Aloha kākou e nā hoa makamaka o nei nūpepa, welina. The Cultural Working Group (CWP) for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument recently held its quarterly in-person meeting in September.
Always thinking about continuity and legacy strategies, part of the meeting was structured to recount the formation of the monument, the responsibilities of the co-managers, and the important contributions that the CWP has made towards the evolutionary development and preservation of Papahānaumokuākea.
As founding and core members spoke, my own thoughts went towards my first experiences with accessing the akua islands where kānaka acquiesce to the natural environment and subserviently become a part of the food chain.
My very first visit changed the trajectory of my lifeʻs path. The monument had not yet been formed and a protocol team named Kupuʻeu, trained under the tutelage of Dr. Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele, had learned several chants and rituals appropriate to Nīhoa and Mokumanamana.
The protocol team was going to be traveling as crew members aboard Hōkūleʻa using the stars and other celestial guides as markers to raise Nīhoa and Mokumanamana up out of the northwestern horizon. Another companion double hulled canoe named Hōkūalakaʻi with their crew who only spoke ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, was also sailing alongside Hōkūleʻa. It was June 2005, when we all converged on Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi, to prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
Invited by Dr. Kanahele, I was going to stay on the escort boat, the Double Barrel, for the entire trip. Somehow, while on the shores of Hanalei awaiting the approval for all the waʻa and their escort boats to travel, three of us who traveled with Aunty Pua – myself, Huihui Mossman Kanahele, and Ulumauahi Kanakaʻole – were told that we would also be joining the protocol team on Mokumanamana.
To be honest, at the time we didnʻt know the severity of what that approval meant. However, when your mentor says “youʻre going on the island and youʻre going to memorize and perform the chants and rituals like you have been studying them for a year,” you just do exactly what was asked to the best of your ability.
We were whisked off to Wailua to shop for the appropriate gear. We didnʻt have much time to think about it so we just grabbed whatever we needed from random tourist shops and grocery stores. To visit the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, you must have brand new clothes and gear that has been frozen for 48 hours to prevent any foreign organisms from arriving to the pristine akua islands. We had four days to memorize and perform everything. We returned just as a huge contingency of Kauaʻi community members came to Hanalei to send us on our way.
That night we were escorted by lightning and rain.
In the morning as we left Niʻihau and entered into the wild deep ocean, the crew on our escort boat conducted our own ceremony to reintroduce ourselves and our moʻokūʻauhau to the ocean, reclaiming our kūleana to the space during this modern time.
Determined, the three newbies studied the chants at every waking moment and frankly, most of the sail going up to Mokuamanamana was a blur because I was busy trying to memorize everything. We followed the Noio line and arrived at Nīhoa a day and a half later. In Part 2, Iʻll share more about the continued voyage to Mokumanamana. But until then, I wish you all a most insightful and productive Makahiki. Aloha.