Whales, Kahoolawe, and Kanaloa
The history of this island goes back to the time of its birth. The pantheon of Hawaiian gods that includes five kane, or male, gods and five wahine, or female, gods. The Kane gods listed according to their importance are: Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, Lono and Wakea. The Wahine gods are: La'ila'i, Haumea, Hina, Pele-honua-mea and Papa. Wakea and Papa were a couple responsible for the birth of the Polynesian race.
Kanaloa and Kane were primordial gods from Hawaiian antiquity. Kane was regarded as a creator and the atmospheric god of light and clouds. He is revered as a creator due to his body forms of sunlight and fresh water being the vivifying elements for earthly growth. Kanaloa is the god of the ocean, ocean animals and fresh water found under the earth.
The native Hawaiian philosophy of Kanaloa will be presented to connect him with the island of Kanaloa, Kaho'olawe. This view of Kanaloa must be understood in order to recognize the endowment of the island bearing the name of the god Kanaloa.
The whale is the largest ocean form and a majestic manifestation of Kanaloa. From the ivory of this creature, the Palaoa or whale tooth pendant is made. The Palaoa was only worn by Ali'i of high rank. The scarcity and beauty of the whale tooth pendant made a connection to Kanaloa. The pendant also brought mana (power) to the carver, to the pendant and the wearer. A familiar scene in native Hawaiian culture is of whales parading through the 'Alalakeiki Channel between Maui and Kaho'olawe. This seasonal phenomenon reminds us constantly that from the time of our native Hawaiian ancestral migration that Kanaloa and his many ocean forms were continuously associated with the island Kanaloa.
The island of Kaho'olawe is a spiritual place. Kealaikahiki channel and the name Kaho'olawe are added for the relation of the god Kanaloa, the island Kanaloa with ocean travel and migration. Ke-ala-i-Kahiki is defined as "the pathway to Kahiki" and Kaho'olawe is defined as "actively taking something away". Both of these names pertains to the movement of ocean currents past the island.
Two very basic values practiced among the native Hawaiians for generations are the practice of giving names and the practice of learning a skill or tradition. This is the only island with the name of a major god. Therefore, the island acts as a Heiau, a Ki'i or a Kuahu. The Kumulipo reads: "Born are the sacred pain, Papa prostrated to Kanaloa, an island, He was born a fledging a porpoise. A fish child for Papa was born. Papa left, returned to Tahiti.<"p> The island of Kanaloa is large enough for habitation and small in scale to climb to the top and clearly see the ocean surrounding it. Currents, the rising and setting of the star constellations can also be observed. This island is the closest experience on land to being out on the open ocean. One can seek spiritual guidance for ocean tasks and experiences from the spirit embodied in the island bearing the name Kanaloa.
Kaho'olawe is a spiritual place for many Hawaiians, including myself. Only within the past two years have I been interested in this island that I once knew as "military bombing island". I heard a lot of talk about the PKO. So what was it? PKO stands for "Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana." I did my own research to find out what the big deal was about, especially because I did not think anybody cared if the island was being used for target practice or not. Through looking for answers I became aware of the history of the island. There are ancient chants before Kalakaua's era that are not in the findings. At the Bishop Museum Archives where I have done extensive studies of the island Kaho'olawe I have found very little information. Though there were archaeological findings by the conveyance commission, there were no documents of chants that I was looking for, for my research into Hula.
Kaho'olawe is my favorite place. A place of cleansing, a place of longevity. During the Makahiki season that was held on Kaho'olawe, a schedule of events occurred. The Kanahele sisters who are both active with Hawaiian culture studied and wrote several chants for the special event and planned to recreate the festival with other individuals such as Kumu Hula Hokulani Padilla, Keli'i Reichel, Davianna McGregor and many others. As expected, also, selected students from University of Hawai'i at Manoa and Hilo, and the outer islands as well; and surprisingly my aunty from New Zealand. My Aunty Napoleon shared her thoughts of visits with my family and she too has felt strong feelings about Kaho'olawe. She taught me a chant that the Kanahele sisters taught her, which they used during the festival. They did this chant at dawn until the sun came up. They also included the clapping of the hands which I had to practice. A Hawaiian minister who also attended the Makahiki festival uses that chant in his sermon. This minister is from Keaukaha, Hawai'i and when our Halau went to Merrie Monarch we went to his service and did this chant, "Aia Ka La." ("There is the sun.")
The importance of understanding the value of this island will help Hawaiian culture grow. Already the island has been returned to the Hawaiian people. Now researchers and volunteers have begun to grow food and plants on this desolate island. Hopefully we will be able to continue to nurture the baby island and utilize it as a way to educate the local people about our culture.