On Being Hawaiian (1)

*Author’s Note: I plan on using the blog posts to expound on being Hawaiian in multiple posts thought this blog’s life, hence the 1 in the title.  There is a lot to reflect on and “On being Hawaiian” is a good way to encapsulate all of those ideas, criticisms, musings, wonderings, etc. that goes through this brain often.  I have a list and will knock them off one by one, but welcome any comments or thoughts.

“Ha’ule ka lewa, Ha’ule ka Lani, Ho’ale ka lepo pōpolo”

A time will come when the ali’i will fall and be no more, but a time will come when the maka‘ainana (commoner) will rise up and be restored.

This quote is from a prophecy from a Kahuna from Pūku’i Heiau in the 1800s that John Ka’imikaua learned from his kumu.  And it’s something that resonated inside me today after talking with my boss today about Hawaiians and politics in the break room.  We talked about the current election, OHA, DHHL, etc. And the future of our people. 

Yes, my boss is Hawaiian.  She is also a Kūpuna.  So our conversation spans the generational divide and as much as I enjoy hearing how we all got to where we are with her vast knowledge of politics and the players in the renaissance, I think she appreciates hearing what the younger genneration is doing and what their plans are.  I had a colleague of similar age that retired that I thoroughly enjoyed talking to about similar things but from the sovereignty/activist side.  Alas, he retired a few years ago, so it was just me and the boss today. 

Aside from all the details about who to vote for and what the plans are, bridging that generational gap was the first of two important things I realized from our conversation. 

She is a Kūpuna, I consider myself part of the new Mākua.  Much of my Mākua that I looked to are older now and transitioning to Kūpuna.  With that transition, the transfer of ‘ike and Kuleana to the new Mākua should be taking place.  It’s important that we, as the new Mākua, show that we accept this knowledge, accept this responsibility so they are confident that all they achieved is not only continued, but furthered.  The path that our kūpuna traveled produced some great results that Hawaiians can be proud of.  We now have ‘ōlelo Hawaii taught and spoken more frequently, increased access and rights, degrees in Hawaiian, and a whole contingent of Hawaiian intellectuals, PhDs, lawyers, kumu, scientists, doctors, etc.  Without their struggles, we wouldn’t be where we are today so it’s our responsibility as the new Mākua to make sure we not only continue that momentum, but add to it and take it even further than they imagined. 

I have been of the opinion that our generation can step up and lead if the old Mākua would go be a Kūpuna and advise (see: get out of the way), but through my conversations with them, I see now that they are waiting for us to take it over rather than it be handed over.  Our new Mākua are really smart but still Keiki in that regard.  Whether it’s protocol or just plain inaction, it’s been slow, but issues like Mauna Kea have been helping us to assume the Mākua mantle.  We just have to keep it going…but how? That’s where the second important thing I realized comes in.

This second lesson is also why the quote in the beginning was stuck in my head, and what I learned was about leadership.  My boss always talks about all these influential Hawaiians, the 1978 Con-Con and how it launched some folks to superstardom.  But she also mentioned that many of them got rich and just don’t care anymore.  When I mention all the young Hawaiians running for office she gets excited and wishes the older generation got their act together or got out.  We agree that this is the time to make things happen for Hawaiians, bit it’s missing something…someone. 

The Con-Con, Hōkūle’a, and other ideals brought out the charasmatic leaders our community needed at the time but the Ali’i presence didn’t last. We are a people who still love our Queen and cling to the ideals and values instilled in our DNA by centuries of the chiefly system so now without Ali’i, we look like power hungry crabs in a bucket.  For awhile now, I’ve been searching for that Ali’i for the guidance, and like the song “Couldn’t take the Mana” asks: “where have all our Ali’i gone?”  but I realized they are still here with us.  Ku’u Ali’i Pauahi who spent her wealth on education and preserving Hawaiian culture;  Lunalilo who dedicated his to caring for Kūpuna; Kūhiō who made sure Hawaiians had a place to live and encouraged Civic engagement; Queen Emma and Kamehameha IV caring for the health of their people; and the list goes on.  Our Ali’i aren’t gone, they are still there teaching us what the core of being Hawaiian should be about.

So back to the quote, instead of looking for Ali’i to lead, we, the maka’ainana need to be the ones to make the difference.  The lepo pōpolo, the dirty black people, are the ones in the lo’i, the workers, that need to move together to do the work of the Ali’i and be that force that rises up and restores the lāhui.  And it’s starting.  From Mauna Kea to Kahuku, from Kunananiho to the pa’akai on Kaua’i, things are happening.  And it’s all of us, Keiki to Kūpuna, mahi’ai to PhD that are doing it.  What comes next? That’s for another blog post.

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