At the end of my last installment on Makahiki, I mentioned that the Makahiki practice is essentially the reason that the U.S. Navy was forced to negotiate access rights to Kaho‘olawe with the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO). In 1977 the PKO sued the U.S. Navy which resulted in the Navy being required to conduct an environmental impact statement inventorying and preserving all significant archaeological sites on Kaho‘olawe. The PKO argued that by bombing Kaho‘olawe, Native Hawaiians were denied their inherent rights to practice traditional religion there. From this the PKO gained access rights to Kaho‘olawe through what’s known now as the Consent Decree, which detailed that the PKO would be granted 10 calendar days every month to conduct religious and cultural customary rights. The religious practice upon which the PKO’s position was predicated was Makahiki. Thereafter, a handful of men were trained to be the Mo‘o Lono of Kaho‘olawe. Since 1981, there have been consistent, uninterrupted Makahiki ceremonies conducted on Kaho‘olawe.
Why Makahiki though? Lono is what Kaho‘olawe needed at the time more so than any other akua. Our understanding of Lono then was that he is the god of peace, not of war – that’s Kū’s realm. His kinolau would be the ones that would heal the ‘āina. That is, by summoning Lono though incantation, or pule, Lono would bring his cool weather, wind, rain, mist, dew, and the like, creating green growth on the island and stopping the runoff of the soil unto the surrounding ocean. Lono is also the akua of the koa, warrior. Aloha ‘āina patriots, as those who first accessed Kaho‘olawe in this modern era, would do well to take on Lono as one of their akua.
Over the past 36 years of Makahiki ceremonies on Kaho‘olawe, we have seen much change in the environment. The kinolau of Lono continuously make lei upon its landscapes. Where once was red, barren land, now grow vibrant green meadows, lush with a‘ali‘i, ‘ilima, and other native flora. This isn’t only because of our Makahiki ceremonies. There is a massive reforestation effort occurring too under the direction of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission. However, when hana kaulike, justified work, is matched by ‘aha kaulike, justified ceremony, the results seem to come more bountifully. Our ceremonies are often accompanied by cloud cover, misty mornings, rains that begin upland and over the ocean, cool breezes, as well as strong and intense weather phenomena, too. The work done by man’s hands is made more productive by an akua’s touch.