Episode 191: Reciprocity with Lands & Waters – Brianne Lauro

Episode 191: Reciprocity with Lands & Waters

Interview with Brianne Lauro

Brianne Lauro was born and raised on Hawai’i Island and learned how to hunt, fish, and dive from her father at a young age. She’s carried this passion into adulthood, along with a commitment to honoring all the lands and waters of the island through giving back as they have given to her and her family. In conversation with Gabaccia Moreno, Brianne shares what drives her, how she would like to see the conservation conversation shift, why she’s documenting the knowledge of her family, and her hopes for the future. 

Interested in hearing more from women who hunt? Listen to “Why We Hunt” – another episode hosted by Gabaccia Moreno.

About Brianne, in her own words: Brianne Lauro is a descendant of Filipino plantation workers and the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of Hawai’i fishers and hunters. Born and raised on Hawai’i Island, she learned how to hunt, fish, and dive from her father at a young age, which she continues to do to this day. For generations, Hawai’i’s lands and waters have taken care of her and her family, and she’s committed to a lifetime of reciprocating that gift through conservation. 

Throughout the past year, Brianne has become a storyteller for her family — documenting and preserving the knowledge and life stories of her loved ones, past and present. 

In 2020, Brianne was awarded the two most prestigious scholarships established by Congress, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship. 

At her core, Brianne is a lover of family, heritage, local knowledge, and conservation.

This is the fourth of six episodes hosted by Gabaccia Moreno this year as part of our She Explores host residency program.

Find the episode below, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you stream podcasts.

Featured in this episode: Brianne Lauro (she/her)

Hosted & Produced by Gabaccia Moreno

Additional Support by Gale Straub

A production of Ravel Media

Sponsored by Organifi & Pachamama 

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Featured in this Episode

Brianne Lauro

Brianne over the years

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TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

I’m Gabaccia Moreno and you’re listening to She Explores.

Brianne Lauro:

The reason why I hunt. I dive, I go along on the boat with my uncle and fish. The reason why I do those things is because it connects me to my family. That’s the way that we build and strengthen our relationships with one another.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

For many folks, the outdoors isn’t just a place to play. It’s more. It’s where family history, traditions, survival, success, and memories have been made for time beyond our own. It can also be a place where we find our lives’ work, where we choose to spend our time to resolve issues that affect us both directly and indirectly. Today’s guest is a beautiful example of how the outdoors can have strong ties to family and give us reasons to learn and work.

Brianne Lauro:

My name is Brianne Lauro. My pronouns are she her and hers. And I’m tuning in from the big island of Hawai’i

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

For Brianne, family is a big driving force. I must admit that being the family-detached person that I am, I found it very compelling to hear her talk about her love and respect for them. They have a very special bond, and they nurture it in many ways.

Brianne Lauro:

Family is just such a big part of my life. We always stay connected to one another. We have like a big family group text. So I’m always in the loop as to what my younger cousins are doing, what my Papa’s doing, how fishing is going, how hunting is going. So I’m always in the loop with family here,

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Hunting and fishing play an important role in Brianne’s family. It is not only a way to spend time together in the present, but has been part of the family since her great grandparents arrived from the Philippines to work at plantations on the Big Island.

Brianne Lauro:

To be honest, I only recently started really looking into my family’s history. It wasn’t until I left to go to my university, which is in Colorado, that I realized the childhood that I had was so special. And I realized that not everyone grows up outdoors and also not everyone is close to their family. So like when I saw how you need that was it really embraced it and held onto it tightly. And that’s when I started looking more into my family’s history and finding out like, oh, okay. So it’s not just like my uncle who has fished for over 40 years. So this is my dad’s brother. He just doesn’t fish. Like fishing was passed down to him from my grandfather who I never had opportunity to met. And my grandfather, he learned from my great-grandfather, who was this amazing net maker. So I really started to connect like everything that I saw like, oh, this is why my dad hunts.

Brianne Lauro:

This is why my uncle fishes, this is why my Papa fishes as well. I started to connect all that I had saw during my childhood to be like, oh, this is like a generational thing. It’s not where we’re just fishing or hunting. Just for recreation. It’s really something that our family has been brought together by. And it continues to keep us strong in our relationships to one another, like growing up, I went hunting with my dad from a really, really young age. And then there was a few times out of the year that my dad, my uncles and my Papa, we would all come together and then I would watch them go and catch fish

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Hunting and fishing have been an integral tradition in Brianne’s family. Every generation has taught the next, and Brianne has learned from her father just like he did from her grandfather.

Brianne Lauro:

You wake up at like way before the sun rises you hours to this place you’re putting up. I don’t know how would I was a really young girl on an animal and I didn’t know what I was doing when I started, but he trusted me. He really trusted me. And that’s all I learned is just every single time that, you know, I didn’t pay attention to the wind and it smelled me and just completely ran. Even every single time I missed a shot, it was just a learning experience. And he allowed me to have that.

Gabaccia Moreno:

How did you become another hunter and Fisher person in your family?

Brianne Lauro:

Everything was kind of like a progression. So I started at six or seven. We’ll start off with hunting. I started at six or seven. And you know, at that time, it’s like I could walk, you know, I could walk up in the mountains. I could, I could hike. You know, I could walk up these mountain trails and I could follow behind my father. That’s what I was able to do when I was six or seven. And then as I got older, so maybe like a few years went by, I was able to shoot and handle a gun safely and properly. So I was able to go ahead and do that. And then a few years passed and after hunting with a rifle. So you’re usually quite a distance away when you do go ahead and take a shot. So after a few years of doing that, and again, we’re doing this almost every single weekend.

Brianne Lauro:

So a lot of experiences. And again, my dad was always, he was always with me during that period. So I started following behind him. I watched how he did everything and then he put a rifle in my hand and he was right there next to me, showing me how to operate it safely. What is an ethical shot when not to take a shot it, and it went from that to, it progressed to using a bow and arrow. And that’s something that I, I picked up pretty quick. And I just stuck with that just because instead of being like quite a distance away and you know, really focusing on your shot, you really had to understand the way that, you know, the way that the wind blows. You have to know where the wind is blowing. From what time it will switch directions. How, when moves around certain Hills and mountains, you have to understand even like when the sun’s rising, the glare, you want to be on the right side of it because you want the animal. You want their eyes to be looking into the sun and have a hard time seeing you. So it’s, it was a really like using a born arrow. I had to be really, really aware of everything around me. And I had to be really present.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

For Brianne, learning how to fish wasn’t much different from learning how to hunt. She first followed her dad, and little by little she was introduced to different styles of fishing. These days she really enjoys diving and spearfishing. It’s not surprising that having had an upbringing full of contact with nature and wildlife, Brianne is pursuing a career in conservation. She shared that she is currently enrolled in Colorado State University majoring in The Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. I was very curious about it.

Brianne Lauro:

It’s the social aspect of natural resources, whatever anyone thinks of any type of natural resources. They think very much of like land, water, all that separate from people. And my major really hits on like people are connected to the environment and it really considers that whole relationship on how can we take care of our environment better?

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Brianne didn’t start off studying this major though. It took her a few years to pin down for herself that the people aspect of conservation was the most important.

Brianne Lauro:

A lot of conservation is very much like a really particular type of science. And it excludes a lot of different ways of knowing that knowledge. Isn’t just something that’s kept in a book knowledge and something just published in a journal article knowledge is elders, you know, in knowledge is decades of firsthand experiences. That’s what got me to switch in my third year. Yes. I was interested in learning about plants, about wildlife, all of that, but I didn’t want to learn about it separate from people. I think that was the smart switch.

Gabaccia Moreno:

It makes a lot of sense. Do you think, I mean, it sounds to me like even the folks that are just studying fish and wildlife or natural resource management, that there should still be an aspect of people in those career paths.

Brianne Lauro:

Mmmhmm and now I feel like a lot of people in this field are starting to recognize the importance of the social sciences. They’re realizing that more research, just more research, more research, won’t solve the complex problems that we have about our environment today. You need people who understand yes, the environment, but you need people who understand people as well because people affect the environment. You know, so you need that social sciences piece. And that respect for that relationship as well.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Brianne has such an in-depth understanding of traditional knowledge and how it may seem to clash with more modern and institutionalized ways of knowing that I wanted to dig deeper into what she would like to see prioritized in conservation right now.

Brianne Lauro:

I really think it’s working with people specifically, people like at a more local scale, I think conservationists really need to lean on the people who have lived in a place for generations. For example, me and my family, people want the best for what’s there. And I feel like a lot of conservationists. It’s like, yes, we respect that, but here’s what we’re going to do.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Right. I, I can definitely relate to that. Um, seeing the outsiders coming into a community to say, this is how things should be done even before they’ve reached out to the community to see their opinion, and also to get their consent in the conservation space. We started talking about consulting, indigenous peoples consulting, tribal governments, but consulting is not the same as seeking consent. And I think there’s something there’s, there’s a fundamental there that I hope to see more in the conservation movement, for sure. Um, and that’s not particular to indigenous peoples, but to local communities, whomever, they are at this point in time, right? Because like you said, you are there, you’ve been there for generations, you and your family understand the land and they’ve seen it change and who’s gonna know best because that experience you cannot take from a book or from, I agree.

Brianne Lauro:

That’s what I want to see more of that humility from the conservation community. Uh, humility. Yes. You, I know you’ve done research for years and years and years, and I know you’ve earned all these degrees and I really respect that. I really do, but I feel like without the humility of saying, I have this knowledge and Hey, you have knowledge that’s equal. Like we can’t move forward.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Brianne has experienced many faces of conservation, separate from her studies, in her personal life, in her upbringing as part of an outdoors family. We’ll hear more about it after the break.

MIDROLL BREAK

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Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

We’re back. And I want to ask you a question before we continue hearing from Brianne: When you think of a conservationist, who do you see? Are they local? Are they gendered? Brianne may have chosen to become a conservationist because she already was one, but arriving at that decision had its own nuances and required her to unpack conflicting ideas around identity, including her own lived experiences.

Brianne Lauro:

I had such an internal conflict within myself growing up because I’m like, I’m a hunter, but I’m interested in conservation. And I felt like those are really, they conflicted one another, right? But they don’t hunting is conservation. And even more though in Hawaii, a lot of youth like myself, we grew up seeing conservationists as being people who come from the outside, who come and change the way that our families have been doing things for generations.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

It’s easy to see conservationists as these outsiders coming into a place and setting up rules because quote unquote, they know better. Historically that has been how witnessed conservation efforts unfold. If you think about a certain conservationist back in the day, trying to save a natural landscape, they probably didn’t consult with the people who are living in that land since time immemorial. They probably didn’t consider how this land was of use to current inhabitants. And other times they also displaced those inhabitants today. Conservation is supposed to be a process. Anyone can participate in and it’s true. We all can participate in conservation in different ways. And maybe we’ll talk about that in another episode, but I will tell you that coming from someone who works in the thick of it, trying to find ways to ensure equity and land protections, it can be a long tiring process to effect change for the preservation of our resources we’re talking decades. And the bottom line is that it’s the process which can be inaccessible for the local communities that are most impacted by the preservation or the exploitation of any given land. It too often cast them out of the decision-making process brand shares with us, how she experienced the effects of conservationists and foreign opinions while growing up.

Brianne Lauro:

It’s like an indirect thing of where you realize, oh, I can no longer hunt here. Oh, where did all the animals go? Oh, they eradicated them. Why is this part of the shoreline restricted? And why can only visitors who pay for the, to stay at this certain hotel? How come they have access to the shoreline so easily? Why do I have to walk miles and miles and miles to get access to that same shoreline? It’s like those indirect things that you see. And they just happened for so long that people get used to, like, I just gotta change where I hunt. I just gotta go fish at another area. It’s that, that I’ve seen over the years

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Because conservation is nuanced and based on harmful and erasive narratives, we need more people like Brianne, who have a tight relationship to the land and who have a genuine passion for our environment and our people, to rewrite the narrative of how conservation itself can be better conducted in the future. Part of how Brianne is rewriting the narrative for herself includes a very indepth and intimate documentation of her family outdoors.

Brianne Lauro:

When you think of like stewarding land and ocean, you think of being out on the land and being out on the ocean. And that’s what I very much advocate for. But the thing that I want to talk about is that kind of, long-term what I’m doing. That’s going to help with that. And that’s a story project that I started earlier this year. So what I started doing is I took my camera and I just started talking with that uncle. I keep referencing, I started talking with him and documenting everything you shared with me documenting his, his story of how, I mean you fish for over 40 years. Right. I don’t know if anyone has asked them, how did that all begin? So documenting that, documenting how they used to fish traditionally doing that. So documenting all that. So documenting his story, the old ways of living, which I’ve referenced a lot today, documenting stories of out on the water that only our family knows.

Brianne Lauro:

I’m documenting stories of local elders. Those who have a relationship to our lands and waters here in Hawaii. Um, and the point of me documenting their stories and their knowledge and their wisdom and advice is they’ve seen changes for, you know, they’ve seen how our coastlines have changed over decades. And it’s a way of informing me as a, as someone who, who wants to work in some type of stewardship position, but it’s also a way of being a compass to our youth. And what I mean by that is, you know, I might come in and say, oh, this is what, this is how I think our lands and waters should be stewarded better. But it’s really important for me to ask the people who have seen our lands and waters for decades and decades, more than me. What do you think is most important when it comes to stewarding our lands and waters and how can I do that better than what you’ve seen? Like, that’s my kind of longterm is documenting and creating relationships with all these elders that we have in our community.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Honestly, I’m not surprised you chose this path after all you’ve been through in your upbringing and nature. And I’m really curious to hear what gives you the most hope.

Brianne Lauro:

Our youth, our youth, I love kids. I absolutely love kids. I’m the oldest of two siblings. I’m the oldest of all the grandchildren on my mother’s side. And youth is what gives me hope. That’s why I do what I do when, whenever I go, when I come back in my younger brother, he he’s six. He comes and he’s like, did you catch anything? I see it. And then I show him it. And I, I say, okay, let’s clean it. We clean it by the ocean. And I say, and it sounds silly, but I’m like, did you tell the talk or the octopus or the fish? Did he tell them, thank you. And he’s like, no. Why? I’m like, because they gave their life for you so that you could eat. And it’s just kids there. So you can teach them so much. You can teach them differently.

Brianne Lauro:

From what we’ve seen, like I’ve seen, you know, I’ve seen fish be taken. I’ve seen animals be harvested with little respect for their lives. I want to teach my younger siblings. I want to teach youth the local youth here differently. And just children. They’re so willing and eager to learn, but they’ll pick that up. I caught her taco and I came back in and I cleaned it. And my brother, I was walking back and he goes, did you tell him, thank you. And so that’s, that’s what gives me hope is our youth. We could teach them differently. And when we teach them differently, they could like, imagine that principle of like, respect that value the way that they like teaching my brother, how to value the wildlife. We interact with the fish we interact with. Like, that’s going to create a better future for our youth.

Brianne Lauro:

Not only that, but I’m teaching him how to have a relationship with the places around him. I even talking about that bay. I told him we’re going to go. I’m going to take you diving in that because there’s so much fish. I want you to see an area where there’s so much fish and the fish population is in depleted. And I said, but you can’t bring your spear because it’s a protected area. And he goes, how come you don’t always have to shoot something. You don’t always have to harvest something. You can just go and visit and look and be able to appreciate it. So the long answer is just youth.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Oh, that’s beautiful. And I love that you have that relationship with your younger brother where you can really Kind of Apply these ideas that you have of teaching differently. Because I, I agree that kids, these days can grow up in this mentality of everything is a commodity, right? So in that regard, if they pick up something like fishing, well, the fish become a commodity, right? Like, oh, it’s something that’s just there for us to take versus having the time to actually develop a relationship with the fish, to understand the life of the fish, to observe the fish. And then to be able to think the fish for, like you said, giving its life so that you can have more life.

Brianne Lauro:

Um, and then also for our youth, it’s that relationship. And also remember what I referenced is that internal conflict I had, what I was doing was against conservation. Like, it can’t be, I want to teach you. Yeah, I hunt. Yeah. I fish. Yeah, I dive. And so there’s all these people in my family and yes, I take care of our lands and waters. Like you, it doesn’t have to be this polarizing thing. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other. It doesn’t have to be, I’m a hunter. I just do that. I don’t interact with anything related to conservation fearing conservation, because what it would mean for your future as a hunter for your family, like, no, I want to teach them that to be a hunter, a Fisher, or a diverse, to be a conservationist. When you, you take, you give back, you never take without giving back. You never go somewhere without leaving it better than you found it. And so that’s what I want to teach our youth as well.

Gabaccia Moreno – Narration:

Of course hunting is conservation. Take me as an example. I enjoy being able to hunt for turkey so I can harvest meat to eat, and feathers to make fishing flies…there is no way I wouldn’t do something in my power to ensure turkey populations are healthy and thriving – and not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also so that I can continue to have the experience of hunting them. It’s a cycle. Brianne is a perfect example of how these worlds coexist and relate. Through her actions and projects, she will continue to share her know-how and thoughts with the younger generations and anyone who is ready to receive them. Here is what she leaves us with today.

Brianne Lauro:

I would want to encourage other people. You don’t have to hunt. You don’t have to fish or dive, but I would encourage other people to have that relationship with the place around them, with the people around them. You don’t have to come from a, who has enjoyed the outside a certain type of way. You don’t have to have all these experiences. I remember I used to be. So I used to be so intimidated and almost embarrassed to go out in front of all these people and who are on a beach and go diving, because I just felt like I had to be this, you know, I have to look a certain type of way. I have to, you know, be at a certain type of skill level to go out there. But you, don’t one thing I love about the land and the water and just our environment around us is that you could go into it as is. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to get better. You don’t have to have this, like, whatever standard we’ve set for ourselves as a society. And if we don’t have that relationship, we could build it just as we are right now. So I think that’s an encouragement I would want to put out there.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Oh, thank you. That’s a beautiful invitation. I, I hope people take it to heart.

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