Earth Month In Action: Expressing Malama ‘aina through Seattle’s Adopt A Street Program

Malama ‘aina, in Hawaiian, means to care, to protect, to nurture the land. 

It’s a core value the canoe club Hui Wa’a O Wakinikona (HWOW), or Washington in Hawaiian, has embraced since 1998, when the club first formed. 

About 70 adults and 15 keiki (children) of Polynesian and Non-Polynesian descent launch their canoes from Waterway 18, on the north side of Seattle’s Lake Union. To keep their canoes on the beach, they have an agreement with the WA State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the City to rent storage space at the waterway. 

“Canoes have a life to themselves,” says Stan Dahlin, the current canoe leader for HWOW. “Each canoe is carefully named and blessed. They have a spiritual and cultural significance to us.”  

Through Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) Adopt A Street program, HWOW is caring for the land from which they hand-launch their canoes and strengthen their cultural bond. 

They partner with Seattle Outrigger Canoe Club, another canoe club that shares the waterway, to pick up trash and debris, pull invasive weeds and vines, dig up roots, mow and trim. SPU supplies bags and safety equipment while the canoe clubs supply the muscle and care to keep the area litter-free and looking its best. Once a cleanup is finished, SPU hauls away what was collected. 

While the large cleanups take place twice a year, members like Stan also do spot cleaning in the summer months to maintain the area. 

“This is something special. We take pride and care. It’s our responsibility and kuleana (privilege in Hawaiian) to be on the waterway. We must make sure it is preserved and cared for.” 

Keeping waste where it belongs is an investment in our planet. Consider becoming a volunteer, with a group or as an individual, through SPU’s Adopt a Street

Learn more about how SPU is making everyday investments in our planet.