Na`iwa, Makahiki Piko
Ancient grounds come alive.
With arms supporting each other, student athletes joined together before last Friday's Makahiki games in Na`iwa.
By Jennifer Smith and Léo Azambuja
Today most people associate Makahiki with Kaunakakai Ball Field. However, for centuries, Na`iwa, one of the most breathtaking and significant places on Molokai, opened its grounds for the seasonal Hawaiian games.
Descending upon the green hills overlooking Ilio Point, the island’s most accomplished athletes of past and present would compete in feats of skill and strength in this spiritual center.
"This is a place where our kupuna watch us. Where our ancestors cheer for us," Aka`ula Middle School teacher Lei Ah Loy said. ‘There is a lot of mana up here."
Keeping the tradition alive, nearly 150 middle school athletes from all over the islands trekked to Na`iwa to participate in the Makahiki games last Friday.
"We are trying to teach all of the kids how important this place is," Ah Loy said. "Without the kids the games would just die out."
Entering the grounds, student athletes from Molokai, Hawaii, Maui and Oahu made ho`okupu, an offering to Lono, the god of peace and fertility honored during Makahiki. Students offered items representing the lands they came from. Salt, breadfruit and dried fish were among ho`okupu placed on the ku`ahu (stone altar) for Lono.
Students competed with bare feet in tall grass fields. Events happened simultaneously, with 8 kg stones being tossed in one area and checker boards set up in another. Some of the other games played included hukikahi kanaka (rope pull to unbalance opponent), haka moa (chicken fight), hukihuki (tug-of-war) and heihei wawae (100 meter sprint).
Molokai Middle School Vice Principal Matthew Helm said the Friendly Isle has a history of strong athletes.
"I want the students to understand people used to come to Molokai to compete here," Helm said.
Molokai was once the training center for athletes in the islands. But the Makahiki games in Na`iwa were canceled after Molokai Ranch purchased the land in 1918. Over half a century later the games would be revived during the Hawaiian Renaissance.
This year’s celebration marks the 28th year since the revival of the Makahiki games on Molokai.
The Ranch now opens Na`iwa once a year for student athletes to compete.
Ah Loy said she would like to see the entire Makahiki grounds opened up; to see all of the games played up in Na`iwa.
Until then the rest of the games will continue to be played on Kaunakakai Ball Field.
This year spectators gathered at the ball field to watch teams from all over the state battle against each other for glory.
Beginning at sundown on Friday, the kane and wahine games continued on through the late hours of the chilly night. Molokai’s Kahaku Ritte-Camara took the wahine’s first place, while Kauai’s Kaina Makua took the kane’s top honors.
Saturday’s event started with a parade of all the competing schools. Each team honored a kupuna, and brought ho`okupu to Lono, which were displayed on a rock structure facing the games.
Hundreds of brightly-clad school-children filled the bleachers placed on the field, adding color and smiles to the day.
The games officially began when organizer Walter Ritte passed on the microphone to master of ceremonies Wayde Lee, who spent the next several minutes cheering the school-children.
"I say chicka-chicka boom!" Lee called to the children, who would then repeat his words in a vibrant chorus. His energy and humor kept the crowd going for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, Makahiki organizers offered uala, fruit and donuts to cheering fans.
A full day of athletic competition concluded with a celebration outside of Mitchell Pauole Center. Live music and several ono food booths kept the crowd lively and well-fed.
Mahalo to all of those who competed in the games or cheered on the competitors. A special Mahalo to sponsors and volunteers who made the Makahiki games possible.
Schools competing in the Makahiki games at Na`iwa included Molokai Middle School (Molokai), Aka`ula (Molokai), Kanu o Ka `Aina (Hawaii), Maui Prep (Maui), Kamehameha Schools Kapalama (Oahu) and Nanakuli (Oahu).