Attracted to Maui? It's not just the sun, the beach, and the magnificent ocean and mountain vistas. It's the people -- the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) -- we have to thank for Aloha and 'Ohana: two important concepts which make Hawaii such a special place. Without native Hawaiian culture, there would be little to distinguish these beautiful islands from any other archipelago in the Pacific.
As more and more malahini (outsiders, strangers) arrive to make this island their home, they bring with them their own customs and traditions -- some are beautiful iterations of the island's aloha'aina (love of the land) underpinnings, and some not truly in keeping with the harmony of the island.
Hokulani Holt-Padilla is a well-known educator and Hawaiian cultural historian. It is the written word of this respected Kupuna (Elder) which gives us insight into the magic of a culture which draws people to Maui from around the world:
"The 'ohana is the single most important group in Hawaiian society. We literally can translate the word 'ohana to mean "family." However in ancient Hawai'i, the 'ohana was more then just the immediate family members. It was also the extended family which was made up of grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and even those who had already died.
"Without the concept of 'ohana a person would not be able to survive on a small island in the vast Pacific. It took the joint effort of many people to be able to prosper in a subsistence lifestyle. One person or one small nuclear group would not be able to grow all the food they needed, be able to build the number of structures necessary to live, nor gather enough raw materials to make all the tools, containers, clothing, rope, thatching and the numerous other things needed for daily life.
"Let's take for example a young man who would like to marry. Without the help of the 'ohana, how could he build a sleeping house, men's eating house, women's eating house, storage house, cooking shelter, etc. Who would help him prepare his lo'i kalo (taro paddies), dig his auwai (waterways), build up the supporting banks, plant, clean and harvest his kalo? Who would help him build his canoe, make the yards of lashings necessary to sail it, make and mend his nets or help him pull in his catch? Without 'ohana, none of these are possible.
"The 'ohana though, is more than physical survival. The 'ohana is also spiritual, mental and societal survival. It is through the 'ohana that one learns about religion, the family craft or skill, genealogy, history, medicine, how to placate and petition the gods, the prayers, offerings, names and attributes of the pantheon of Hawaiian deities.
"It it also in the 'ohana where one learned acceptable behavior, etiquette and manners and the many other things needed to be a functioning member of the society.
"There are many values and philosophies fundamental to Hawaiian society, all learned through 'ohana:
"Aloha: Affection, love, deep seated feeling between people and the land; respect, and reciprocity. (Examples learned in my 'ohana: Aloha ke Akua (love God); Aloha kekahi i kekahi (love one another); Aloha'aina (love of the land).
"Aloha is a deep seated love, the kind that wells up inside from your na'au (center; lit.: intestines). Not a casual "Aloha Spirit" which may be free and common place. This kind of Aloha is felt by a kupuna (grandparent or elder) for their mo'opuna (grandchild); is felt when you see your homeland after along absence and you weep; is felt with awe and reverence.
"Ho'okipa: Hospitality. This is probably what most people term the "Aloha Spirit." Every society and people have some form of ho'okipa. There is "Southern hospitality," "New England hospitality," and a host of other localities associated with hospitality. All of them have to do with making others feel welcome, at home and at ease. It is probably only in Hawai'i that we share this with everyone equally and unconditionally.
"Laulima: Cooperation, people working together; 'Many hands do short work.' (example: hukilau [fishing with nets], baby or wedding lu'au [party or feast], 'raising the roof,' etc.).
"Kokua: Help, assistance given, one to another (example: helping with chores, school work, etc.)
"Kuleana: Responsibility. Each individual took care of their responsibility and all the necessary work was completed. If one 'ohana member did not do his share, someone else would have to do it or the 'ohana suffered. Being responsible to the 'ohana meant being responsible to the community and the society.
"For example: It is your kuleana for keeping the fishing nets cleaned, mended and in good repair. If you neglect your kuleana, your 'ohana would suffer by not being able to fish that day. If your kuleana is to care for keiki (younger children) and you are lax, harm could come to them.
"'Ike: To see, to understand, to recognize, to acknowledge, to know, as your 'ohana or for accomplishments.
"'Ike aku, 'ike mai; kokua aku, kokua mai; pëlä iho la ka nohona 'ohana (Recognize and be recognized: help and be helped; such is family life). For example, 'Show Face:' An 'ohana member must attend funerals, weddings, birthday celebrations, baby lu'au, kiss Aunty, your cousin, or anyone else you may or may not know.'
"Hanai: To feed, to care for -- especially the children! This is a concept that goes beyond the western concept of adoption. It is yet another extension of the 'ohana. Kupuna would take a grandchild to raise as their own. The child was always wanted, whether parents were married or not. It cemented the bond between the families. Sometimes in royal families it could be political too. A child out of wedlock was rarely given outside the 'ohana.
"Today many of these 'ohana-learned values and philosophies have been forgotten and are not practiced in Hawaiian families. As the extended family gives way to the nucleus family, as families no longer live on ancestral lands, as we become more mobile and no longer live close to our family members, and in an effort to be civilized and modern, we have begun to lose those things that are really important. But if each of us can take one or two of these values and consciously practice them and teach them to our own 'ohana, then those things that make Hawai'i the special place that it is, can be perpetuated and can grow."