K. Angel Pilago
Kohanaiki ’Ohana
Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i

Ka’apikapika Angel Pilago is the founder and executive director of the Kohanaiki ’Ohana. Since the organization’s formation in 1990, Mr. Pilago has initiated innovative programs empowering the community to take an active role in land stewardship-connecting Hawaiian cultural to environmental resources. He has led a new generation of Hawaiians to protect traditional practices, natural resources, history, and values.

Mr. Pilago has a long history of community organizing to protect the fragile natural and cultural resources of Hawai’i. He played a key role in a legal victory to maintain traditional fishing and gathering rights in the anchialine ponds and wetlands at Kohanaiki in Kona. This legal victory led to a new state law that not only protects wetlands, but also provides strong tools to ensure environmental justice, human rights, and public use of resources. The new law requires cultural impact statements as part of environmental impact statements. Building on these legal gains, Mr. Pilago is now working to establish the North Western Hawaiian Islands as a national marine sanctuary. In 2000, the Anchialine Pond Restoration Project to protect the aquatic resources at Kohanaiki won national recognition as a Five Star Restoration Site. The project built partnerships between students, landowners, businesses, and government agencies to foster sustainability for this special place. Because of Mr. Pilago’s commitment and dedication, the community is now in a position to negotiate public acquisition of the Kohanaiki lands, ensuring permanent protection of the wetlands.

— J. Curtis Tyler III, Council Member, Hawai’i County Council, Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i