Thursday, October 30, 2008

Musings: Re-Establishing a Presence

Rains kept moving through this morning, keeping my bedroom dark and the temperature cool, scuttling plans for a walk and repeatedly lulling me back into the pleasant land of dreams. And then suddenly I awoke, clear and full of energy and ready to move forward and respond to the demands of the day.

That's the same kind of energy that's going to be present up at Naue this Saturday, where the ongoing concern and respect for iwi kupuna — the bones of the ancestors — and the Hawaiian culture in general will be highlighted through a ceremony that will start at Naue and end at Ke`e.

The purpose is to bring the issue of Hawaiian burials into public attention, educate youth and non-Hawaiians in proper cultural protocol and re-establish a cultural and spiritual presence at Ke`e.

It will begin at Naue at 6 a.m. with the traditional hiuwai, or purification ceremony, with ho`okupu, or offerings, made to the kupuna who have been laid to rest there. Only traditional offerings — salt, lei made without string, native plants — should be brought.

Aunty Louise Sausen, who is helping to organize the event, also wants to line the street in that subdivision with flowers to bring attention to the other burials that have been discovered there, besides those at the Brescia property. For that activity, modern lei and tropical flowers will be accepted.

Then participants will march to Ke`e, stopping to sing to kupuna who are buried along the way, so as to make the younger generation aware of where these burials are located, she said.

At Ke`e, ceremonies will begin at noon with the blowing of the pu. Participants are asked to bring pohaku “because the Kupuna Council wants to make sure certain areas are blocked from people entering,” Aunty Louise said. “There’s been a lot of desecration going on. It’s a state park, so people think they can niele (snoop) around and go anywhere. These things have to stop. We need control.”

My friend Ka`imi Hermosura, who is among those restoring the lo`i at Ha`ena with Hui Maka`ainana o Makana, said the ceremony at Ke`e will be “all about restoring the energy, making it living.”

He and some of his friends and relatives — young men born and raised in Wainiha and Ha`ena — have been doing extensive caretaking work at Ke`e, as well as educating visitors about the high cultural significance of the area, which has burials, a heiau dedicated to Laka and other ancient features.

“This is a younger generation stepping up to the plate,” Aunty Louise said. “A lot of our young men are feeling displaced and this is a pu`uhonua (place of refuge) for these boys. It’s a very sensitive cultural area.”

I’ve been up to see the work that Ka`imi and “the boys” are doing and also wrote an article about it for Kauai People. It’s really inspiring to witness what they’ve accomplished, much of it by hand and all of it volunteer. These are young men who grew up fishing and hunting and living off the land, and they’ve seen their neighborhood change radically in their short lives. But rather than get pissed off — well, there’s a little bit of that — they’ve put their energy to positive use re-establishing a cultural presence among the hordes of tourists and luxury homes.

Anyway, if you’re like most Kauai residents, you probably avoid Ke`e like the plague. But this Saturday, you might want to venture up there mid-day. It’s not a protest or a demonstration, but a gathering with a spiritual and cultural essence. Bring a potluck dish and a pohaku and join in. It’s open to everyone, and I’m sure you’ll leave feeling better than when you came.

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