War and Peace: The challenges of staging modern-day makahiki celebrations on military lands


The challenges of staging modern-day makahiki celebrations on military lands

By Lisa Asato

Publications Editor

Twenty-first century makahiki festivals encounter modern-day challenges, such as coordinating with the military for access and trying to stay true to tradition, but festival organizers at a recent panel discussion said they are undeterred and continue to learn as they go.

“The difficulty organizing our makahiki with the Navy is simply one of ship movements, and given the extreme difficulty of moving the submarines we have to pretty much plan ahead,” said Shad Kane, who has helped coordinate the Moku‘ume‘ume(Ford Island) and Kapuaikaula (Hickam

Air Force Base) festival for about seven years. “There’s been some years where we actually had to slow up, pull alongside and let the sub pass.”

Speaking to a group of about 75 people at the Kamakaküokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies on Oct. 9, Kane and five other panelists covered everything from the relevance of makahiki in modern times to what they envision for future festivals. Scenarios included an island-wide event with shared opening and closing ceremonies and games among the winners of each ahupua‘a.

But a recurring theme was one of challenges and deciding how true to stay to tradition. “Can you have a makahiki with the food you grow in your ahupua‘a, or do you have to go to Costco and buy sweet potatoes?” asked Kaio Camvel, whose wife’s uncle, Sam Lono, revived makahiki at Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i in the late ’70s on the basis of freedom of religion.

The Hawaiian culture is a “living culture,” Camvel said, so it’s OK to reinvent at times. What’s important for the Mökapu festival, he said, is ceremony, welcoming diverse groups and sharing food and mana‘o.

Makahiki, traditionally a four-month-long season of peace, sport and honoring the Hawaiian fertility god,

Lono, starts with the rising at sunset of Makali‘i, or the Pleiades constellation. This year the season begins Nov. 17.

William Ailä of Hui Malama o Mäkua, said the challenges of holding a makahiki in Mäkua center around destruction of the valley, which is an Army training ground, as well as more fundamental questions such as: Am I good enough? Is my ho‘okupu good enough? Is my oli in the correct form?

“The answer to those challenges are found in the wind,” he said. At times, he said, 40 mph winds in the valley have stopped for half an hour while an oli was being chanted, and at other times the breeze will surge and “all of a sudden you get that cool wind pushing from behind.

That’s the demonstration that what you’re doing may not be completely right, but your efforts are being appreciated.”

Makahiki events

Moku‘ume‘ume (Ford Island) and Kapuaikaula(Hickam Air Force Base)

Sat., Nov. 10

At 7:30 a.m. Lono enters harbor in a procession including canoe clubs, with 8:30 a.m.

landing at Moku‘ume‘ume and 11 a.m. landing at Hickam Harbor beach, followed by festivities and games. Access is limited and participants must RSVP in advance to Shad Kane at kiha@hawaii.rr.com

Kualoa Regional

Sat., Nov. 17; setup,

Nov. 16 after 12 p.m.

Sunrise procession followed by games and potluck at 9 a.m. Games are limited to men, and

competitors must provide their own game implements. Attendees must provide their own food and drink and RSVP in advance by email to Umi Kai at ulupono1@gmail.com

Makua Military Reservation

Fri.-Sat., Nov. 16-17

Community access at 9 a.m. Saturday. To participate in the entire ceremony, call William

Ailä at 330-0376 for a training schedule or email ailaw001@hawaii.rr.com. RSVP is required.

Mokapu (Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i)

Fri.-Sun., Nov. 23-25

Processions, games and cabanas to accommodate about 200. Access is limited and participants must RSVP to Kaio Camvel at iolekaa@hawaii.rr.com


Thurs.-Sun., Nov. 15-18

Open to Kaho‘olawe returnees and cultural practitioners, the 2007 event is now closed as it requires paperwork and orientation to be completed a month in advance. For information on next year’s event, contact Kim Ku‘ulei Birnie of Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana at kkb@kahoolawe.org,808-383-1651 or visit www.kahoolawe.org/home/?page_id=7

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