LIHU‘E — For ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani, it’s all about the culture.
And the land.
And the language.
On a one-man quest, though not alone, he is on a journey that easily could take the rest of his life, to let anyone who will listen, particularly Kanaka Maoli, that the islands are in danger, that it is imperative that the culture and language not be lost, and that re-learning how to live when life was much simpler might not be such a bad idea.
On that last thought, he pointed out that Kanaka Maoli have a 12,000-plus-year history that included no war, with the predominant mantra being that God takes enough people through other means, so he doesn’t need the help of wars to take more lives of children born in the islands, ‘Imaikalani said.
Essentially, he has chosen to live with open hands and open palms, like mothers caring for their young, rather than with clenched fists ready for war or other fighting.
Where there is war, males and females are separated, and males are separated from their female or feminine sides, he said.
‘Imaikalani, on a mission after being chosen a prophet by his ancestors and undergoing nearly 13 years of training wherein his deceased ancestors continue to speak to him and otherwise guide him, was told by those ancestors — he sometimes refers to them as his “grandmothers” — to give away all of his worldly possessions (which at the time included a large, beautiful home in Washington state, fast cars and fast boats, and an envious lifestyle that in today’s lingo would be considered “living large”) and take a huge leap of faith that his unpaid work to revive his native culture will somehow provide a life for him and wife Inette Miller ‘Imaikalani that doesn’t include starvation.
On at least one occasion, they said they went several weeks without eating anything. On another occasion, with no money in their pockets and no set direction, a voice told them to make a right turn in their borrowed vehicle, and shortly thereafter a phone call was received from a Kaua‘i friend telling them of a family member on the East Coast that would love to meet them and have them stay at his home. The home was exactly in the direction they were traveling when the call came, they said.
It has been that kind of journey for ‘Imaikalani, who has traveled to and from Hawai‘i and the Mainland without any form of picture identification other than a homemade card that has worked for him every time he has entered airports and airplanes.
Personally, giving away all of his earthly possessions represented a sort of freedom. “It’s not about money anymore. It’s taken a lot to go back. It’s been a powerful, powerful force.”
He gave away the things “that kept me lit,” and sees giving away all of his material possessions as a “gift” given to him by his ancestors, he said.
His tutelage under the grandmothers largely was to reintroduce him to his culture, which he had not forgotten but had failed to learn sufficiently enough in his earlier years on earth.
“Don’t ever let them forget what’s important — the culture,” he said, likely repeating what his ancestors taught him.
His job now, he said, is “speaking about the culture,” and the deeper he gets into his native culture, the deeper his understanding of it becomes.
It’s about “raising consciousness, changing consensus,” he said. It’s about communing with the spirits, studying various histories, said ‘Imaikalani.
When he came back to Kaua‘i — or maybe more accurately was nudged or ordered back by his ancestors — he said he didn’t come back to ask for land.
“I didn’t want it. It’s not enough. I want all the land. I want all the islands. But for all of us,” in order to re-instill in all people Kanaka Maoli and otherwise what the ancient native culture represented, he said.
“It’s how we take care of ourselves, each other, and the ‘aina.” What happens in Hawai‘i can and should be emulated around the world, he said.
It involves many aspects, including ike hanau, or birth knowledge, things that we just know from the time of our births, he said.
“We all have that,” and it’s essential to use it. “It’s a gift to get back to.”
And it’s about everyone taking care of themselves, each other. The wind, rain, people, birds all have answers if one is willing to listen, he said.
“It’s about no fear. I think that when you live with no fear, it shows, and there’s something else.”
The ancient inhabitants were spiritual, not superstitious, and there was no such thing as fear, luck or coincidences, he said. “Where do you think the Hawaiians went for their knowing?”
They were 3,000 miles away from the nearest land mass, no streets to go down, so they went up, he said.
The voice is a calling card to the universe, and the whole universe is waiting to hear everyone’s voice, he said.
The Hawaiian power lies in the land and the people, and not just the Hawaiian people, he said.
“I don’t do this on my own. I am the bridge between the people of the islands and the people who have come to the islands and love the islands,” he said.
His grandmothers pointed out that the islands have always been very inclusive. “It’s not about closing the door. I want to see my Hawaiians healthy,” and for visitors to come to the islands to see cultural and spiritual signs of a thriving culture.
His ancestors said everything the islands’ natives put into the islands will always be here, principally their love for the islands, he said.
“The islands are dying. No one’s paying attention,” in part because “too much money is involved,” he said.
For that and other reasons, getting back to a simpler way of life could be just the tonic for what ails islands and people here, he said.
Ho‘okalakapua means standing in the light of your ancestors, knowing that the ancestors believe the umbilical cord is never severed, that ancestors may be dead but are not gone, he said.
Today that includes the need to live right. “It’s important to have good conduct at this time,” said ‘Imaikalani, adding that he’s seen a change in how people here are living and treating each other.
It involves what he calls a “force of loving,” a force he says nobody should want to stop.
“Life right now is awfully noisy and demanding. We need to get quiet sometimes,” for ourselves and others, he said.
There is so much out there to listen to, “if you take time to listen, to find a quiet place and time,” and ask what our destinies are.
“We have a role in that, a responsibility,” he said.
“It’s going back to essentials. We might even be stripped of what we don’t need. We have too much,” said ‘Imaikalani, adding that some of his friends are starting to understand that they have too much.
When the first inhabitants of the islands came here, it was with nothing but a spirit of love, and they integrated with the land and water to start and form their new lives here, he said.
There was no conquering, no demands. Wars only came when Kamehameha started killing natives in the interests of the British, he said.
He envisions a modern gathering of Kanaka Maoli, with a common interest in establishing a native nation and returning to a time when “they knew they were all related, and they knew their connection.”
In addition to being centered on the culture, it must also be grounded in the language, he said.
“If you don’t know the language you don’t know the people.”
And while he isn’t critical of various Native Hawaiian or Kanaka Maoli groups intent on establishing a native government or re-establishing the kingdom, he does question some of their tactics.
“My cousins haven’t been very inclusive in their teaching of the culture,” and their use of Pidgin English doesn’t serve their educational purposes well at all, he said.
In part it’s because they’ve lost their language, among other things.
“Everything they thought was going to be good was not,” and they have been left powerless, he said, specifically referring to the presence of locks and gates where traditional mountain and ocean accesses had been, and ill treatment of ancestral remains.
Still, they’re very passionate around their culture, and they mean well. “The factions are the power of all the people. It’s how you build a nation.
“We want the best for everyone, hoping they’ll eventually come around.
“I got a great plan. I’m sitting on the beach and I’m waiting, and I’m not moving. My people will come together when they hear the words sing to their soul.”
• Paul C. Curtis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org.