The Pecking Order

Opinion by Catherine Aki

In my first commentary on Molokai social structures, I described how local businesses choose to remain non-political in order to maintain healthy relationships with all customers. This week, I will try to explain pecking order.

The pecking order on Molokai is difficult for newcomers to understand. I am going to try to explain it in such a way that newbies can comfortably find their place within our community. However, remember, I did not make the rules; I am just trying to explain our community based on my observations. Locals, you folks know these things so this is for those who don’t.

The Metaphor
People rooted in Molokai from the beginning of Hawaiian time are an “endemic species”. They can only be found on Molokai. East End families are the biggest grouping of endemic Hawaiians. Land there has belonged to some families for many generations and is not considered a commodity. Land is instead a place where the bones of ancestors rest. This connectedness cannot be bought or sold. Endemic Hawaiians are very involved in day-to-day living and interacting with family. These values have and will continue for generations into the future.
“Indigenous” Molokai Hawaiians are found predominately in Ho`olehua and other homestead areas. Most, but not all, have been here for a few generations and originally come from other islands. They have family here and elsewhere and are therefore indigenous. They, too, focus on day-to-day living and close bonds with family and friends.
The next group, of which I am a part of, is “Polynesian-introduced.” I was brought to Molokai by a Hawaiian and remain connected through children and grandchildren. This group may not be fully integrated into the Hawaiian communities but we observe and celebrate the culture with family.
The next group could be called a “non-native species.” Non-natives include generations of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino who came when plantations started on other islands and later on Molokai. They have extensive networks and organizations within their own groups.
The aggressive nature of Westerners suggests that many people from the mainland fall into the category of “invasive species.” Sometimes we westerners don’t see ourselves the way others do. We see ourselves as entitled to our opinion without realizing we are entitled to keep them to ourselves as well. We often have no family here, only newly formed friendships. We mention the number of years we have lived here to establish seniority within our group.
So what does this metaphor mean in terms of Molokai? It means that if you have lived here for less than five years, most likely you lack the depth of relationships of people who have been here since the seventh century, or at least for several generations.

What Molokai’s pro-developer group does not seem to understand is that relationships are a key component to Molokai’s culture; relationship to families, the land, the ancestors, cousins, classmates and friends. Those relationships are the foundation which is creating the future. You suppose to know your place in order to be in the future of Molokai.


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