NASF’s newest short film highlights the cultural significance of the tropical world’s ‘tree of life’

A movement is afoot in Hawai’i to restore the cultural significance of coconut trees, or “niu,” with the planting of food-producing coconut tree groves across O’ahu.

WASHINGTON—The National Association of State Foresters is pleased to present the second installment in its “Tree Stories” series, a collection of short films that illustrates the importance of the different—but equally valuable—bonds that people enjoy with trees.

Kumu Niu” follows the community group Niu Now as they prepare to plant a new grove of coconut trees, or “niu,” on the University of Hawai’i’s West O’ahu campus. The grove’s planting has been years in the making, and is both a practical and symbolic step toward restoring the knowledge of the tropical world’s “tree of life” and sharing the Indigenous wisdom of “aloha ‘āina:” loving land and serving people.

“Kumu Niu” may be set in Hawai’i, but the film’s themes will ring true for millions of Indigenous forest knowledge keepers worldwide. Throughout the tropical world, there are movements like Niu Now working to connect people to their histories, their communities, and the land through trees.

State foresters’ first Tree Story, “Forgotten Storm,” profiled timber farmers and their courage to recover after catastrophe. In October 2019, Hurricane Michael destroyed 72 million tons of timber—the equivalent of 2.5 million log trucks worth of wood—across 11 Florida Panhandle counties. Communities throughout the storm’s path were left to clean up, grade, and replant thousands of acres before wildfires struck; but with the resilience modeled by their forests, they are rebuilding what they lost.

“Kumu Niu,” “Forgotten Storm,” and forthcoming videos in the Tree Stories series will be available here on NASF’s YouTube channel. Embedded above is “Kumu Niu” with subtitles. Below are two trailers for the film: “The Meaning of Kumu Niu” and “The History of the Niu.” To learn more about the many benefits trees and forests provide, visit www.stateforesters.org.

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at wforman-cook@stateforesters.org