Meet Our Staff
WALTER RITTE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Uncle Walter and Aunty Loretta Ritte have been pillars of social activism in Hawai‘i for over 40 years. Uncle Walter was recruited to activism at an early age by cultural icons like Uncle Charlie Maxwell and Aunty Frenchy DeSoto, who saw natural leadership in young Ritte, paired with immense dedication to his people and culture. Alongside his fellow activist wife Aunty Loretta, Uncle Walter joined the kūpuna of Maui and Moloka‘i in forming Hui Alaloa (group of the long trail), a community organization dedicated to the preservation of Hawaiian rights and the protection of natural resources.
Uncle Walter and Aunty Loretta are important visionaries in the Hawaiian community, and have been for decades. They both share their passion for culture and ‘āina with the organization and the broader Hawaiian community. They are the driving force behind ‘Āina Momona and provide daily leadership to the staff and beneficiaries. As kupuna and leaders, they are our greatest source of inspiration. Uncle Walter and Aunty Loretta personally work with the Aloha ‘Āina Fellows, and are committed to sharing their knowledge and experiences with talented young leaders, especially on their home island of Moloka‘i. They inspire youth and young professionals to be dedicated to a better Hawai‘i and worked with these leaders to develop sustainable, indigenous food systems and social justice.
Uncle Walter and Aunty Loretta raised their family on the Ho‘olehua Homestead on the island of Moloka‘i, where they still reside today.
JANE AU, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Jane Lokomaikaʻikeakua Au was raised on the shores of Māeaea, on the island of Oʻahu. She is a daughter, sister, moʻopuna, artist, and enthusiast of nature. She obtained her BA and MA in Religion at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she focused on Hawaiian Religious beliefs and practices. She has spent several years studying religious theory, focusing in particular on indigenous belief systems and their inherent messages of sustainability. She strives to incorporate traditional Hawaiian aesthetics, genres, and epistemologies in her work. In 2018 she successfully defended her Master’s thesis on Kanaloa, the principle oceanic deity in Hawaiʻi, using rarely accessed Hawaiian Language resources and materials. She currently works as the program director for ʻĀina Momona. Her goal is to work towards a more sustainable future, where humans live in harmony with natural and cultural resources.
JULIE AU, PROJECT DIRECTOR
Noho mai ʻo Julie Uʻilani Au ma ka mokupuni o Oʻahu nei i loko nō o ka ʻehu kai o Puaʻena. No Waialua kai leo nui mai ʻo ia a ma laila nō ʻo ia i hānai ʻia ai e kona makuakāne me kona māhoe a me ka pōkiʻi. Ua puka aku ʻo Uʻi mai ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Mānoa mai me kona BA mai ka Hālau ʻo Kawaihuelani mai ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a pēlā nō hoʻi kāna ma ka MA. Hana ‘o ia ma ʻĀina Momona ma ke ʻano he mea kāko‘o a me he hoa noi‘i a unuhi ‘ōlelo. Ma o ka noiʻi ʻana i nā waihona palapala Hawaiʻi kahiko, pēlā nō ʻo ia e hoʻōla aʻe ai i ka ʻike kūpuna i waiho ʻia no nā hanāuna e hiki mai ana.
Julie Uʻilani Au lives on the island of Oʻahu, in the sea-spray of Puaʻena. She is from Waialua and that is where she was raised by her father with her twin and younger sister. Uʻi graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with her BA from the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and the same for her MA. She works with ʻĀina Momona as program support and as a Hawaiian language researcher and translator. Through researching the Hawaiian language archives she practices resurgence of ancestral wisdom left behind for generations to come.
MAHINA POEPOE, MOLOKA‘I PROGRAM COORDIATOR
Mahina Poepoe oversees ‘Āina Momona's program activities on Moloka‘i. She has a successful background in business and uses her skills to help with the administration of the organization's projects. She also often works on the land helping to actively care for and restore the island's natural and cultural resources.
LA‘A POEPOE, ‘ĀINA PROGRAM COORDIATOR
Moloka‘i kua‘āina La‘a Poepoe is a strong aloha ‘āina (Hawaiian patriot) and leads ‘Āina Momona's ‘Āina (land and natural resources) program. He leads the organization's effort to restore land and ocean resources to allow for them to be sustainable and momona (abundant).
LOHIAO PAOA, WAI PROGRAM MANAGER
Lohiao Paoa leads ‘Āina Momona's Wai (water and sustainability) program. He is a captain with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and leader in restoring fresh water streams on Moloka‘i and restoring health to the island's watersheds. He lives on Moloka‘i with his ‘ohana.
JOSH PASTRANA, ‘AI PROGRAM MANAGER
Josh Pastrana is an expert in Hawaiian food systems. He has long worked to reopen and mālama lo‘i across Moloka‘i. He leads ‘Āina Momona's ‘Ai (food and health) program, through which he directs the organization's food sovereignty and health activities. He is also directing the organization's efforts to reopen lo‘i in Hālawa Valley.
Kaho‘okahi Kanuha, Ea Program Manager
Kaho‘okahi Kanuha leads the organization's Ea (social justice and sovereignty) program. He works with grassroots communities throughout Hawai‘i to raise awareness and capacity around rights, justice, and sovereignty, which are essential to the well-being and future of the Hawaiian people and the Hawaiian Islands.
He is based on Hawai‘i Island.