Drought– Malo‘o ka lani, wela ka honua (When the sky is dry, the earth is parched): Investigating the Cultural Dimensions of Indigenous Local Knowledge Responses to Changing Climate Conditions

Due to Hawai‘i’s isolation and limited water resources, the Islands are sensitive to drought. The different Island geographies can cause drought to vary in frequency, intensity, duration and extent in different locations. Drought events have been more severe and occurring more often over the past century, which has led to larger hydrological, agricultural, ecological and socio-economic impacts. The effects of drought in relation to other environmental stressors has not yet been fully explored. The experiences of indigenous and local knowledge holders with drought is another area not yet well studied.

Better understanding how original inhabitants of these islands dealt with drought and other stressors can educate society about how to prepare for, adapt to, and mitigate the effects of drought across different areas.

This research aims to complete a preliminary survey of Hawaiian knowledge from text information sources. More specifically, it will include: 1) a detailed historical analysis of traditional texts and newspapers; 2) a synthesis of drought information garnered from Hawaiian language chants; and 3) a survey of drought conditions. The work proposed here will provide foundational “biocultural lessons learned” insights for building strategies to address drought impacts and is targeted towards stakeholders that include climate and conservation networks and place based organizations. 

Affliation(s): Pacific Islands CASC
Principal Investigator(s):

  • Christian Giardina (USDA Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry)
  • Katie Kamelamela (Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests)


  • Tamara Ticktin (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)
  • Rosie Alegado (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)
  • Noa Lincoln (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)
  • Kalei Nu’uhiwa M.A. (Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests)
  • Abby Frazier (East-West Center)
  • Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Community Based Subsistence Forestry Area
  • Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana
  • Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo