Protecting Our ʻOhana, Moʻomeheu, and ʻĀina


Photo: Sylvia Hussey

After my mom passed away in 2015, there was some concern in our extended ʻohana about what to do with our family home in Niuliʻi.

At that point in our lives, no one family or family member could return and occupy the beloved 60-year-old plantation home showing distinct signs of disrepair. And yet…it was where my siblings and I grew up. Our contemplated decision to sell went against every impulse to hold on tightly lest we lose
something precious.

In the process of clearing out our childhood home, searching through forgotten cupboards and closets, I found one of the last lauhala mats that my mom made before she could no longer remember how to weave. The strips of lauhala are too large and the weave is not refined as in the pieces sheʻd completed when she was younger. But that piece, with its imperfections, is beautiful to me – a precious heirloom and a repository of my mother’s mana. It is one of her last creations and
something I will always treasure.

As I grow older, that instinct to protect our ʻohana, to protect our moʻomeheu through the objects and traditions that we treasure, to protect the ʻāina that feeds us physically and spiritually – and to mālama those special places where we lived or played or learned – also grows stronger and intensifies.

Our treasures are worth protecting for the generations that will follow. Protecting ʻohana, moʻomeheu and ʻāina is the theme that runs through this issue of Ka Wai Ola. Protection takes many forms – from physical labor to education to protest to advocacy. Many of the articles and stories this month specifically highlight the efforts of ʻŌiwi on Hawaiʻi Island to protect their ʻāina, native species, cultural traditions, and ʻike kūpuna in wahi pana like Waipiʻo Valley, Pololū Valley, Pōhakuloa and Miloliʻi.

With the pandemic eviction moratorium about to end, we spotlight the efforts of a housing advocate in Hilo to protect Section 8 renters from “source of income discrimination” by landlords. And we introduce a short film, “MOHO,” that the filmmakers hope will protect the right of Native Hawaiian surfers to compete under the hae Hawaiʻi at the 2024 Olympics.

We also celebrate the exciting collaboration between Native Hawaiian artists and Italian fashion design house REDValentino that came about because Native Hawaiians spoke out to protect our “intellectual property,” and the success of a recent trip to Papahānaumokuākea by Native Hawaiian scientists to gather data that will help create better management strategies to protect the native species who live there. And in celebration of the 183rd anniversary of her birth, we present an essay by Dr. Ronald Williams that details Queen Liliʻuokalani’s fierce protection of her people and nation, and her dignity and grace while facing impossible odds. Finally, with COVID-19 daily infection rates in triple-digits for weeks now and hospitals filled to capacity, Dr. Keawe Kaholokula addresses some common misinformation about the vaccines to encourage unvaccinated Native Hawaiians to put aside their misgivings and get vaccinated to protect themselves and their ʻohana.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Ka Pouhana | Chief Executive Officer