Latest Threat to Little Beach

Maui County Council Resolution is Latest Threat to Little Beach

by Bob Morton, Chairman and Executive Director, Naturist Action Committee

WAILUKU, Hawaii-In a renewal of the attack on the traditional clothing-optional use of Little Beach, the County Council of Maui has adopted a resolution supporting the creation of a historic district at Pu’u alai, land owned by the State of Hawaii as part of Makena State Park. The proposed district would encompass all of the land fronting Little Beach, as well as the beach itself.

The measure was passed without discussion or public comment at the December 17, 2002, regular meeting of the Council. Its sponsor, Councilmember Alan M. Arakawa, has since been sworn in as the new mayor of Maui.

The name of Kahu (Reverend) Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell, Sr. appears nowhere in the document, but his fingerprints are all over it. Maxwell, a former Maui police officer and now a self-ordained clergyman, is vigorously opposed to the nude use of Little Beach.

Maxwell, who bills himself as a “cultural and spiritual consultant” and a teller of Hawaiian “talk stories,” is also active in the Hawaiian separatist movement, which seeks to purge the Islands of mainland U.S. influences. He sees skinny-dipping as a haole (outsider) influence, and he steadfastly denies that indigenous Hawaiians were ever nude. Maxwell prefers instead to allow his version of history on the islands to commence after the arrival of European Christian missionaries, who took upon themselves the task of properly clothing the natives.

However imprecise Maxwell’s view of early 19th Century history may be, he is an apt student of more recent events. In 1999, the National Park Service declared nudity to be forbidden at Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park on the Big Island. The justification was that the longtime tradition of skinny-dipping in the park was “offensive” to the culture of native Hawaiians.

Maxwell, who enjoys being called “Uncle Charlie,” makes no distinction between culture and religion and has attempted periodically for the past few years to have nudity removed from Little Beach by using an echo of the ploy used so successfully on the Big Island. The Maui resolution makes extensive reference to Hawaiian myth and folklore, and includes as a part of its text the “talk story” of how “the great Goddess Pele” was “angered by the marriage between the mo’o Pu’u-o-Elaina and Lohi’au,” and “transformed them into Pu’u Olai as the tail of a mo’o, and the island of Molokini as the head.”

It’s on this basis that Maxwell claims cultural and historic significance for Little Beach. Maxwell has also played the “cultural and historic” card in attempts to stop the construction of a cluster of retail shops and a little league baseball field.

But Maxwell has not been consistent in his claims of what is pono (proper and seemly) at Little Beach. In his 2001 attempt to banish nude bathers from the beach, Uncle Charlie suggested that it would be acceptable to him-and presumably to the various constituents and deities he represents-to establish certain days of the week on which the beach could be clothing-optional.

Nudity, it seems, was most offensive on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays-at least in that version of the “talk stories.”

Having been burnt severely at Koloko Honokohau by the argument that nudity is not pono, the Naturist Action Committee is taking Charles Maxwell very seriously. NAC director Charles Harris is working closely with Friends of Little Beach, and NAC has retained legal representation in the matter.

Copies of the Maui resolution were sent by the County Council to the governor of the state, to the county’s lawmakers in the state legislature and to the Hawaii delegation in the U.S. Congress. Last year, opponents of the naturist use of Little Beach introduced multiple bills in the state legislature to transfer control of state parks to the counties. None of those bills was allowed to pass into law, but NAC expects them to reappear this session.

The resolution supporting a cultural designation for Makena State Park passed Maui County without a single opposing vote. There is little doubt what the Council would do if it owned and managed the park.