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Mo‘olelo of Mokauea

It’s been a whirlwind Fall for our Perspectives on Community Health field trips!  We worked in the culinary gardens with Māla‘ai on Hawai‘i Island, learned about engaging youth in agriculture at Waimea High School on Kaua‘i and, most recently, visited Mokauea island on O‘ahu. For this trip, we partnered with the Mokauea Fisherman’s Association to spend the day learning history, doing a beach clean-up, and planting native coastal plants.

The day started off with an oli, or chant, to set our intentions for the day as well as asking the island and surrounding waters permission to enter their space. We paddled out to the island in a double-hull canoe as Kehaulani Kupihea, our leader, shared stories of Ke‘ehi Lagoon. We were entranced by the stories of the fishponds that once existed from Honolulu to Moanalua, about the shark riders of Ke‘ehi, and of how our kupuna had lived and cared for this little island for centuries.

One mo‘olelo that really stuck with us was of the mano, or shark, that lived in a cave, deep in Kalihi valley. The people in the valley would care for the mano, bringing him food and other offerings. In return, the mano would swim down to Ke‘ehi through ancient lava tubes, and back up to the valley, bringing fish to his people.

This story epitomizes the definition of community and mālama. When we take care of others, they take care of us. The people attending the field trip took time out of their busy day to come and mālama Mokauea so we can help bring it back to its full potential. Kehaulani’s hopes are to utilize the island as a space for education and healing. One participant reminded us that the connection of the land and our health is in delicate balance. There is not one without the other.

Our takeaway: Mokauea is a very special place that holds so much history. As Kehaulani reminded us, we must know where we came from to know where we are going. It is important that we keep connected with the land and the stories it holds and share these stories with future generations.

See video and pictures of our trip here. (Click on #34)

Help mālama Mokauea here.