By Mia Waiʻaleʻale “Liʻi” Sarsona
E iho ana ʻo luna
E piʻi ana ʻo lalo
E hui ana nā moku
E kū ana ka paia – Adapted from the prophecy of Kapihe
I am the fourth Waiʻaleʻale in my family.
My great grandmother was the first, my grandmother was the second and my mother is the third. My grandmother was never taught ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. When I was born, my mom decided to take a leap of faith and put me in Pūnana Leo o Kamakau and I continued on to Ke Kula ʻo Samuel M. Kamakau until graduating with the class of 2019.
I was the ʻōpihi to my Grandma Miriam “Cookie” Waiʻaleʻale Arroyo. I spent every weekend with her growing up. She was the most generous and creative person I have ever known. She was not supportive of me going to a Hawaiian language immersion school.
I remember learning about the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani around second grade. When I saw my Grandma later that day, I told her “Did you know we were overthrown by the United States?” to which she replied, “Would you rather it have been Japan? Then we would all speak Japanese.” I never brought up anything Hawaiʻi to her again. I don’t blame her, I understand now that came from generations of being told that our language and our practices were wrong.
After she passed away in 2013, I learned from my mother that my Grandma was actually starting to open up to things Hawaiian, asking my Mom about what was going on in the community and what I was learning in school. It was then that I realized that as I was growing into the proud wahine Hawaiʻi that I am today, my Grandma and my Mom were right there alongside me learning (and unlearning) what it means to be Hawaiian.
The story that I share is not unlike that of many other Hawaiian families. Although small and young, our keiki and ʻōpio are at the forefront of breaking generational curses.
Our keiki and ʻōpio are the future of this lāhui. I often think about this one manaʻo that Kahoʻokahi Kanuha shared – that in his lifetime, he has only seen the rise of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. As an ʻōpio and a lifer at a Hawaiian language immersion school, I have been immersed in the Hawaiian language my entire life. This gives my generation a different outlook on the future of our language and our people, one of hope and healing.
E nā hoa heluhelu makua (to the adult readers), I challenge you to hold space for the voices of the younger generations. We have much value to bring to the table if you let us. We are the future mākua and kūpuna.
E nā hoa heluhelu ʻōpio (to the youth readers), I challenge you to be the change that you want to see in the lāhui. Don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinions especially in a room full of adults. We are the future mākua and kūpuna.
My generation is one of change and remember, hulihia is not always a bad thing.
Mia Waiʻaleʻale “Liʻi” Sarsona was born and raised in Waimānalo, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu. She is a junior at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and a graduate of Ke Kula ʻo Samuel Mānaiakalani Kamakau.