ʻŌiwi meet on Zoom
ʻŌiwi from across the pae ʻāina joined together via Zoom to celebrate Lā Kūʻokoʻa on Nov. 28, 2020. - Photo: Courtesy of Kauluakalana Staff

By Kauluakalana Staff

On a sunny Saturday morning in late November, participants from Hawaiʻi, Maui, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi gathered virtually with a common purpose: to celebrate Lā Kūʻokoʻa, Hawaiʻi’s Independence Day.

Lā Kūʻokoʻa was established on Nov. 28, 1843, and commemorates the day that the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was recognized as a sovereign nation by France and Great Britain.

The virtual event, Kūʻokoʻa Kūkanono, was organized by Kauluakalana, a community-based, nonprofit in Kailua, Oʻahu, whose mission is to restore and grow healthy relationships between kānaka and ʻāina (people and place) through retelling Kailua-specific stories, replanting and eating Hawaiian ancestral foods, and caring for the sacred sites, lands and waters of Kailua.

Kūʻokoʻa Kūkanono featured moʻolelo, hula and mele, along with short videos submitted by participants to share the ways they pursue kūʻokoʻa (independence). A highlight of the event was to kuʻi ʻōkoʻa – to kuʻi kalo simultaneously at noon from their own places and spaces as a powerful act of unity as a lāhui. This was made possible with the support of Kanaeokana, the network of ʻōlelo, ʻāina and culture-based organizations, and the generosity of kalo farmers on five islands, as more than 1,000 lbs of kalo were distributed to participants prior to the event.

As noon approached that day, there were more than 40 livestreams of groups and individuals participating in kuʻi ʻōkoʻa across Hawaiʻi. Social media hashtags such as #HowDoYouKuokoa, #KuiOkoa, and #KuokoaKukanono were used to engage participants collectively.

Kauluakalana has hosted Kūʻokoʻa Kūkanono annually since 2018 as a free community hoʻolauleʻa. The event name, Kūʻokoʻa Kūkanono, combines the word “kūʻokoʻa” (to stand/exist independently, differently, separately; and to stand/exist fully, wholly, completely) with “kūkanono” (abundance), which is also the name of the ʻili ʻāina where the work of Kauluakalana is grounded.

For the first two years, the event was held at the base of Ulupō heiau along the banks of Kawainui fishpond in Kailua. This year, Kūʻokoʻa Kūkanono went virtual.

Kaleomanuiwa Wong, executive director of the hui said, “Our piko at Ulupō is within the ʻili ʻāina of Kūkanono. We are committed to ʻāina education and restoration for the purposes of cultural revitalization, community regeneration, identity reclamation, and the renewal of kuleana.”

Added event organizer and Kauluakalana president Maya Saffery, “By naming this community gathering Kūʻokoʻa Kūkanono we embraced all meanings of both words and simultaneously maintained Kailua as the piko of the event, while expanding it to include the whole pae ʻāina. The food we eat. The ʻāina we care for. The practices we perpetuate. The stories we live. The people we love.

“These are the things that help us to kūʻokoʻa – to stand together fully and independently as a lāhui. And through our individual and collective kūʻokoʻa today, a future that is kūkanono – abundant in aloha for our people, land and culture – is within reach.”

For more information, visit Kauluakalana online at www.kauluakalana.org or on Facebook and Instagram, or contact them at info@kauluakalana.org.