Letter to DLNR / Helbert, Haster, and Fee

Maya Saffery, June 2014

Aloha nō kāua,

ʻO Maya L. Kawailanaokeawaiki Saffery koʻu inoa. He pua nō au no ke ahupuaʻa ʻo Kailua e ulu aʻe nei i Kamakalepo i loko lilo o ke awāwa uluwehi o Maunawili. My name is Maya L. Kawailanaokeawaiki Saffery, and I was born and raised in the Koʻolaupoko district of Oʻahu in the ahupuaʻa of Kailua on the ʻili ʻāina of Kamakalepo in the back of the valley of Maunawili. I write this letter of support for the HHF/DLNR Kawainui Revised Master Plan as a practitioner of traditional hula who received my training and continues to practice my culture within the ahupuaʻa of Kailua, a Hawaiian language curriculum developer from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa whose research focuses on the importance of place to the education of Hawaiʻi’s children, but, ultimately, as a kupa (native) of Kailua who is calling out to those who will listen, “Mai kuhi hewa ... ola mau nā ʻōiwi o Kailua; make no mistake ... the natives of Kailua are still here.”

I began studying traditional hula in 1989 at the age of nine when my mother signed me up for Hālau Mōhala ʻIlima based in Kaʻōhao, Kailua, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu. I learn hula, oli, and mele that honor our gods, our royalty, our sacred places, and our histories. The words I continue to give voice to and the motions I continue to give life to are the same words and motions that my hula ancestors practiced for generations and that I continue to perpetuate into the future. We are taught in our hālau that researching the many-layered meanings of our mele and hula and then presenting them on the land for the purpose of honoring the place and remembering the people and events connected to that place are all part of what is required when you accept the kuleana to practice traditional hula. I take this kuleana very seriously. The HHF/DLNR Kawainui Revised Master Plan will allow hula practitioners of Kailua like myself to fulfill this kuleana while the plan adopted by the Kailua Neighborhood Board strives to sever our relationship to our place, thus thwarting us from fulfilling this kuleana.

I am also the Curriculum Specialist for Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language within Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The cornerstone of my philosophy as a Kanaka Maoli educator is my belief in the importance of place and its fundamental connection to the education of our students. By grounding our curriculum and pedagogy in the study of place, we are able to offer our students authentic learning experiences that connect to where they come from, who they are, and how they see the world. Students develop deeper relationships with the places they call home, thus inspiring and motivating them to become more actively engaged in the protection and stewardship of their own environments and the empowerment of their own communities. The most important outcome I want all participants in any curriculum I develop is to understand and truly believe by the end that:

Ola ka ʻāina i ke kanaka a ola ke kanaka i ka ʻāina. Pono kekahi i kekahi.

The land lives/survives because of the people and the people live/survive because of the land. We need each other.

This same understanding is driving the participation of many Native Hawaiian organizations of Kailua in the development and vetting of the HHF/DLNR Kawainui Revised Master Plan. We believe our voices are being heard and incorporated into this plan, which reflects this core understanding. The Western concept of conversation believes the ultimate goal should be to leave the land alone, build a fence around it, and remove all human interaction with it. That is their idea of a pristine environment. This perceptive is completely antithetical to the worldview of Native Hawaiians. We know that we come from the land itself. We believe that the land, the sea, the sky, and all creatures that exist in the universe are all our kūpuna as much as our human grandparents are. The kuleana that comes with this familial connection to our land requires us to develop and sustain meaningful, reciprocal relationships with our places, which means we must be physically present and engaged with our environment—telling and retelling moʻolelo on the exact sites where the events took place; reciting the moʻokūʻauhau (genealogies) of Kailua and its people in the presence of the kūpuna of Kailua, both seen and unseen; dancing hula at and about wahi pana (sacred, celebrated places) of Kailua from Konahuanui to Mokulua; cultivating our land and feeding our people from the land; and educating the next generation of kamaʻāina of Kailua on their homeland so the practices of their kūpuna will truly be living and not just words on a sign, placard, or brochure about some past people who no longer exist.

The HHF/DLNR Kawainui Revised Master Plan will allow hawaiians a permanent, visible presence in Kailua from Ulupō Heiau and Waiauia (the old ITT site at the entrance to Kailua town) to the peninsula below the City waste transfer station and below Kalaheo High School. The design of our four culture centers around the perimeter of Kawainui will honor the building practices and aesthetics of our kūpuna so that when people come into Kailua and see our kauhale, they will know right away that we are still here and have always been here. Mai kuhi hewa ... ola mau nā ‘ōiwi o Kailua; make no mistake ... the natives of Kailua are still here.

Na’u me ka ‘oia‘i‘o,

Na Maya Kawailanaokeawaiki Saffery