Aloha ‘Āina… The Indigenous Approach


Leina‘ala Ahu Isa, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

In “Western” thinking, nature and Mother Earth were always regarded as adversaries to be conquered and used. This perspective, which grows out of thinking in the ancient world, is expressed in biblical text. In the story of creation in Genesis, God created nature first, and then man and afterward instructs man on how to relate to nature: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

The French philosopher Rene Descartes believed in the Theory of Dualism, which held that humans were separate from Nature and other living organisms because they alone had the power of reason and, unlike plants and animals, had souls.

The School of Ecorealism holds that humans are part of the natural world and that nature cannot be viewed as a separate, sacrosanct entity which should be left untouched.

James Lovelock, a British chemist, developed a theory called Gaia hypothesis (named after the Greek earth goddess Gaia), which holds that the earth itself is ALIVE because “the Earth’s living matter, air, oceans, and land surface form a complex system which can be seen as a single organism and which has the capacity to keep our planet a fit place for life.”

The Indigenous Approach

Photo: Trustee Leina‘ala Ahu Isa with Mauna Kea Supporters
Aloha ʻĀina means “love of the land,” and is central for our future generations… our keiki, our future warriors!

With the establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the voyages of the Hōkūleʻa in the 1970s, a new paradigm of research was on the horizon for the Hawaiian Islands – and the Native Hawaiians’ Indigenous approach to nature and the ʻāina.

The reclaiming and learning of Native Hawaiian ways of living, knowing and being, was published in the two-volume Nānā i Ke Kumu, Look to the Source (Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, 1972 a, b). A strong commitment towards this Indigenous way of thinking was demonstrated through the establishment of the Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Another program was established at the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence.

Native Hawaiians continue to struggle and face challenges in protecting their Indigenous rights and CEDED lands. Individuals and groups with legal representation have been leading a campaign against Native Hawaiian entitlements, including challenging the funding of the Native Hawaiian Homelands, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and educational programs. Yet they persevere; never give up!

In the words of King Kamehameha I as he shouted out before battle to his young warriors:

“I mua e nā pōkiʻi a inu i ka wai ʻawaʻawa, ʻaʻohe hope e hoʻi mai ai.”

Every day, we are motivated by his words…I mua e nā pōkiʻi!

Mālama pono a hui hou till June, Trustee Leinaʻala Ahu Isa