Hawaiian traditions establish a reciprocal relationship between people and living systems. Hawaiian culture evolved in the embrace of native ecosystems, land and sea.
As a result, Hawaiians developed an intimate relationship with their natural setting, marked by deep love, knowledge, and respect of these places. Exploring the Hawaiian relationship to the land reveals a service relationship; not land serving people, but people serving the land. (TNC)
If apathy is the enemy of positive action, then generating a caring relationship is the key to maintaining positive stewardship.
Hawaiian cultural elements pertinent to this include the ʻaumakua (ancestral god) relationship, holding that deified ancestors can take the form of native plants and animals, and the related kinolau concept, wherein living plants and animals may be a physical manifestation of a god, and thus held sacred. (TNC)
The foundations for this relationship can be seen in the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian chant of creation, thousands of lines long, in which people appear long after other living things, which themselves precede even the gods.
Hawaiian tradition holds we are the direct kin with the living elements of native ecosystems. Humans are the youngest siblings in the genealogy of creation, and the youngest are charged with care of the family elders. (TNC)
The natural world extends its kinship influence all the way up to the moral and spiritual basis for behavior; what is allowed and what is restricted. (TNC)
Wao Kele o Puna’s post-Contact history includes activities such as gathering of pulu and sandalwood, ranching, sugar plantations, and logging. Today, remnants of these activities such as old railroad tracks and artifacts like historic glass bottles can still be found in Wao Kele o Puna. (Kumupa‘a)
Currently, cultural traditions continue to be practiced and perpetuated within Wao Kele o Puna as illustrated in our ethnographic interview section. Notably, Wao Kele o Puna is still used to gather plants for medicinal and cultural purposes; to hunt pigs for food; and most importantly, to conduct cultural protocols to connect with nā akua, ʻaumākua, and kūpuna. (Kumupa‘a)
Native plant restoration and use is intricately connected to the overall health Hawai‘I’s ecosystems.
Being a practitioner doesn’t only come with gathering but it comes with taking care and kuleana. This part of the process is still missing. If the resources are being used, practitioners need to have some kind of responsibility to give back to the place.
Hawaiians consider native plants and animals as family and have a strong spiritual connection to the mountain landscape and the forest itself. Gathering plants such as ferns, maile, flowers, fruits, and other materials cannot be perpetuated into the future unless the forest remains relatively pristine. (Kumupa‘a)
“For all their proofs of aloha, Hawaiians did not tolerate people who took advantage of the ‘system.’”
“To believe otherwise is to misread the Hawaiian sense of fair play and reciprocity. Whatever some modern Hawaiians may want to think, pure altruism was not the basis of sharing.”
“Honest labor determined how much reward one man received as his share of the harvest. Given the size and intimacy of the micro-economy, in which no person’s actions could go unnoticed, a laggard would not have profited from his laziness.”
“Nonetheless, judging from the number of proverbs warning about the consequences of idleness, improvidence, duplicity, and other related faults, the people of old must have known enough misfits who tried to cheat the system.”
“Still, the stability and vitality of the social economy were established on such values as fair play, reciprocity, and honest effort.”
“All this confirms the impression of a society that was controlled and orderly.”
“While some modern folk might prefer to believe that such a disciplined populace was the product of stern and oppressive overlords, credit for that discipline is better given to a willing and obedient people. In Hawaiian society the willingness to give was all-important.”
“This, in turn, was related to two allied values: generosity and hospitality, because both meant sharing one’s possessions with others. To the Hawaiian mind the leader of a group, particularly a chief, set the standard of generosity.” (Kanahele)
It is expected that all who enter will do their share.
Participate – rather than ignore
Prevent – rather than react
Preserve – rather than degrade
No one constituency, no one community, no one resource management entity has the sole responsibility for and jurisdiction over the resources. Each of us shares the responsibility for the protection and preservation of our natural and cultural resources.