your daily lives. You know, for example, This is just an example.

    Anela 20:01
    On the night he, we say hi to everybody. It doesn't matter if we know them or not, right? Like, if we pass somebody in the store, we say hi. Right, you know, and it's so sad to me that people don't even like acknowledge each other, you know, they just walk right past each other. And I mean, kindness is huge, right? Like, right? You can make or break somebody's day or you can make somebody's day by just, you know, being kind. If you see an elderly person that maybe perhaps needs help, you know, hold the door open for them or asked if they need help with something or, you know, they just exude kindness and a sense of Aloha. And that also comes along with gratitude, right? Being being thankful and having that attitude of cup is always half full, not half empty, right? Even if you're stuck in traffic, right, like, it could be worse, right? So, you know, and I think that that might be something that, you know, people can learn from Hawaii and just having a sense of aloha that that word just encompasses so much. You know, it's so much more than its its literal interpretation of love, right? It encompasses so much more than that. And I think that helping and facilitating people's learning of that is hopefully going to make an impact on the world.

    Bryan 21:30
    Switching gears a little bit, when I read your article and on a hoe on a flight to Maui on Hawaiian, I was probably I was sitting next to my wife and her grandpa is, he's a stud. He's like, almost 90, grew up in New Mexico. He's a hunter, he's an outdoors guy, you know, he's amazing, and he hands steer and I was so Surprised and taken aback that on the night. I didn't realize this, that there's a deer infestation. Mm hmm. And that's you actually hunt deer? Yeah. Have you grown up doing that your entire life?

    Anela 22:15
    Well, you know, there is a pretty prominent community of hunters. Okay, um, and deer were actually introduced to Hawaii in the 1800s and then later brought to them that he in the 1920s and from an original herd of 12 that were brought over to land that he the population now is well over 10,000 Oh my goodness, you know, they have caused severe impact to the ecosystem. But they are a very popular source of entertainment I guess. and sustainability, right. The cost of living in Hawaii is high And and then that yields higher. So it's, it's a very helpful way in which we, you know, supplement our diets and, and people feed their family. So when I was growing up, I didn't really have the opportunity to hunt My dad was a lot older. And he and my brother hunted when I was little, and all my uncles and you know, everybody went and, and my mom even went with them. But I was left at, at my house, my babysitter's house, and I just remember sitting by the window all day, you know, watching for them to come home, right? Because I wanted to see what my dad harvested or what my brother harvested or so I didn't really have the opportunity to start hunting until essentially and so I moved back home to learn it. But it is something that I love to do. But like like I stated in the article, you know, it's an opportunity for me to Right, yeah, leave this at home. Yeah. And just, you know, have the opportunity to get out onto the island and, and see what the environment and what the unknown wants to reveal to me, right?

    Bryan 24:15
    Are there still new explorations and new discoveries from your

    Anela 24:20
    parents work, these are the four seasons, I was working for koulamallah e, which is the land owner. So London is privately owned, right 90 20% of it. And I was working in culture and historic preservation. And our task in that particular department was to care for the cultural and historical sites on the island. And there were many, many times where, you know, insights that are frequently visited or not so frequently visited but you know, we find artifacts and evidence of native point life would find them quite frequently. Pretty much You know, it gives us clues into what our ancestors did there. And what those particular areas were used for what the significance of them were back in the times when, you know, prior to the time zone, we didn't have the modern technologies and things that we have now. So it's amazing to sort of see those things and then see how, you know, a lot of it was, I mean, nothing was pleased or done in certain places without proper or without what they deemed to be proper ceremony, protocol, things like that. A priest or governor had to choose that area. And he chose it based on signs that were given to him from the natural environment, you know, so when finding things just trying to figure out, you know, what their thoughts were, what the observations were at that time and, and looking at places that the orientation of things he really learned a lot. And that's the best textbook.

    Bryan 25:58
    Absolutely. This is probably A big question, but a question I like to ask everybody that comes on the show. If someone's coming to the islands for the first time, or coming back year after year, what are some of the things that you'd want them to know? And I know we've talked a lot about those things. But maybe if we had to boil it down to like one or two things just prior to someone boarding the plane and coming to the islands, what would you want them to know?

    Anela 26:26
    I'd want them to, but ask them to come to Hawaii, with an open mind and with and with the mindset that is willing to learn, that is willing to learn new ideas, new concepts, new values, and really allowing oneself to be I guess, receptive to you know, what life here is all about? Yeah. And I definitely asked that, you know, people try to leave as little As a footprint as possible. And if you did indeed learn from Hawaii then to take it home with you and share with others what you've learned.

    Bryan 27:10
    I love that. I also happen to notice you, you make earrings or jewelry, talk a little bit about that. And how can people find those products?

    Anela 27:21
    So, I've really started very small and very like my dad and my mom, or my dad was a very creative person. He was always working with wood and he very much so put me to work. Well, you know, I was the extra set of hands are holding a flashlight or the feet measure. Yeah. You know, so I watched a lot of what he did when I was growing up and he really enjoyed creating things with his hands. And my mom is well, um, she loved making lay, which are you know, thought Garland's she, you know, she always had these great ideas, she was an educator, right? And so when she had these bright ideas for her classroom, we were very limited on, you know, things we can buy on the end, we didn't have Amazon, you know, whatever back then. So, you know, we had to make it with what we had. My parents were always creating things. My sister went to school for fashion design. And I remember one year she visited us for Christmas, because she lives now in Pennsylvania. And we made tons of ornaments, you know, out of like scratch, you know, and they're the most beautiful ornaments ever, you know, and, and my other sisters is a very talented seamstress. So, you know, it's just part of my family, right? Because the culture is this what

    Bryan 28:48
    we do. Yeah,

    Anela 28:49
    yeah, yes. So, um, a couple months ago, well, you know, I was always sort of into computers and technology and we had like, The original like Apple Computer in my house and I love to type and play on it right yeah. And I wish my mom didn't throw it away because it must be worth a lot of money now I was into those types of things and I took a liking towards design on the computer and I was researching you know how I could make ideas come to life and I came across sort of a newer type of technology that employees and laser to cut wood and acrylic and and i mean i knew it existed but you know, they made it like sort of like for us to have the ability to have those types of machines and you utilize those types of technology in our own houses so I knew I needed to get one. Yeah, so the earrings and those are done on a laser cutter. I'm so I design everything in an illustrator or other types of this Science software, then send it to the laser cutter to pro and then put it together afterward. Yeah, but it's just a hobby that I love to do. You know, I like to be creative. I think that I was blessed with the opportunity to learn how to make things. I think it's just, you know, an extension of what my parents taught me, right. And I, in my in my creations, I tried to sort of pervade at Hawaii or Hawaiian knowledge to, I guess, bring a different medium of understanding to people. So you know, every piece tells a story, right? And that's something that's not new. I mean, fabric designers and native coin fashion designers have been doing that for years. So it's just an extension of that concept. Right? But But I really want you know, the were to be able to tell this story of what they're what they're wearing. So yeah, it's just a little hobby, to and fortunate to have the means to do so I guess

    Bryan 31:09
    that's cool. Is there anything else that we didn't cover about an IE that you wanted to make sure listeners know,

    Anela 31:16
    just that he has a very unique and rich cultural history. And you know, without the work of the culture and heritage Center, which actually, my mom was a founding member, a lot of it would not be prevalent now. So we're very blessed to be, I guess, moving forward and standing upon the shoulders of those that came before I did all of that hard work and getting all those oral traditions written down and, and making sure that these these traditions were preserved, right and who understood the importance of it when others were telling us that it was not significant. You know, so, to me, there's no greater treasure than the knowledge of our ancestors. And we're very, very fortunate to still have some of that knowledge that we can utilize today to hopefully guide us forward. Right, you know, as a people and as, as a human race. Right, right.

    Bryan 32:22
    Well, that is I love that that's so special and very important. And now I just want to say thank you so much for your time today and for coming on Hawaii's best.

    Anela 32:33
    Thank you so much, Brian, for reaching out to me. I wish you all the best. And I can't wait to hear more from

    Bryan 32:40
    absolutely Aloha.

    I just want to thank Nell again for her time and coming on today. My biggest takeaway from my conversation with anila is that no matter where I'm traveling, or no matter where I'm going, it's always important to have an understanding of the culture but maybe you don't have a full understanding of the culture you're traveling into. If that's true, it's super important to always be to always be asking questions to be in a posture of humility and just understanding that the world is such a beautiful and eclectic place. That when we travel is not about what we can do to that place, but it's what can we allow that place to do to us? And really, that's the heart of Hawaii. And hope you picked up on that in my conversation with Noah. So the stay up to date on these conversations with amazing people. Hit that subscribe button, and I look forward to hanging out again on the next episode of Hawaii's best But until then, be well. Aloha.

    Hawaii's Best 33:45
    Thanks for listening to Hawaii's best podcast. Stay up to date on future episodes, be sure to hit the subscribe button and find us at live Hawaii's best.com

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.