Planting a Legacy for Hawaii

Gunstock Ranch, in the heart of La’ie and Malaekahana.

On Friday June 28, 2019, our Miss Hawaii’s Outstanding Teen 2019, Makaila Natividad, joined her big sister, Miss Hawaii 2019, Nikki Holbrook, for an amazing day at Gunstock Ranch planting monarch milo trees through the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) has been a partner with the Miss Hawaii organization since 2013, providing 100 trees a year to be planted as “Omiyage” for their Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen sisters when they go to their national competitions later in the year. Each contestant will receive a certificate with a RFID tracking number so they can look up the positions of their tree on the HLH website on the day it was planted.  Planting a native Hawaiian tree not only helps the ‘aina by building a legacy forest that will never be cut down, it also helps to neutralize the carbon footprint of traveling from all over the country for Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen participants.

Makaila’s day began with meeting up with Nikki and five other Miss Hawaii candidates who competed with Nikki last month for the honor being chosen as our Miss Hawaii 2019. The ladies had a fun photo shoot at Gunstock Ranch base camp and met Winston, a beautiful and robust horse who seemed more interested in posing for pictures and munching on green grass. After a few more hugs from Winston, Makaila and Nikki climbed aboard two Pizgauer all-terrain vehicles (aka yellow beasts), along with 14 other MH and MHIOT ohana, and headed up the mountain.  They stopped off at a beautiful scenic lookout, a daring swing over a steep hillside and enjoyed a beautiful hula La’ieikawai by Miss Kaka‘ako, Makana Williams.  After a few photos, it was back in the yellow beasts up to the top of the property and to the open pasture where the milo trees were waiting to be planted. 

Makaila and Nikki arrive in style!

When we arrived, the holes were already dug and the irrigation system was ready to provide nourishing water to the young trees.  But before the ladies got their hands dirty, they learned of the ahupua‘a of Malaekahana and La‘ie and the story of La’ieikawai and her sister La’ielohelohe and how they were saved from their father, the chief, and hidden away in the mountains of La’ie. We also learned how the milo tree roots dig deep into the soil and hold the ‘aina together, preventing runoff that works its way down the mountain to the ocean, causing damage to the coral reefs below.   Everyone felt a bit more connected to the ‘aina after listening to the stories and were ready to get planting. 

After a brief instruction of how to place the tree in the dirt (not too high and not too deep), and how to pack the soil around the roots (don’t leave air pockets in the dirt) and how to offer them water (cup your hands around the tree, have a friend pour water from the ipu into your hands so your mana is shared with the tree while you think lovely, leafy thoughts), Makaila was ready!  Fifty trees later, with photos of each tree that will be connected to a MAOT contestant from every state, Makaila and her dad planted their own Legacy Tree for their ‘ohana. “Mana is the spiritual energy of power and strength existing in an object or a person,” shared Makaila.  “When I planted the Milo tree with my dad, I felt this energy in my hand being passed on to the tree.  I have learned and grown so much as a person because of my family and the MHIOT organization.  I hope that, just like me, the Milo tree will grow to build a strong, unbreakable trunk that continues to protect the ‘aina.  This was definitely an experience that will always be kept close to my heart.”

If you would like to learn more about Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods and their amazing mission to plant 1.3 million trees (one for every living person in Hawaii), visit their website at  To sponsor a tree and give back to the Miss Hawaii Organization, visit  For every tree sponsored through this link, $30 will go back to the MHO for scholarships.  Mahalo piha Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods for supporting the Miss Hawaii and Miss Hawaii’s Outstanding Teen programs that not only assists the educational goals of the Miss Hawaii recipients, but importantly contributes to helping make Hawaii and the world a better place for all of us.