Native Village
Youth and Education news
 APRIL 1, 2010 Volume 1

Living in Old Hawaii
Henry Rice's 10,000-acre ranch dates back to the monarchy
Condensed by Native Village 

Hundreds of years ago, Hawaiian kings gave subordinate rulers thin strips stretching from volcano to sea. This  practice, called ahupua'a (a-hoo-pooh-a-ha), was abolished in the 19th century.  Much of the land was split up and sold as the price for land skyrocketed.

Henry Rice is a fifth-generation Hawaii native. Along with his wife, he lives on one of the few nearly intact ahupua'a left in the islands. Rice's 10,000 acres of ranchland stretches from the top of Mount Haleakala towards  Maui's south shore. Their ranch, named Ka'ono'ulu, has been appraised for close to $50,000,000.

The Rices say they will never sell what's left. Ranch life is fast disappearing from Hawaii, and the family has employed the same native Hawaiian cowboys, called paniolos, for decades.

The Rices live in a Cape Cod-style home built by Mr. Rice's grandfather in 1917. It has been immaculately preserved.  Ka'ono'ulu also has a dozen houses for cowboys and guests.

Outside, horses graze in a corral, and a small tack barn is filled with saddles dating back to Mr. Rice's grandfather's days, when Hawaii's cattle industry was booming. Cattle arrived on the islands in 1793.

Local chiefs created ahupua'a so the island's natural resources --forests, arable lands, and shorelines -- were evenly divided.  Mr. Rice's ahupua'a was first handed to a Hawaiian, who sold it to a Chinese potato farmer, who sold it to a sugar magnate, who sold it to his grandfather in 1916.

Mr. Rice learned the ins and outs of cattle ranching from his grandfather. He went to college, then took a five-year job running a ranch on Molokai.

Seeking a good education for his twoc hildren, Rice then moved his family to Oahu. His daughter attended  Punahou School and was in the same class as President Barack Obama.

In the meantime, Mr. Rice went into banking.  Madelyn Dunham, a bank vice president and Mr. Obama's late grandmother, was a beloved mentors. "I think I still have a scar on my back from her training," he joked.

Mr. Rice returned to his family's ahupua'a in 1990. Today he is general partner and resuming his childhood duties of weaning and branding cattle and mending pipes and fences.

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