Lehua, Ka’ao a ka Wahine: A Hawaiian Noble Woman Comes of Age - The Land—The “A’ina”

"Hanalei Valley Taro Fields, Kaua'i", Taro farms in Hanalei Valley, Kaua'i, Photograph by Gene Parola, Creative Commons.

In the Kanaka creation mo'olelo (story) the god of creation, Kane, came into the void and flung a giant calabash into the air.  It broke apart and the curved part became the sky and the rest fell and became the earth.  The seeds that had been inside were scattered and became the stars.

Kane made Rangi god of the sky and Papa goddess of the earth. When the first man was made of earth, Kane gave him life and humans were bonded to the earth ever after.  The first son of Rangi and Papa died and was buried at the corner of their hale [house]. There sprouted the first kalo [taro] plant. The plant's mana [spirit] instructed the second son to plant and nourish kalo and it would provide for all children to come.

Kanaka, now further bound to the earth to nourish kalo, discovered that the lu'au huli [leaf cluster] cut from the corm of the plant would produce a new plant, meaning that the original plant might be the direct line ancestor of every plant in existence. A direct connection to the first human ancestor buried at the hale of the first godly ancestor.

Kalo, from which poi is made, became half of the basic diet (with fish) of the Kanaka.

From the sides of the kalo corm, small rootlets called oha [relatives] grew providing the word ‘ohana for family.

As the kane [men] became the kahuna [expert] botanists required to sustain large harvests, so there also emerged the kahuna of the fishery, and thus earth and sea became known as the ‘aina from which the population drew subsistence.

Agriculture advanced to the point where a single valley would have multiple heiau housing kahuna knowledgeable in the minutest climate difference of wind and rain. The important Manoa Valley, breadbasket for the ali'i residences of Waikiki on ‘Oahu, had 14 such heiau to provide guidance about what modern agronomists discovered, were 16 microclimates there.

It was learned that some kalo would thrive in flooded fields, swamps and estuaries, some others in regular plots of ground. The result was the cultivating of many distinctive kalo plants to thrive in the varied climates and soil. Modern agronomists still disagree on the actual double-digit number of plants. In valleys with flat floors, streams were sidetracked to provide water for a complicated system of individual clusters of loi [flooded ponds], which came to be regarded as the kuleana [responsibility] of the designated ohana.

Aina Painting Image Courtesy of Kamehameha Schools

Sluice gates were opened for a specific period of time, based on size and seasonal need of these loi.  The system's creation and maintenance was a community responsibility and an ohana could be ejected from a valley for failure to contribute sufficient labor. Early European arrivals were surprised that these Stone Age people could have designed, built and operated such a sophisticated system.  Along the paths bordering these loi and in stands nearby grew plants that were most often needed by the three-generation residents of the cluster of grass houses called kauhale. Most common were keko [sugar cane], which grew wild, ti and waukea.

Sugar cane was not used as a confection, but as a medicinal ingredient, while the ti or ki had a multitude of uses both practical and religious.  The waukea provided the bark from which kapa garments, bed sheets, swaddling clothes and sacred pennants were made.  It was apparent that all of the needs of the people could be supplied in a single valley.

Trees for fishing outriggers grew deep in the valley, food and clothing in the mid-valleys and fishing gear and boats at the shore.  Thus, each valley became known as an ahupua'a.

The kahuna of fishery, early conservationists, forbad reef fishing in the summer lest there be no reef fish when the winter weather prohibited trips into the deep ocean.  Each season there were near-shore schools of fish when the entire community would congregate in a great hukilau where large nets were placed just offshore and dragged in by the villagers at high tide, bringing many flapping fish to the beach.  Areas where particular kinds of fish appeared seasonally became known by the fish's name. Ka'a'awa town on Oahu's north shore is such a place, known for the congregation of a'awa.

The earth was tilled, sweet potatoes planted, the blessed rains came, and the winter fish migrated in abundance to close-by reefs.  Children arrived fat and squealing.  These children were hundreds of generations from the first who were born siblings of a kalo (taro) plant at the home of the Earth Mother and the Sky Father.

It is as natural to Kanaka to nurture the earth, as it is to tend a child or an elder or to protect any family member from harm or want.  As such, the haole [Caucasian] idea of ‘owning' the land was impossibly foreign to Kanaka.  The destiny of Lehua's people would turn on the malihini [newcomer] lust for their land and the threat to that interdependent family of poe (people), a'ina, kai [sea], ua [rain] and la [sun], which they had so long depended upon.

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Author: Parola, Gene 8stories and lessons created

Original Release: Feb 13, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

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"The Land—The “A’ina”" AwesomeStories.com. Feb 13, 2015. Jul 23, 2018.
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