Pick Up Your ʻAuamo


In many ways, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi can be much more descriptive than English, packing many layers of meaning into single words.

For example, we hear the term “kuleana” throughout our workplaces and our community. Most uses describe kuleana as a responsibility, a duty, a job or a task. However, allow your perspective to shift a little as you look through the long list of English terms that describe kuleana including: right, privilege, concern, title, jurisdiction, reason, cause, function, and yes, responsibility.

Understanding that your responsibility is a privilege bestowed upon you helps to shift the mindset about that kuleana from a burden to a point of pride.

The kuleana to carry several ʻumeke (calabashes) at one time isn’t possible all in one hand, and it certainly is still quite burdensome even when both hands are used. We can imagine generations of our kūpuna who have carried out their kuleana using the ʻauamo to amplify their capacity to carry seemingly impossible burdens.

Our kūpuna tell us to ʻauamo kuleana because kuleana is a special burden. ʻAuamo kuleana means that one can carry burdens and still move steadily toward the goal. ʻAuamo kuleana not only describes responsibility but the inherent ability and privilege to carry out this responsibility and place it in balance.

When I think about my own kuleana that I have to ʻauamo, I often consider how to best balance my diverse kuleana. For myself, I have kuleana as a daughter, a sister, an aunty, a partner, executive director of a community nonprofit, and an officer of my civic club. More broadly, as the leader of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, I have kuleana to find the balance between sharing our Hawaiian culture and being gracious hosts and protecting the natural and cultural resources of our ʻāina aloha from the dangers of over-visitation.

When thinking about your kuleana, do not get distracted by the volume or magnitude of the tasks at hand. Consider first your ability to ʻauamo – to carry necessary burdens and balance them on the path toward your goal.

ʻAuamo kou kuleana. Pick up your ʻauamo. Take on your kuleana.