Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ho'omana'o 'Eha...

I wrote this almost ten-years ago and join in the remembrance of Naue by reposting it and remembering and reflecting...

Na wai e ho`ōla i nā iwi? Who will save the bones?

I had heard about the growing conflict on Kauai. In Wainiha, in an area known as Naue. Our precious and beloved iwi kūpuna again threatened by construction. This time, by a home on the beach in an area of Hā`ena already covered with vacation homes and rentals. As home by home encroaches upon the beach, our kūpuna, who lived in coastal communities, and who buried their ‘ohana in their kulaiwi, again face destruction, desecration, or eviction. Even in death. It was Mary Kawena Pukui, the noted Hawaiian scholar, who helped to define iwi as “the most cherished possession” of our Hawaiian people. I often ask myself, when did that change?

I received an email with a plea for kokua. Construction crews were scheduled to begin work in the Naue Cemetery where thirty kūpuna had been identified to date through archaeological testing. I knew in my naau that all my excuses of being overwhelmed with so many issues on so many islands meant nothing in the spiritual world. I needed to act. I felt kaumaha from not being on top of this case earlier. I felt kaumaha from so many burial cases on Kauai which passed before my very eyes in my previous job. Knowing that I could have always done more than I did. Knowing the kūpuna expected it. Knowing the kūpuna deserved it. Putting all my faith in their forgiveness for my shortcomings. Kauai is my precious kulaiwi. And I couldn't even protect the iwi of my own ‘ohana in Kalihiwai and Moloaa. I knew the system was broken now for many years. And the emails which came flooding in with the kāhea for Naue only confirmed it yet again.

When Trustee Cataluna requested that two OHA staff go to Naue for the June 24, 2008 gathering, and OHA Administration quickly approved it, I knew the kūpuna were offering me a way to redeem myself. Another Native Rights staffer and I caught a flight the next morning to Kauai. When we arrived and drove up to Hāena. We saw police cars, marked and unmarked, and Sheriff vans all driving about and headed up towards the North Shore. We feared the worst not knowing what had taken place at Naue earlier that morning.

When we arrived, law enforcement were scattered all throughout the neighboring communities in force. Staged away from the scene where only a few officers paced around at a distance. Kanaka began showing up in the early morning hours. Kaiulani, who had been courageously living at the site for months, Aunty Nani, Aunty Louise, Brother Hank, Brother Andrew, and so many others converged on the scene and joined their ‘uhane in honor of our küpuna.

The sound of oli kāhea, oli komo, the lamenting kanikau, oli Aloha, and pū permeated the air throughout the six hour standoff. He alo ā he alo. Face to face. Tears flowed. The mix of ‘eha, kaumaha, and Aloha created a strange stillness in the air. As the numbers of kanaka and hoa aloha increased, so did the law enforcement. The mix of people their to mālama the kūpuna, as well as those willing to get arrested, exhibited such a diverse representation of nā poe o Hawaii. Including mothers with small children. Some nursing babies.

The police chief arrived on the scene. Negotiations ensued amongst the ongoing backdrop of voices engaged in protocol. The sounds of the pū. The kane of the pa lua showed up in greater numbers. So did the law enforcement presence. Photography and videography ensued all over. The police filmed us. We filmed them. Others filmed us and them. Bearing witness to the tension and possible eruption of chaos which was omnipresent.

The kane of the pa lua entered the burial ground in formation. The police were invited to enter the burial ground by Kaiulani to pay their respects to the kūpuna. They entered with an oli kahea, pū, and oli komo. It was decided that the boundaries of the parcel would have to be determined before arrests for trespassing could be made. An inability to determine the makai boundary from an expired shoreline survey made the task so difficult that day that it was abandoned. There were no arrests on this day. The crowds slowly dispersed. The constant kiai present on the beach returned to their tents. We flew back to Oahu emotionally exhausted. Analyzing the events of the day. Wondering if we should have gotten arrested. Wondering what tomorrow morning would bring or the next kāhea. Asking Ke Akua and nā kūpuna for forgiveness for not knowing the answers.

I returned to Naue last Friday, July 11th, when the kāhea went out again. This time the dust fence was erected around the entire parcel and the sounds of a backhoe digging in the cemetery was heard. We tried to bear witness to the destruction. We spoke to our kūpuna on the other side of the black curtain so they knew why we were there. Also to remind ourselves why we were there. And as the kaumaha of the day settled in on the worksite, some of the workers rushed out to the beach in a confrontation. The police were summoned by both sides. No arrests were made but investigations initiated. Some things were said by some kanaka in the heated exchanges which brought forth the dark cursing power of our ōlelo. It made me sad. I think it made our kūpuna sad too.

Several kānaka were part of the construction crew. I knew their ‘eha was eating them inside by their faces. Young men. They said they had to feed their ‘ohana. I understand the capitalistic system which tears our ‘ohana apart. I have seen the ‘ohana fight each other for little pieces of ‘āina. The almighty dollar. I understand all too well e nā pokii.

I told these young kānaka workers that I love them. He alo ā he alo. Face-to-face. But I love my kūpuna too. And I don’t want anyone to get hurt on this project. So while we desperately work on legal intervention and a temporary restraining order, I know the work continues. We all make our choices in this life. And my heart and na`au hurt like Kaiulani. Aunty Nani. Aunty Louise. Brother Hank. Like so many others.

So I asked Ke Akua and our kūpuna to watch out for the kānaka on the job site. Because our beloved Queen taught us about love and forgiveness. About pono. And we just want to protect our precious kūpuna. Because we love them. They are all we have left to guide us into an uncertain future. Our most cherished possessions. And if I can not find it in my heart to forgive another kanaka. In the presence of my loving and forgiving kūpuna. Not only have I lost them. I truly have lost everything. Everything…