Fulfilling our Kuleana


By Laʻi Bertelmann, Grade 12, Kanu o ka ʻĀina New Century Public School

Photo: Laʻi Bertelmann

Being raised in Hawaiʻi and being of Hawaiian ancestry you are given a kuleana. It is to do all you can for our lāhui, to mālama the place that provides for us, and to perpetuate our language, culture and traditions.

It’s hard to understand the depth of that kuleana as a young child, but as I got older, I realized how great a kuleana it is, and how important it is for me to fulfill it.

Throughout my childhood I was taught from two different viewpoints: through a paniolo/ ranching lens, as well as a Hawaiian perspective.

I come from generations of paniolo as well as Kānaka on various aliʻi lines, predominantly the Keakealani and Keawe lines. I have a deep connection to both my paniolo heritage and my Hawaiian culture. Being a senior and trying to figure out how to make an impact in my community while balancing what I am passionate about is very difficult. Like most who are raised in Hawaiʻi it is very hard for me to consider leaving home and pursuing higher education on the mainland; to consider leaving my family.

And yet I realize that such a move will not be permanent, and so that is the very reason I have decided to leave home and give it a try for a few years.

There are many different outlooks when it comes to pursuing a higher education. Some feel it is better to stay home and go to college, while others believe leaving is the only way to succeed. Personally I believe that ʻaʻole ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi – not all knowledge is learned in one place.

I plan to go to the mainland for two years, learn all I can, pursue my dreams of doing college rodeo, and come home to fulfill my kuleana once the two years are finished. I feel that we have a kuleana to our ʻāina and our kūpuna, but we also have one to ourselves: to live, make memories and make the best you can with the life you are given. This is my way of fulfilling both kuleana to myself and to my kūpuna.