“Mōhala i ka Wai ka Maka o ka Pua”


Photo: Līhau Reyes-Duffey

By Līhau Reyes-Duffey, Grade 11 Hālau Kū Māna New Century Public Charter School

As I stood in line wearing my pāʻū hula, kīkepa, kūpeʻe, lei, and lei poʻo, an enormous sense of kuleana washed over me.

The ahu that we had built and stained for Kū was one of the firsts in a long time that my school, Hālau Kū Māna New Century Public Charter School, erected for closing Makahiki on March 4, 2022. As we sent Lono to Kahiki and welcomed Kū I finally felt ready to be the Kanaka I wanted to be and set intentions for the coming year.

From the time a haumana enters Hālau Kū Māna, oli becomes the centerpiece for instruction and protocol. The oli that we learn at our kula reminds me of where I come from, why I am here, and where I will be going.

This year, oli took on even greater clarity and significance for me. During part of the pandemic, to ensure everyone’s safety, Hālau Kū Māna switched to 100% virtual learning. We stopped all oli because it was difficult to oli virtually as a class. And I missed it. Many of us missed it.

As Hālau Kū Māna has emerged out of the pandemic, we have returned to traditional learning and begun our oli again. Every morning, we meet for wehe (to open) as a school. In cadence with the rush of Maunalaha stream alongside us, manu welcoming us with their mele, and the light drizzle of the ua Kaʻeleloli of Makīkī, we haumāna oli Kualoloa ʻo Kaʻala by Kumu Kawika Mersberg, then Noho ana ke Akua, followed by E Ulu and Nā ʻAumakua. These oli request akua to grant us ʻike and inspiration. In particular, the oli, E Ulu says:

E ulu
E ulu
Kini o ke akua
Ulu Kāne me Kanaloa
Ulu ʻōhiʻa lau koa me ka ʻieʻie
Aʻe mai a noho i kou kuahu
Eia ka wai lā
He wai, e ola
E ola nō e

Be inspired
Multitude of gods
Inspire us, Kāne and Kanaloa
Grow and nourish us like the ʻōhiʻa, koa, and ʻieʻie
And come and rest upon your altar
Here is the water
The water of life
Forever we will thrive. (Nakanishi)

At the start of each day, when our entire school, some 160 leo strong, unite under these pleas and clear our minds and bodies of outside distractions and worries to focus on the learning before us, these oli transform us into young waihona (repositories of knowledge) who will preserve the traditions and knowledge that define our culture and identities as Kānaka.

Author’s note: The ʻŌlelo Noʻeau (#2178) used for the title of this column translates as “unfolded by the water are the faces of flower” meaning that “flowers thrive where there is water, as thriving people are found where living conditions are good.” The oli shared in this column is from a collection of oli from Keola Nakanishi.

Noho ʻo Jah-Naya Līhauokekaimālie Reyes-Duffey ma ka ʻāina uluwehi ʻo Papakōlea.