Far too many of us have never really thought about our own awareness as Island People.
I am a mainland Maoli.
I make this statement a lot. Maybe it is out of a strange and eccentric sense of rebellion, or maybe it is because this is, and this has been, for the entirety of my life here in this lifetime, the thing that I have been.
All the time.
There is nothing more lovely to me than to be able to greet my own island brothers and sisters, particularly those who are young enough to call me “Mom” (and yes – they call me Auntie). I meet these lovely people at what I consider to be the happiest place on Earth OTHER than sitting next to my other half (Hi Baby) – that place is school. My school is MtSac, located in Los Angeles County, CA., specifically in a town called Walnut. I have written more than once in this blog about MtSac, mostly about my instructors.
Right now, though, the thing that I want to make known is that there seems to be a very real, very deep sort of confusion regarding who we are here, in this awareness called “The Mainland.”
I was born and raised here…
Whenever I hear that someone from the other side of the ocean wants to question our validity here as island people, I am typically one of the very the first ones to speak up, no matter where I am, and no matter whose company I am in. I speak up because there is no one who knows me who also does not understand one very true thing about me – I am not just proud – I am also what the majority of us are, 9th island proud, and Maoli Strong. This is what we are without, not only here on the mainland, but, throughout the entirety of us all. We do not have a real …ideal…of what is and more importantly, what is not Maoli Strong.
I could sit here and write another scathing account of someone else – someone else also Hawai’ian – trying hard to make me believe that I am somehow a lesser Hawai’ian, somehow damaged, because I was not born there. It was a fellow Kahuna Wahine on the island of O’ahu, a sistah named Danelle, who made me think, and I am still thinking, about what it means to know what is our own Maoli Awareness. It was not that she questioned anything, but, more that I felt as though I was, again, being questioned in terms of not how, but why it was that since I was sitting on my ‘Aina – the 9th island of Southern California, basically being told, again, that I am not a “real” Hawai’ian, not a “real” Kahu.
That is so not how it happened, so not how things turned out.
Instead, I was more inclined to question myself in terms of my own Maoli Awareness, my own ability to see me as me, as the me who is Kahu, who is Kanaka Maoli, who is a Medicine Woman having the very nerve to meld what is my Hawai’ian ancestry with the ancestry of many of my soul family – Native American People here in Southern California.
(By the way…the 9th island, because there are so many of us here now, constitutes as being the 48 contiguous states and not just SoCal and damned surely NOT Las Vegas, NV. Seriously – go and see what I mean…we are everywhere.)
I realized very quickly that Danelle was NOT questioning my validity – she was actually trying to connect with another Kahuna Wahine, and I am glad that it was me.
She showed me that no, not everyone in the ‘Aina is judging us here, and that indeed, she also knew that it is a very touchy subject. What she also knew, right away, was what another sistah from the ‘Aina figured out – a sistah named Ling (Hui…sistah…pe he’a ‘oe?)…not only am I Hawai’ian proud…but I am like they are – I am fuckin’ Maoli Strong. We should all be so very strong, because being Maoli anywhere is something to be proud of, something to let the very world see…and especially the world of others with whom any one of us shares ancestry. Our is indeed an very proud, very strong ancestry, much like the Vikings, much like the Native Americans…very much like any other indigenous island people.
We are strong and proud….Maoli Strong…Maoli proud
Maoli Strong…it simply means that you know who and what you are, no matter where you are, and no matter who says what, no matter what.
There are lots of people who know me well enough to know, too, that what I am is the very epitome of this thing called Maoli Strong. Kanaka Maoli – that is what we are, what we all are, what we are meant to be and to portray to the rest of the world of people, but mostly, to the rest of the Kanaka Maoli...yeah…I’m gonna go there – the rest of the Native Hawai’ians….and we are, the very all of us, by right of the idea that ALL of our ‘Aumakua hail from that island chain in the middle of the sea….we are all Kanaka Maoli….we are ALL Native Hawai’ians...no matter who says what, and no matter who wants to debate with me about it.
No one has the right to tell anyone else who they are, who they should be proud of being, what it is that the rest of the world of people who think they are protecting anything at all wants to believe. No one – no, not even a damned Hawai’ian living in Hawai’i – has the right to strip another Kanaka Maoli of their identity, just because these people who live there and who see us here as the enemy, say that their truth is the only truth.
It is NOT.
We are not damaged, and you are not the ones to have the last say so as to who is, and who is not, allowed to wear the colors of all of our indigenous roots.
The truth of the matter is that no one can say who is, and who is not, allowed to proclaim this birth right, specifically if they,themselves, are a child of the islands. It is not anyone else’s to proclaim, and no one’s to claim only for themselves or for certain people in certain zipcodes with certain cities on their certificates of birth, this idea, this sense of having Maoli strength, of having island pride, of calling and identifying one’s own self as Kanaka Maoli. Being so has nothing to do with zipcodes, with places of birth, and everything to do with what was passed down to the each of us in terms of our own and inborn Maoli Awareness.
I might not live on an island, but I am ‘island’ …in fact, I am 9th island, and there is not a thing wrong with it.
No one can take this away from any of us -this sense of being strong and proud, no matter what side of the ocean we call home. It is all Ka’aina – all the land, so long as Maoli feet traverse it. Wherever we are, Hawai’i …hell…Polynesia is there, too. Where our feet and and the ground meet, wearing shoes or not – wherever we are, so, too, is our island home, so, too, should be our Maoli Awareness.
“Hawai’ian is Hawai’ian” (Auntie Lyann Pukini Maika’i)
…my Auntie Lyann, she used to be my neighbor in the high desert, and when I was alone and down, she would remind me that I was not far from the ‘Aina as long as she was down the street. Just like my mom tells everyone -when you are at her house, you are not in the mainland – you are in Hawai’i, because no matter where we are, any one of us – wherever we are, so, too, is there the ‘aina.
It is not now, nor has it ever been a geographical thing, at all. It is a soul thing, an inner knowing thing, this thing called Being Maoli strong and having this sense of pride that no matter what, the one thing no one can change is that we are here, and we are strong and proud, and we are not going to allow anyone to tell us otherwise, not going to let another person tell us who is and who is not allowed to call themselves Kanaka Maoli.
I am Hawai’ian, dammit, and no one has the right to tell me that I am not, and no one has the right to tell anyone else that they are not, by manner of their zipcode, Maoli or not Maoli, because Maoli is not only a blood quantum thing, but a pride, heart and soul thing. My other half would tell anyone at all that my rendition of being Kanaka Maoli is the purest, truest version of it, because I am the real me, at all times, and the real me is, at all times, fiercely, proudly Kanaka Maoli.
I am a Maoli Girl…a Hawai’ian Medicine Woman dancing Hula under the moon, wearing slippahs and a lava-lava… and I know this is the truth, that this is my truth…my other half – he would tell you this. Anyone who truly knows me would tell anyone else this.
I am Hawai’ian.
I am island.
I am Native.
I am Strong and Proud in this Awareness…strong and proud in the Maoli Awareness.
Strong and Proud
I have known what this means since I was a child, because this is what I was taught. I do not know how it was that I saw through all of the phony religious crap that was force-fed to my tiny little Maoli Soul, but, I learned enough to know what it meant, even at a very young age, all while I was taught, too, about these hatreds that are unfounded, that are between people over a geographic location over land that belongs to us all and NOT just the ones who have named themselves the chosen few. It is all of ours, from the mountain tops where we all feel the pride of being a Spiritual people, to the reason why we gathered there recently, because the sacred mountain needs no more telescopes, needs no more discoveries, just because someone who has no ties to that mountain understands that Mauna Kea is far more than just another mountain – it is ours.
She is ours.
It is the ultimate altar, and in the name of science and grant money, again we are told that it is not important.
It is important, obviously, and we are here with the common goal of preserving what is sacred to us all, including the land. We are all a part of the land, a part of the magic that is Hawai’i and being Hawai’ian…part of being born Polynesian….
We have a right, as well as a Rite, the very all of us, to make certain that the rest of the world understands that we are not separate from them or it -we are simply behaving in the manner that we were taught, and all of us, I like believing, were not brought into this awareness to not know who we are. We were brought here and to this lifetime, the very all of us, the very ones who have been spoofed, time and again, as unkempt and wild savages, have been thought of as lazy and stupid, have been thought of as being nothing more than a group of people who wear grass skirts, who grunt when we talk, who look past the idea that what we are told of us and about us is the truth, and lots of us live down to the ideal that someone else gave to us.
Sure, there are people in my life who spoof me, in terms of bones through the nose and in terms of cannibalism, but, I know they are playing with me.
It is the rest of the world, the part of the world that thinks they know who we are, just because they have watched Lisette Flanary‘s American Aloha, or because yesterday they ate number 3 plate at L & L…people like believing that their rendition of anything is the truth, because it is what makes them comfortable. Nestled within that thought about us, there is this …ideal…that somehow, we really are these crazy raffia wearing savages, heathens and devil worshipers, the sort who glorify in a hedonistic energy (so some of us do…and they are fine and good to do so…just because they are island, it does not place them above being human and having human tendencies, no matter what those tendencies are).
Nestled also within the energy that is “island” is a sense of pride that not even some of us understand or can wrap our heads around.
Nestled within that energy is the awareness that not a whole lot of people talk about, not a whole lot of people promote, the idea that who any one of us is, no matter what we call “The Mother Land,” matters. It is not about black lives, white lives, this life or that life being more important than another’s – all life matters, period.
This is the way of the Maoli, of the island, of the Kanaka, and this is the way that I lead others, teach others, guide them back to themselves, to the Native heart of them, where their Maoli awareness lives, even while maintaining their game face selves, because all of it matters.
Awareness matters…because without our own awareness of who we each are as individuals, we cannot ever know who we are when we are with others like us.
Our awareness as Maoli people, as indigenous people, as island people, no matter what island, no matter what part of Polynesia our heritage stems from – we are Kanaka Maoli, Native People …we are Maoli Strong and Island Proud, as well we ought to be.
No Matter What
No matter what, you are who you are because that is who you are meant to be. That you are you is one thing, but that you are ‘island’ is a totally other energy in and of itself.
Stop beating yourself up, and more, stop judging others for who you think they are not. This is not a message that is talking to any one group in particular, but is, instead, a message that is meant for us all, ‘island’ or not. Being strong and proud, not only of ourselves, but also of who we came into this world as is the thing that the very each and all of us are supposed to practice on the daily.
Specifically, now, I AM talking to anyone who is ‘island’ and reading this.
We have GOT TO stop seeing what is different between us all, and embrace who it is that we each and all are. We can continue to look at zipcodes and blood quantum, or we can choose, instead, to grow our awareness as Island people, regardless if it is an island in the middle of the vast sea, or, of course, it is the island which a whole, whole lot of us call “the 9th island,” and also, the only island that we have ever called home.
Malama Your ‘Aina, no matter if in the distance it is that you see the top of the volcano, or if it is that you can see the Southern California skyline at twilight, the Lousiana Bayou as your shoreline, the very joy and chaos that is the east coast’s New York…when you Malama your ‘Aina – when you care for the land that you call home, the land that is your own specific and special 9th island – care for it, love it, make it your Hawai’i, your Samoa, your Tonga, your Tahiti, your Maori Village.
Care for it.
Adorn it in leis, paying homage to the ‘Aumakua, regardless if your ‘Aumakua wore slippahs, or snow shoes….like my Auntie Lyann said, still says “Hawai’ian is Hawai’ian…no mattah what!” Embrace your island selves as your island selves, and embrace that which is your ‘aina, no matter where it is that you call home.
Embrace who you are. Dive into your Maoli Awareness. Know that you have been sent to this lifetime and this collective awareness for whatever is Spirit’s Divine and Holy Kuleana that you have been sent to this lifetime for. Allow others to know you as your Moali self, strong and proud, no matter where your ‘island’ is.
You are Maoli Strong, and Island Proud…
Go live it…