‘Auamo Kuleana

Community Contributed

Opinion by Kahenawai Ho’oleii’a Hirata

U.S. History, the textbook that is given to every student in high school, states the United States of America fought for freedom for everyone. But is that true for the indigenous people of Hawaii? Oppression and exploitation of our language, culture, land and people is what we as the indigenous people of Hawaii got in the name of freedom!

I grew up attending community meetings with my family, with a front row seat of the issues which plague our island of Molokai. As I grew to understand our true Kanaka Maoli history, it has given me strength to listen for the mana’o behind what has been shared to us as the next generation of Molokai keiki. Generational knowledge is priceless. Our makua and kupuna, freely share their ʻike and mana, it is our kuleana to perpetuate our Kanaka Maoli legacy.

My Papa Alapa’i Hanapi said in a 1985 video interview, “When I harvest a tree from the forest or a stone from the land, to carve a story of our people, I make that tree and stone live forever.”

My Tutu Mililani Hanapi said, “As Kanaka Maoli we do not even know what is right and wrong anymore when it comes to practicing our traditional & customary practices because our iwi kupuna are being dug up out of the ʻāina and our sacred cultural sites desecrated in the name of progress and development.” 

Uncle Russell Phifer said, “Growing up, the tide pools were the most fascinating places to play and learn.”

In a 1985 video interview, Tutu Wahine Lani Kapuni said, “Going to school as a little girl we were told to NOT speak ʻŌlelo Hawaii, if we did, we had to go outside & pull weeds. I became the best weed puller in school!” 

Aunty Miki’ala Ayau Pescaia said, “Mo’olelo reminds us of who we are and the greatness we come from, and carry within ourselves.” 

Uncle La’a Poepoe said, “Before you enter a fishpond you must have a purpose that connects you to the fishpond.”

My mom said, “as Kanaka Maoli we are BORN with the kuleana to carry on our cultural and traditional customary practices.” When I hunt and fish with my dad, he has me walk for miles! We get to see, feel and hear the life of the ʻāina when we walk.

Go outside, play and explore from mauka to makai, put your hands in the ʻāina, share the mo’olelo of our culture and history, practice our customary and traditional protocols. Do not be a strange in our own lands! I know my kuleana is to help make sure our Kanaka Maoli history, culture and language is never lost and lives on well past my lifetime!

My name is Kahenawai Ho’oleii’a Hirata, a 17-year-old ‘Ōpio o Molokai. My first name, Kahenawai comes from the West side of Molokai. My middle name, Ho’oleii’a comes from the East side of Molokai.

I am proud to say that Molokai lives within me, as I live within her. ‘Auamo ko’u kuleana!


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