Restoring Our Limu Practices; Restoring Ourselves


Hoʻihoʻi (vt. To return, send back, restore.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

Like most Hawaiians, I grew up eating limu. In our blended Hawaiian-Japanese household, limu was a normal part of our diet.

I remember my mother preparing miso soup with wakame (a Japanese seaweed) and pickling manauea (which the Japanese call “ogo”) with onions as a side dish. Family friends on Maui would often send us wāwaeʻiole – the seaweed also known as “rats’ feet” – which mom chopped up fine and used sparingly.

But my favorite was always limu kohu. To this day, whenever my husband goes to Young’s Fishmarket to buy Hawaiian food he will make sure to buy a few of those little balls of limu kohu for me.

In this issue we celebrate the state’s proclamation of 2022 as “Year of the Limu.” The designation is the result of years of effort by limu practitioners from across the pae ʻāina united under the Limu Hui, a network supported by nonprofit Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA). For 20 years, KUA has pursued a vision of ʻāina momona – abundant and healthy ecosystems in Hawaiʻi that contribute to community wellbeing.

In many ways, I see the work of limu practitioners to restore to abundance across our pae ʻāina the many varieties of native limu – depleted by a combination of over-harvesting, development, invasive species and climate change – as a metaphor for the larger work of restoring abundance to our lāhui.

It’s all connected: restoring ʻohana practices, restoring cultural practices, restoring mālama ʻāina practices. A restoration of and return to practices that will sustain us physically but also spiritually.

The ʻike that our modern limu practitioners carry, and their efforts to ensure this ʻike continues to be carried forward to upcoming generations, is a reminder that our people were experts at mālama ʻāina – resource management. Kānaka Maoli have always been scientists. We observe and then we analyze that data and act on it. We combine theory with pono action and a consciousness that transcends human needs and desires.

The near-extinction of some varieties of native limu is also a grim reminder that when the structures of our society are disturbed, whether environmental, social, cultural or spiritual, we are endangered. We must be makaʻala (alert) to what is happening and intentional about our responses to those risks lest we wander too close to extinction ourselves.

There is no denying that this world is often chaotic and frequently unpredictable. We have challenges to address here at home but at the same time we are connected to world events outside of our pae ʻāina.

I find that, in those moments, there is beauty in simplicity and a return to basics. Our ʻohana, our moʻomeheu and our ʻāina are foundational for our lāhui. These are our basics. When we return to our foundation, there is an alignment that helps calm the spirit. It allows us to breathe, to see clearly, and to stand strong and surefooted against the tempest, allowing us to navigate our ʻohana, our kaiāulu, our lāhui through turbulent times.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer