Strength in Diversity


Like ʻole (vs. Various, all, different, not alike.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

Too often our differences divide us, when really we should embrace those differences as part of what makes us Hawaiians – and what makes Hawaiʻi the unique and special place that we all love.

Our differences are wonderfully part of who we are and makes for a much more colorful, interesting and meaningful community. If everybody had the same skills, tastes, interests and practices, there wouldn’t be much opportunity to learn, grow or consider other perspectives.

During the holidays my thoughts, naturally, turn to my ʻohana. My mother was one of 15 children, and so I have dozens of first cousins. Those cousins and their families are scattered across the world. While many remain in Kohala, many more have relocated to other parts of the pae ʻāina or to the continent. When we have family reunions, the diversity in our family is evident in our faces – some of us look very Hawaiian while others are very fair skinned and some look very Asian.

Within my own family is the diversity that is Hawaiʻi.

When I was growing up the “plantation era” was phasing out, but I remember all the different plantation camps, divided by ethnicity – Japanese camp, Filipino Camp, Chinese Camp, and, of course, Hawaiians. These divisions helped people retain their language and culture so it was good in that respect, but they were all plantation workers and in that way, our community was unified.

Similarly, our shared “local” culture is an amalgamation of the things that we have in common.

By virtue of our “localness” we are privileged to enjoy the contributions of other cultures. We can go to Merrie Monarch in the spring and a Bon Dance during the summer – or celebrate Makahiki or Christmas or Chinese New Year – and as long as we are respectful, we are welcomed.

As Kānaka ʻŌiwi we have a familial relationship to this ʻāina. Yet we all have ʻohana or dear friends whom we love who are not Hawaiian and this variety within our lāhui is also a source of strength.

Our diversity delights me. We have different life experiences, skills, talents, and spiritual beliefs. Some dedicate their lives to serving our ʻohana from keiki to kūpuna, others to preserving our moʻomeheu, and others to protecting our ʻāina. From cultural practitioners to those trained in western skills, our people are as different as the sun is from the moon, yet we are united by our shared history as the Indigenous people of this land and made stronger by our differences – like the facets of a kaleidoscope that together create beauty.

This month, Ka Wai Ola celebrates Native Hawaiian small businesses with our annual free ʻoihana ads. We also highlight a few unusual businesses – a culture-based ecotour company, a family beekeeping business, an importer of Italian wine and cheese – while our cover story features three ʻŌiwi who are finding success and creating jobs brewing craft beer.

The diversity showcased in this issue is what Native Hawaiian economic stability looks like – and it’s exciting!

Aloha Kalikimaka! Lonoikamakahiki!


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