We do it every day. So, why don’t we all have the same attitude and approach when dealing with nature?
Just as you pause, then knock before entering someone’s home (seeking permission to enter) …
Exchange expressions of warm welcome …
Then remove your shoes (so as to not soil their home) …
You behave with courtesy and respect while in someone else’s home …
Courteously declining what is offered, or only taking what you need …
And repairing/replacing anything you break or take, and …
Then departing with cordial exchanges and well wishes.
So, too, is one expected to act accordingly in nature.
Hawaiians had a similar way (from Maui Group Sierra Club) …
E ui no ka ‘ae
E mahalo aku
E komo me ka hō‘ano
Enter with reverence
I ka hele aku, e hoʻomaʻamau i ka wahi
When you leave, return it as you found it
Gathering of resources from the forest and other areas was strictly controlled by three main factors:
- the values and beliefs of the Hawaiian people;
- the strict, often specialized, gathering protocols; and
- the traditional system of land use, which limited the area from which people could collect
“The Hawaiian people followed protocols when they gathered and harvested from native ecosystems. These required that the gatherers prepare themselves spiritually before setting out and that they maintain an appropriate mental attitude before, during and after collecting the desired materials.”
“The physical process of gathering always involved going about one’s business quietly, asking permission, giving thanks, and treating the plants or animals to be collected – and everything else in their environment – with respect.”
“Every aspect of the gathering process, whether mental or physical, spiritual or practical, was reflected in a single guiding principle: ‘treat all of nature’s embodiments with respect.’ The overall effect of this attitude was to minimize the impact of gathering on native ecosystems.”
“‘Entry chants’ were offered to ask permission of the forest or other plant community for entry and to protect the collector from misfortune.”
“The chants were an expression of the gatherer’s respect for and good intentions toward all of the beings that lived there, including the akua, plants, animals, rocks, streams, etc.”
“Similarly, chants were offered before any plant was collected, out of respect for the plants themselves and for the akua to whom those plants were dedicated.”
“A quiet demeanor not only displayed the appropriate attitude of respect, but it allowed the collector to be alert to signs that were ‘bad omens.’”
“For example, some signs might indicate that a particular plant should not be picked for medicinal purposes, as it might make the medicine bad.”
“Other signs might indicate that this was not the right time for collecting anything at all, and that the collector should turn around and go home.”
“Plants and plant parts were removed carefully, and one never took more than was needed. Ferns were broken carefully at the base of the frond, taking care not to uproot the plant.”
“Besides showing appropriate respect for the plant, this conservation ensured that the plant would survive and remain healthy, so that it could produce more fronds later. Similarly, other plant parts were removed in ways that minimized the impact to the plant.”
“Gathering typically was spaced out in some way, taking a little here and a little there, as expressed just above. According to several other kupuna, the reasoning behind this practice was that it prevented the other plants of the type being collected from becoming lili (jealous) and squabbling among themselves.”
“Ecologically, of course, this practice helped to ensure that no area was completely stripped of a certain plant species and that harvesting could be sustained.”
“Most people would agree that these gathering principles embody appropriate treatment of those we love and respect. For example, when we enter the home of a friend today, we usually ask permission; we try not to impose on their hospitality or damage their home.”
“So it was that Hawaiians approached gathering from native ecosystems – good manners and plain common sense guided their behavior.” (Anderson-Fung and Maly)
Bill Darnell says
This sounds nice and pono. Happy natives off in the forest gathering what they need, while ensuring sustainability for future generations. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is more of modern concept. Pre-contact Hawaiians didn’t significantly harm the ecosystem simply because there weren’t enough of them to do any lasting harm. However, they and their ali’i were just as susceptible to greed as anyone else. Need proof? Look around and see how many iliahi trees are left.
Despite this disagreement I enjoy your posts…keep it up.
I am just wondering when the time of behaving correctly stopped. Obviously, some time prior to, during and especially after Kamehameha died which can be seen in the destructive collection of Sandalwood from 1790’s to 1830’s.