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.

It all began in 1969…

…when the hippies began showing up on Maui to create a handful of settlements with colourful names such as Banana Patch, Soul Acres and Trouble Gulch.

At Makena, a shantytown was carved into the thick kiawe forest on the edge of Oneloa Beach, commonly called Big Beach, and at several neighbouring beaches. In those days, nudity was the norm.

Off the beach, the strange newcomers clashed with the establishment and were accused of freeloading and stealing. Mayor Elmer Cravalho scolded both sides at a Kihei Community Association meeting in March 1970.

To those who didn’t like the newcomers, Cravalho said that his own grandfather might have been called a hippie and shipped back to Portugal if he had been judged on his appearance when he first came to Hawai’i.

To the hippies, he said hiding in the “boondocks at Makena” was cowardly and that they should get involved in the community.

By late 1969, the police were raiding the place on a regular basis, looking for runaways, draft dodgers and nude sunbathers.

U.S. Marshal Howard Tagomori, a former Maui Police Department vice officer, remembers driving on the dirt road to Makena in the early 1970s with a handful of officers to make busts.

“We were friends with most of the guys,” recalled Tagomori, who later became Maui’s police chief. “It was like a game. We would talk story with them.”

The Makena colony grew to 300 to 400 people before it was largely evicted in 1972.

But nude sunbathing persisted at Makena’s more remote beach, Little Beach, which is tucked behind Pu’u Ola’s and separated from Big Beach by a 30-foot bluff.

Ongoing Beach Cleanup

Friends of Little Beach/Maui SunSeekers has purchased some scoops to be given out and used to get small items from the sand.

Anyone wishing to support our clean-up effort is welcome to a scoop at no charge. We encourage you to keep the scoop with your beach stuff and bring and use it at the Beach.

See Dave or Miriam on the beach for your SCOOP !!

When the beach erodes…