In a Hawaiian protocol ceremony led by Kumu Kealii Taua a few days after Earth Day, executives from the Four Seasons Maui planted an Iliahi (sandalwood) tree on their property to signify their commitment to the environment. It was part of their successful year-old worldwide campaign called 10 Million Trees. The Fours Seasons Maui has also – in cooperation with the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC)–used the campaign to support tree planting on Kahoolawe.
In November and December of 2011, teams of Four Seasons employees traveled to Kahoolawe where they nurtured more than 2,000 iliahi, koa’ia, ‘a’ali’i, kamanomano, ulei and aweo weo plants.
“The people of Hawaii are to be stewards of this effort and many of you planted the trees,” said Ka’onohi Lee of the KIRC to the Four Seasons employees. “Kahoolawe is part of the ahupua’a of [the] Four Seasons. Mahalo for supporting the island of Kahoolawe. The island will flourish once again.”
Assistant Director of Engineering and Grounds & Landscaping Manager Kevin Gavagan spearheaded the effort and also planted over 200 trees on the resort’s Maui property. The iliahi, which was once over-harvested almost to its demise, will serve as a poignant reminder.
“The tree represents to me environmental and cultural change,” said Gavagan. “But it also symbolizes renaissance and rebirth—the current widespread efforts for revitalization of the land, language and culture.”
The iliahi is planted conspicuously in front of Ferraro’s at the base of the grand staircase. There’s a plaque explaining its significance next to it. At the dedication, regional vice president Thomas Steinhauer spoke about the 10 Million Trees campaign.
“It is so nice to see all of us come together in this intimate setting and celebrate this corporate effort that equals us embracing our culture,” he said. “Taking the efforts of almost 100 hotels and thinking about all of the different trees planted, like the jackfruit in Shanghai, we wanted to show our own commitment with reforestation of Kahoolawe. The trees are a symbolic gesture and a reminder so we can spread the word. I encourage our staff to speak about this iliahi tree and discuss it with our guests.”
With the blow of a conch and a beautiful chant, Kumu Kealii Taua began with a few words about planting. “Our people were very simple and they had just one phrase for planting, hana hou, hana hou, hana hou,” he said. The ceremony ended with a kanikapila and in Maui fashion, Gavagan grabbed his guitar and jumped in with the entertainers.
“Having grown up here, I always thought of Kahoolawe as just an island that got bombed,” Senior Sales Manager Linda Eger said. “On this trip, I learned so much about its spiritual, cultural, and historical significance. I now have such an appreciation for that island.”