Molokaʻi Nui A Hina: Great Molokaʻi, Child of Hina


Luana Alapa: Trustee Molokaʻi and Lanaʻi

In ka mahina o Mei, we dedicate a day to honor our mothers. Yes, that should be every day but, as a mother, I know we’ll all take the holiday! For Molokaʻi, this has special significance.

Photo: Stone carving of the goddess Hina
Stone carving of the goddess Hina, by Alapai Hanapi. – Photos: Courtesy

Our island name carries a proud tradition, which is “Molokaʻi Nui A Hina” or “Great Molokaʻi, Child of Hina.” Hawaiian rights activist Alapai Hanapi created a powerful sculpture of Hina that we are sharing again during this month. The stone carving is of Hina, mother of Molokaʻi, with her ʻumeke (gourd) holding the winds that protect our island.

In ancient Hawaiian legend, we know Molokaʻi was born to Hina, goddess of the moon, and Wākea, god of the sky. Just as these deities require us to look up to the heavens, let us be thankful to Ke Akua for the blessings of our mothers, many of whom are heaven on earth.

A Tribute to My Mother

Photo: Kalanikauanakikilani Kanahele
Kalanikauanakikilani Kanahele, Trustee Alapaʼs mother.

My mother, Kalanikauanakikilani (“Kauana”) Kanahele (Pukahi) a native Hawaiian, was born in Honolulu to a family of 14 brothers and sisters. Baptized in the Mormon faith, Kauana spent her childhood between Kāneʻohe and Lāʻie. After graduating from BYU, mom met and married Stanley Alapa.

Our mother is a tiger who is fiercely protective of her three daughters. She is always there for us, helping with our projects, defending us against the world, appearing almost psychically to care for us when we fall ill. Her dream is for her daughters to excel in a challenging world and her support of that dream is unwavering.

Kauana is very proud to be Hawaiian and, in the cultural tradition, she knows her genealogy (ask her if we’re related)! She brought her tenacious personality and love of being Hawaiian to Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi where, with steadfast faith, she fights tooth and nail to restore the Nation and our people to their rightful place.

Mom brings joyful exuberance to other parts of her life. I think she’s one of the greatest female jazz singers who can sing higher than the C note and lower than Sarah Vaughn. Although she gave up a career to raise a family, she continues to sing. A protégé of the late Genoa Keawe, our mother’s mele are sung with great love bringing tears to her spellbound audience, including me. A possessor of gifted humor, expressed in tandem with truth and uncanny timing, at 88-years-old she is still the “light” of the party.

My sisters and I, and the moʻopuna that followed, are blessed to have Kalani- kauanakikilani in our lives. She is truly the embodiment of motherhood.

To her and to all who are mothers and mothering – Hauʻoli Lā Makuahine!