by Malia Akutagawa

Indigenous Communities as Kīpuka

Molokai is an island whose population has maintained strong ties to cultural traditions and practices. It is not a culture of exclusivity, but one that provides pathways and inroads for all to prosper. Intact native communities like Molokai who provide an honored place for their kupuna (elders); cherish their kamali`i (children); maintain a sense of community and kuleana (sacred responsibility) to each other and to their place are as kīpuka (oases) in an increasingly unfriendly world. Like the kīpuka that serve as islands of abundance where vegetation gathers and bores through hardened lava beds, some native communities persist and serve to teach us how to return to ourselves and restore our relationship with each other and the natural world. These kīpuka are the seed-bearers, ready to plant the pulapula (seedlings) that come from the collective `ike (knowledge) passed from the elders. As the world grapples with the consequences of excess, it searches for these kīpuka to learn how to live pono (in right relationship).

Wealth as Momona

The global economic, environmental, social, and spiritual crises are all linked. They are one and the same – the byproducts of a dysfunctional system that dehumanizes the human and dispossesses him from land, family, community, and culture.

The prevailing free market and free trade economic model is predicated on unfettered profit generation and production, and the false presumption of an infinite line of credit extended by Mother Earth. The irony of this method of wealth accumulation is that it exists from the perspective of lack and of fear. It is not a “free” market in the sense of free and accessible to all; but necessitates inequitable apportionment and the subjugation of the many by the privileged few.

The greatest contribution we as a community can make is to teach and model for ourselves and others the true meaning of wealth. True wealth is measured by the depth of our generosity, in how much we give and share, rather than how much we accumulate for ourselves. Wealth means to ho`iho`i, to give back in appreciation for what is received, to plant two trees in the place of one taken.

My 90 year old grandmother often says as many of the old-timers do, “The ocean is our ice-box.” We knew of the ocean’s abundance, so we harvested only what was needed for our family and to share with kupuna and our neighbors. In a collection of oral histories gathered by the Bishop Museum, my great-grandmother Ha`aheo was interviewed. She mentioned offhandedly the abundant schools of fish in the shallows, so much that one could easily kick at them and catch by hand whatever was needed for the table. I never thought I would witness such a phenomenon that was an every day occurrence in my Tutu’s life. Yet I was fortunate to see it one late night on my drive home turning the corner of the ancient Kūpeke Fishpond, a cacophony of sound as heavy rain pelting a tin roof made by thousands of fish spawning and writhing like earthworms clustered tightly together. It was an epiphany for me. I realized that when my Tutu knew only abundance, when her mindset was always momona, her world then was one that encompassed everyone. Sharing and giving was a natural state of being. Without a lack, there was never a need to hoard, never a need to compete for resources.

As climate change and global economic collapse ignite collective fear, many seek sustainability without much of an understanding of what sustainability means. The movement for sustainability requires the mindset of momona as reflected in our expanded thoughts and our dedication to re-creating an abundant Earth. Our practices to renew our planet, to revitalize our economy, to rehabilitate our communities and our families cannot be based in fear but on the understanding that momona, the re-creation of “more than enough”, tempered by an ethic of conservation and replenishment for what is taken, is what is called for our times.

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