by Carmen Schwartz
It would most likely seem extravagant and shocking to hear that an individual owned an island; but in this day and age of ‘movie star’ money, owning an island seems as normal as owning a Jetta.
When it comes to private landowners in the United States, there is one in Hawaii that can stand beside the movie stars and claim their own island – Niihau – which is actually the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island that’s privately owned.
It was back in 1864, when a very wealthy Scottish woman by the name of Elizabeth Sinclair purchased Ni’ihau for $10,000 in gold from the Kingdom of Hawaii. Over time, the island was passed down to her descendants, eventually landing in the hands of brothers, Bruce and Keith Robinson. And if there’s one thing that can be said for these men, it’s that they are beyond dedicated to conservation, preservation and finding a way to not lose the true Hawaiian past.
This island is a working island that has remained true to their roots. The primary language used on Ni’ihau is Hawaiian, and although tourists can come to view the location, they can only stay for roughly half a day at a time and enjoy everything from helicopter tours to unforgettable hunting safaris.
The Robinson brothers, however, are not just ‘making a buck’ off this hunter’s paradise; they are working day in and day out to make sure that the island itself is preserved when it comes to the environment. Saving the wild plant life and vegetation from extinction is combined with keeping their ancestor’s desires alive by allowing the island to remain just as it was so long ago.
The history of the island is grand indeed. It was before the unification of the Kingdom of Hawaii that Ni’ihau saw two rulers – two chiefs forced to do battle. Until this battle came to pass, a wall was built to mark the boundaries of the two chiefs using black and white stones. The past was bloody, to say the least, as unification came to all the islands in 1795 with the exception of Ni’ihau and one other. It took until 1810 for the ruler, Kamehameha, to amass a great fleet and get the island ruler to finally surrender.
When the Lady Sinclair came along and purchased the island, Ni’ihau’s population consisted of about 350 native Hawaiians and a great number of sheep. Old traditions died out as far as various artistic endeavors were concerned, but Sinclair did her best to make sure that life went on as normal as possible. When Sinclair’s grandson, Aubrey Robinson, took over in 1915, the island was actually closed to most visitors; even relatives of the inhabitants could only visit by special permission.
Thankfully, the modern-day brothers have found a balance between old ways and new; and although the natives are still the only inhabitants and the language is still the native language, this island can now be visited in order to have that ultimate safari hunting experience that only the grandest African jungle could provide. Here, the tourists can embark on their journey to hunt eland, aoudad and oryx, as well as wild sheep and boars – which is an absolute thrill for any Great Outdoorsman or woman.
The brothers own approximately 70-square-miles, making up the island in the Hawaiian chain, and their work on conservation has been both a triumph and a chore over the years. Keith Robinson, in addition to his work on the island, also manages a private botanical garden on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i where he lives. It is a fact that Robinson’s work has kept a variety of Hawaiian plants from being placed on the extinct list.
Between the enormous legacy and the constant dedication to try and find a way to maintain the past by utilizing the present, these are two men who most certainly deserve praise.
Source: Baret News Wire