Ka Wai Ola

I ka hale no pau ke a‘o ana.Instructions are completed at home.
K. Pukui, “Olelo Noeau,” # 1175

Photo: Claire Kuʻuleilani Hughes

The Hawaiian home was the center of learning for thousands of generations. Kūpuna (Grandparents) and mākua (parents) served as sources of information, training and cultural education for their keiki (children).

Kūpuna, who had retired from physically demanding work, were patient, attentive and constant as they introduced their keiki to life in the kauhale (family home). Under the watchful eyes of older siblings, kūpuna taught toddlers norms of behavior and cultural kapu in family living. Then, older siblings assisted the younger keiki with reminders and cues. These older keiki monitored younger siblings at play, as well. Adherence to cultural behaviors outside the family areas was important.

After an elder’s evaluation to determine readiness, young boys entered training. Kūpuna (elders) and mākua taught boys the basic skills of farming, fishing, hunting and building. Older siblings guided younger ones in these processes, as well. Training for girls was handled similarly. When they were deemed ready by their elders, young girls began learning the initial steps in preparation for woman’s work, such as weaving, tapa-making and reef fishing, and gathering and cleaning limu (seaweed) for the family table. Kūpuna observed and monitored all behaviors. Mastery of skills was assured as the young adults worked with and assisted their elders.

Traditional cultural education is difficult today, as families are often geographically separated to accommodate opportunities in education, employment, housing and marriage. Thus, that soft, easy, constant, family cultural value-based education by kūpuna and mākua is often impossible. In addition, Hawaiian keiki are acculturated very early in modern life, receiving daily care from surrogates in infant and toddler daycare while parents are gainfully employed or attaining education. Keiki learn non-Hawaii behaviors from those they are surrounded by.

Thoughtfulness and consideration of others, particularly of elders, is a value that is noticeably slipping away. Instead, a “me first” attitude is demonstrated in business, on roads, in service lines, going through doorways and on buses, where kūpuna are not respected appropriately. Today’s focus on achieving individual success places high returns on being first, selfishness, bragging and putting oneself ahead of others. No thought is given to how others are doing.

Kawena Pukui offers an ‘ōlelo no‘eau (wise saying) that is meaningful here: “Kū nō i ke ke‘a” (#1922). She interprets this as, “He has the ways of his sire.” This ‘ōlelo no‘eau is similar to the saying, “like parent, like child.” The wisdom raises awareness that judgment is passed on to parents and families of misbehaving children. Thus, it is important to teach thoughtfulness and consideration, and to help youngsters practice thoughtfulness and consideration until these become automatic responses.

Kawena Pukui offers another ‘ōlelo no‘eau: “I kanaka no‘oe eke mālama i ke kanaka” (#1185), which she interprets as, “You will be well-served when you care for the person who serves you.” The thoughtfulness and consideration of Queen Lili‘uokalani, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, King Lunalilo and Queen Emma clearly demonstrate this value. Our ali‘i created trusts focusing their aloha and kuleana on several areas of significant need in Hawaiian communities. Most importantly, these trusts continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Native Hawaiians, decade after decade. These legacies have existed for well over 100 years. With passage of time, numbers of the ali‘i trust beneficiaries grow continuously. Our ali‘i’s legacies – these examples of their love and caring for others – continue to make a difference

Rewards for practicing Hawaiian cultural values may seem few, however, Hawaiian values make us unique. They set us apart from other cultures in many good ways.