Isolated in the middle of nowhere, Hawaiʻi relies on the ocean for support. We rely on him to hold our truth, our history, and culture’s rich mana – divine power. Like the creation gods of Papa and Wākea, we see four other prominent gods in the Hawaiian culture: Kū, Kāne, Kanaloa, and Lono. Each respectively carry several kinolau or forms, purposes, and representations.
Through these gods, we seek to worship and respect them to receive the same treatment in return. Maintaining a strong and respective relationship with these beings was expected by our ancestors. Failure to do so, resulted in unaccountable measures.
So, in this context, imagine bombing, endangering, and killing off such gods.
Gods, similar to Kanaloa, find themselves in natural forms like our ocean. Guided by a western perspective, these names would remain to be myths, but for our culture, economically harmful acts like these cannot be unseen.
Kū, the god of war, politics, farming and fishing, finds himself alongside his wife, Hina, who creates a sense of dualism. Kū is that of masculinity while Hina contrasts him with femininity. Following Kū we have Lono, the god of fertility, agriculture, rainfall, and peace. He, too, is seen as an opposite of Kū, but is more so known for his worshiping during Makahiki – a peaceful Hawaiian season of leisure and traditional games.
Finally we have Kāne and Kanaloa, the twin brothers. Kāne was seen to be more significant than the other three, being that he was the god of procreation; meanwhile, Kanaloa was a representation of the underworld. The two brothers carried complementary powers and were dualistic toward one another. If Kāne assisted in the creation of a canoe, then Kanaloa assisted in the canoe’s sailing; Kāne was Northern while Kanaloa was Southern; and Kāne was wai, freshwater, whilst Kanaloa was kai, the ocean.
Each and every god had their kinolau. Kū finds himself in erected plants and animals to display his sense of masculinity, such as coconut trees or sea cucumbers. Kanaloa encompasses octopuses and squids, but most importantly the vast ocean, as well as enclosed waters, including all living things – even ourselves.
In traditional times, Hawaiians knew gods were always around them, watching over them, just like how Christians believe in God’s presence. In this way, the thought of having Kanaloa as a part of them was something that encouraged proper respect and righteousness. They were, and currently we are, one with Kanaloa and therefore with our kai.
Ever since the illegal overthrow of Hawaiʻi in 1893, the U.S. took hold of our islands for their own personal military gain. With our location amidst the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaiʻi was crucial for locating their marine facilities, and was a key factor in the illegal annexation of our country. Excavating and reshaping Oʻahu’s Pearl Harbor to sustain their military equipment, the U.S. further ruined land here in Hawaiʻi – all for military means.
Excavating and reshaping Oʻahu’s Pearl Harbor to sustain their military equipment, the U.S. further ruined land here in Hawaiʻi – all for military means.
In the 1970s we saw the introduction of strong Hawaiian activism against American military practices, through the protection of Kahoʻolawe, an island only seven miles south of Maui. At the time, Kahoʻolawe was used as an open bombing range for military target practice. Maui residents on the southern shore of the island grew accustomed to the small earthquakes caused by the bombs that detonated miles off shore.
That was until prominent individuals during this time, such as George Helm, a native who was rooted in our culture, said they had enough. Once again, the genealogical ties to the land brought out pain for these kanaka, causing them to rise up.
It took activists like Helm to come face to face with the frequent bombing, whilst being present on Kahoʻolawe himself with several others during an active practice, for this issue to be discontinued. With the help of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana initiative, our island and familial land was saved from any further bombing. Governmental actions only occurred in 1991 when the island’s bombing was officially outlawed; however, this act came too late.
Kahoʻolawe is currently inhabitable with numerous active mines still being discovered to this very day. Due to this reason, only a select few are able to visit the barren island with a purpose.
Kahoʻolawe is currently inhabitable with numerous active mines still being discovered to this very day.
We see the protection of Kahoʻolawe not only as a renaissance for Hawaiian activism, but also as an origin and eye-opener against the American military presence in Hawaiʻi. It is not only Kahoʻolawe that was used as a bombing target for practice, but includes several other small islands around Hawaiʻi – despite some being designated as bird sanctuaries.
Moreover, we see our ocean, our Kanaloa also impacted. Several months ago, an inactive WWII bomb was found in a coral reef right offshore of Molokini, a small bird sanctuary island near Maui. Sanctuary islands are home to thousands of native birds and species – many of which are endangered. Like Molokini, we also see the island of Kaʻula calling out for protection.
23 miles off the coast of Niʻihau, Kaʻula finds itself a victim to the Rim of the Pacific Exercise’s (RIMPAC) practices. RIMPAC is biennially organized by the U.S. Navy’s Indo-Pacific Command and welcomes a multitude of other countries into our Kanaloa to practice warfare exercises. This event is known across the world as the largest international warfare maritime.
Some of these practices include openly shooting into our kai and, even worse, aiming at small islands like Kaʻula. We see ignorant, destructive actions like these, where endangered animals are harmed by the hands of westerners – evident throughout our Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NHI). Thousands of miles from Niʻihau spans Kanaloa into our NHI.
In these waters, we see westerners deplete our native seal population and coral population, eliminating local and endemic species found only in our northern islands. The means of placing more of our already endangered ecosystem at harm for the sole purpose of warfare tactics is disgustingly inhumane, yet is no surprise to us kanaka.
Despite the pandemic, RIMPAC progressed to take place this year. Our government welcomed the organization and its participants with open arms and even alleviated certain COVID restrictions to better their accommodations, without taking into consideration the needs of its own people. This is yet another example of the true nature and intentions of our government, and clearly displays their positionality.
We as people, kanaka, have decided to no longer stand with our government, but to stand with our akua and cultural beliefs. The further hurt against Kanaloa is no more. We already see our native fish population drastically decreasing; we don’t need our kai to hold the same effect. Like Georoge Helm, like our mauna kiaʻi, we will not let this stand.
Last updated 9/14/20