Photo: Aunty Sweet
Aunty Sweet in a moment of reflection. - Image: OHA

In November 2017, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs published Mana Lāhui Kānaka, a multidimensional study of mana: what it is, how to articulate it, and how to access and cultivate it in order to uplift our lāhui. The book shared mana‘o from community contributors, including Clara “Aunty Sweet” Matthews, on using culture and traditional knowledge as a foundation for how we advance in the world today.

Mana is the gift of feeling. The mana to move forward with whatever you feel. I’m Hawaiian so, I know what mana is and I’m careful about that.

I like to say that I’m taken care of even though my mother is not here. My family is not here but I know I’m taken care of. Because the mana is there.

My mom and them (family), they never did anything wrong. They don’t gossip, they mind their business, whatever they do. As long as it didn’t bother the family, you bother the family– that’s where you get it. The mana.

Mana is the connection to my ‘ohana. They’re like my aumakua.

I feel mana when something just bothers me. Things that I can’t control, or if I don’t know what it is, that’s where the mana comes into play. It’s important.

About Aunty Sweet

Photo: H-3 protest
Anti H-3 concrete pour protest in Hālawa-Valley. Left-to-right, Ella Tony, Auld Yardley and Sweets-Mathews. – Photo: Ed Greevy

Clara “Sweet” Matthews is a retired farmer who grew up on the island of O‘ahu. Sweet is the founder of Mālama Hālawa, and spent most of her days as the caretaker and coordinator of North Hālawa with her husband Robert “Boots” Matthews.

On April 5, 1992, Sweet and four other determined women snuck into Hālawa Valley through Kamananui stream and journeyed a mile inward to Hale o Papa. They were taking a stand to protect sacred sites from being disturbed by the construction of H-3 highway (then called TH-3).

Sweet recalls starting the morning early, preparing a turkey roast in the oven for lunch. She received a call from her friend Toni Yardley who informed her of a community get-together at the Bishop Museum to listen to local historian Barry Nakamura. Barry spoke about Hale o Papa and a Luakini heiau which had been uncovered recently in Hālawa. Dawn Wasson encouraged Gladys Pu‘uloa, Sweet, and others to protest the destruction of these sites by occupying Hale o Papa.