By Alohalani Kekahio Lopez, Grade 10 Hakipu‘u Learning Center
In the Hawaiian culture, the family unit is of great importance.
As a Hawaiian, I was taught that the family always comes first. Traditionally, the importance of family ranks higher than your job, financial worth, social life, and any material item.
Hawaiian families, or ʻohana, take care of each other. No one is left to care for themselves, and everything is shared. Your ʻohana are not just blood relatives, but everyone in the community. It creates a personal connection that is felt among all community members.
It is our custom that the kūpuna are the leaders of the family unit. They are also looked upon as teachers and highly respected. They possess an abundance of knowledge, experience, strength, guidance, and inspiration for each generation both present and future.
In my house, the role of my father is to provide for our family, while the role of my mother is to take care of the house, the children, the cooking, and the cleaning. My mother also taught me to have respect and gratitude for all I have. I also learned that the family unit does not end with my father and mother; it includes extended family, friends, and other community members.
Everyone contributes to the greater good of the community, and that’s what makes the community successful.
My grandfather is a mechanic. He fixes people’s cars, appliances, lawn mowers, and weed wackers. He doesn’t take any money. Instead, he asks that you bring beer, sit, drink, and talk story with him. That is the payment.
Uncle Nick has a farm and shares his crops. Uncle Junior fishes and crabs and shares his catch. Uncle Cody hunts and shares his catch as well.
It is also of great benefit when people are able to bring a specific skill or trade to the community. For example, my father is a carpenter. Uncle Alan is a plumber, and Uncle Harvey is an electrician.
My mom feeds the family. She makes sure that everyone is fed, and no one walks away hungry. At every gathering, whether social or work related, each family brings something. No one comes empty handed. Everyone is expected to contribute. This ensures the success of the entire community.
In my opinion the family unit is still a priority. Although there are people that may not agree with the roles within my own family, it has worked for us.
My situation is unique, and the lessons I have learned are invaluable. I have the utmost respect for my family. One day, as a kupuna myself, I hope to be able to teach those younger than me how to be appreciative of all that the family and community can provide.
When everyone works together, it brings value to the community as well as more growth opportunities for everyone. It also provides a sense of involvement and accomplishment.