By Staff Sgt. Mike Meares, 15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 17, 2009
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- The deep resounding blast of the pu, or conch shell, echoed across Hickam Harbor, turning everyone's head announcing the arrival of the official guests and the opening of the Makahiki -- a keyhole view of the past.
Hickam opened the shores of Hickam Beach Nov. 14 to welcome guest paddling in on an outrigger canoe, signaling the opening the 7th Annual Kapuaikaula Makahiki, an ancient Hawaiian celebration known as "A Hawaiian Thanksgiving." Kapuaikaula, the site now known as Hickam, was an important place that appears in oral traditions and stories. Organized by the Oahu Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, paddlers in a double hull canoe carrying Lono, the deified guardian of agriculture, rain, health and peace, made their journey from Iroquois Point to Hickam Harbor for the event.
"The Makahiki anciently is viewed not only as an annual celebration to honor Lono, but was a celebration of a bountiful harvest much as we view Thanksgiving Day," said Shad Kane (pronounced Ka-Ne), a cultural practitioner with the Oahu Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs. "It was the time of the year when all the people of different districts would join with Lono and the chiefs and celebrate with food and games."
The Makahiki season starts with the simultaneous rising of the star constellation the Makali'i (Pleides) in the east and the setting of the sun in the west. That event occurs around the latter part of October. The Makali'i is seen for four months in the night sky into February.
"This is huge when you can have families come out and visit us and take a peek at what our ancient Hawaiian lands use to be like," said Col. Giovanni I. Tuck, 15th Airlift Wing and installation commander, a native of Kailua, Hawaii. "For our families here who come from the mainland who just get to touch and go out of Hickam Air Force Base, this gives them an opportunity to understand the culture and history of this particular aspect of our Hawaiian islands here."
Once Lono was welcomed ashore, they began their huakai, or procession, from the landing site to the festival grounds. Members of civic clubs and the Hawaiian royal orders were gathered among the honored guests. Kapuaikaula Makahiki featured Native Hawaiian olis, or songs and chants, and an exhibition of games during the traditional cultural celebration.
"It helps to educate not just our military families but also the local community of the rich cultural history of this area where Hickam Air Force Base is located, a history that finds it origins in the earliest settlement of these islands and our voyaging traditions," Mr. Kane said.
After the arrival of Lono, Mr. Kane welcomed the participants and guests and spoke to them about the history of the Oahu Makahiki and the Hawaiian's Tahitian ancestors. He explained that during this time in ancient history, war during the next four months is kapu, or forbidden.
"In ancient Hawaiian history, Lono is the embodiment of all the characteristics of peace and welfare. All warfare was strictly forbidden during the time of the Makahiki," the retired Honolulu Police Department lieutenant explained. "This focus on health and welfare made games of skill that tested a healthy body and mind a focal point for the Makahiki games."
The games the guests took part in were Ulumaika (rolling a stone disk through two stakes); Moa Pahe'e (rolling the wooden darts between two wooden stakes); O'oihe (spear throwing at a banana tree stump); Kakala'au (fencing within a circle ten foot diameter circle); and Hakamoa (one-armed, one-legged wrestling symbolic of a chicken fight).
One by one, participants tossed stones and threw spears, danced on one leg trying not to fall and squared off in the circle trying to win a coveted and prized, champions kahili. The kahili are feathered standards that traditionally carried varied meanings. Hawaiian nobility use the kahili to show status, lineage and family ties.
The Southworth family is one of those many Air Forces families who get to "touch and go" on the islands during a brief assignment to Hawaii. Arriving here in July, they have read about these types of events and a like to experience new things as a family.
"I think when you live in a wonderful place like Hawaii, you should really experience everything that it has to offer," said Barbara Southworth, wife of Lt. Col. Aric Southworth, 13th Air Force. "If you are coming here from somewhere else, this makes you feel like you are more of a part of Hawaii."
Mrs. Southworth and her children stepped up in the call from Mr. Kane came for folks to get involved. More than 20 Airmen, family and Hawaiian guests tested their mettle. The first game was Ulumaika, the rolling of a stone disk through two stakes. She immediately set the bar high with her first two throws successfully rolling though the stakes. As it turned out, she was the only wahine, or woman, to make it to the second round.
"I was feeling a little outnumbered," said Mrs. Southworth, who won the Ulumaika event and was ultimately awarded as the grand champion by the chiefs. "This is a blast. What a cool opportunity to experience cultural relevance."
She made it difficult by throwing her next two stones down the middle. Her competition in like manner made the first four and missed the next four throws. In the end, she split the uprights once to finish off her opponent and become champion.
"I thought it was fantastic that both children, women and men were all competing together," she said. "I thought what a fantastic partnership, both military and civilian, how wonderful to teach our children about the past."
The idea of bringing the Makahiki to Hickam began in 2003 with Col. Al Riggle, a former 15th Airlift Wing commander who wanted to bridge the gap between the base and the community by hosting a Makahiki festival. The Makahiki would provide an opportunity for positive interaction between the Air Force community and civilian and Native Hawaiian community.
"It allows us an opportunity to celebrate a cultural event that historically is appropriate to this place," Mr. Kane said. "It also allows us not only to honor our veterans on Veterans week, but also to honor those who have lived historically in this particular region."
The guests of honor at the Makahiki were the Royal Order of Kamehameha Hawaii Chapter, the Royal Order of Kamehameha 'Ewa Chapter, The Na Wahine 'O Kamehameha, the Oahu Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Hale Mua 'O Kuali'i, Palehua Nakoa, Kamaha'o Canoe Club, Ke'eaumoku Ohua, Na Wa'a Lalani and the Mayor Mufi Hanneman's office representative Clarisse Hashimoto.
"We walk away with a sense of knowing there is something bigger out there than what is on this base," Colonel Tuck said. "For the Hawaiians who came today, there's something bigger than what's in their ancient lands of old. We are warrior Airmen and they represent the finest of warriors that assembled these great seven islands into one under King Kamehameha."
Traditional History of the Makahiki
The Makahiki is an ancient, annual festival that was dedicated to Lono, the deified guardian of agriculture, rain, health and peace. For more than two-thousand years, the significance of Lono and his contributions to the beliefs and practices of the early Hawaiian people, influenced the celebration of events held during the Makahiki Festival throughout the Hawaiian Islands. According to the ancient lunar calendar of Hawai`i, the beginning of the Hawaiian new year began on the first night of the rising of the star constellation Makali`I (Pleiades). The four months following the rise of the Makali`I, from October to the end of January, was set aside as a time for Lono to give thanksgiving for the bounty of the land and sea.
During the time of the Makahiki, all warfare was strictly forbidden in reverence to Lono being the embodiment of all the characteristics of peace and welfare. Since Lono represented the spiritual life-force that came out of all agricultural efforts, the people celebrated with feasting of every kind during the four months of the Makahiki. This focus on health and welfare was also celebrated with games of skill that tested a healthy body and mind -- a focal point of the Makahiki games.
History of the Makahiki at Moku Umeume (Ford Island) and Kapuaikaula (Hickam)
The manner in which the Makahiki was celebrated on each of the main Hawaiian Islands varied as traditional Hawaiian land division influenced the Makahiki. The ancient Hawaiian word for island is Mokupuni. The early Hawaiians divided each of the mokupuni throughout the main Hawaiian Islands into large districts called Moku. Each of the moku was divided into pie-shaped parcels of land called `Ahupua`a. Each `ahupua`a were usually marked out by valleys that ran from the mountains to the sea.
During the time of Lono, each Moku on each island celebrated their own festivities held for the people who lived within that district. The athletic champions of each moku would them compete among the best athletes of other moku.
During ancient times, the Island of O`ahu was divided into six Moku. All the lands that surrounding and touching the waters of Pu`uloa (Pearl Harbor), comprised a complete view of the traditional district called Moku `O `Ewa. The Moku `O `Ewa district is comprised of thirteen `Ahupua`a. A complete, panoramic view of each of the thirteen 'Ahupua`a can be seen from the Island of Moku `Umeume (Ford Island). Moku Umeume is the only place where one can see all the `Ahupua`a of its Moku `O `Ewa district.
The early inhabitants of the area considered the Island of Moku `Umeume as an important place. The word "Moku" translates as "Island." The word "Umeume" translates as "to draw, to pull, or to attract." The name "Moku `Umeume" translates as "Island that draws and attracts." The given name "Umeume," describes the continued action of the streams and rivers of the thirteen`ahupua`a , that empty into the waters of Pu`uloa, and then flow toward Moku Umeume, touching the islands shores before reaching the mouth of the harbor, and then out to sea.
To the ancients, the life-giving waters from each 'ahupua'a that constantly touches Moku 'Umeume, not only physically enlarges the island from run-off, but it also spiritually builds and increases the Mana (spiritual power) of that island. For this reason, the ancient inhabitants of the Moku 'O 'Ewa considered Moku 'Umeume as the center of their moku and a place of spiritual strength, power and importance. It was chosen by the ancient inhabitants of the Moku `O `Ewa district, to serve as a place for important religious and cultural ceremonies including the Makahiki Festival.
According to Hawaiian historians, Kapuaikaula (Hickam) appears to have been a very important place in ancient times due to its frequent references in the oral traditions. It is the place where Kaopolupolu, Kahuna Nui under Kahahana was killed and taken to Waikiki where he was sacrificed. He, however, made a very important prophesy before he died. He predicted that all the lands of these islands would one day pass to a foreign power.
Interesting enough the very first lands were the lands and water of Pu`uloa as part of Reciprocity Treaty when Kalakaua gave these lands to the United States in exchange to ship sugar to the main land tax free. It is the same place where Kahahana, the last Mo`i of the island of `Oahu was killed and subsequently transported by canoe to Waikiki were he was sacrificed at the same heiau that Kaopolupolu was sacrificed. Kapuaikaula was well known in ancient times for its salt and fish ponds which were amongst the largest ever built by Kaihikapu-a-Manuia in the 15th century. He was the son of Kalaimanuia who was the daughter to Kukaniloko. Kaihikapu-a-manuia was also the father of Kakuhihewa.
Significance of the Makahiki in contemporary times
The Annual Makahiki at Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula is an important celebration of the past that will help redefine our relationship as contemporary people of Hawaii for the future. It parallels the western tradition of Thanksgiving. With respect to the Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula, Makahiki it will not only help to improve relationships between the military and Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian community but also establish an awareness of the rich pre-western Hawaiian traditions and history of the lands surrounding Moku Umeume and Kapuaikaula.
"What makes this event special is they bring their outrigger canoes right on to Hickam Harbor, which is an Air Force installation," Colonel Tuck said. "They come in all of their royal garb and present the face of Hawaii. It's a win for both communities, for our folks who live on this installation and work here a chance to see the Hawaiian culture in action; and then for all the Hawaiian natives who are here who understand the language all the way back to King Kamehameha, to have a chance to come out and say 'Oh, this is what the military is, this is what it means for them to protect our freedoms so that we can live the way of life we have chosen,' and in this particular case to represent the ancient Hawaiians as they traversed and navigated the islands for many many years since."
Kahili are "royal standards" Kahili (kah-HEE-lee) are feathered standards or "royal standards" used since ancient times by Hawaiian royalty. Similar to Europe's use of banners with coats of arms, Hawaiian nobility use kahili to show status, lineage and family ties.
There are many sizes and styles of kahili, from very small kahili-pa`a-lima (hand kahili) carried like a scepter by female chiefs, to the towering formal kahili. There are also many intermediary sizes which each have their own place in traditional regalia. They were present whenever there were chiefs in attendance. They announce the presence of chiefs.
The Kapuaikaula Makahiki symbolically had three chiefs present, the Hickam AFB commander (Colonel Tuck) serving of the chief of Kapuaikaula (Hickam), Ali'I AiMoku Arther Aiu of the Royal Order of Kamehameha 1 is the chief of Moku of Kona (Honolulu), and Ali'I AiMoku Mel Kalahiki symbolically was representing Keawemauhili who was one of Kamehameha's warrior chiefs who had helped Kamehameha unite all the islands. All the Kahili that were present including those that we did not put up because of the weather all have names representing chiefs who are no longer with us. The Kahili symbolically allow these chiefs to be with us. The Kahili serve as manifestations of their presence.
Historical information provided Shad Kane