Let the games begin

In the days when alii nui (rulers) and alii aimoku (high chiefs) ruled the Hawaiian Islands, the four-month long Makahiki season between November and February served as a key period of respite for most native Hawaiians. 

Wars stopped. Tributes were paid. Friendly, competitive games were held. And work in the fields ceased. 

“It was a time to replenish and renew and let the fields replenish themselves,” Julie Kanealii, event coordinator for Ahahui Kiwila Hawaii O Moikeha, said. “Once the season was over, the planting would begin again.”

To carry on that cultural tradition, the Kilauea-based native Hawaiian civic club will hold its free, second Ka Moku O Manokalanipo Paani Makahiki on Saturday at Kapaa Beach Park, where locals and visitors alike compete in traditional native Hawaiian games played during the Makahiki season.

Ten games will be featured, including haka moa (cock fighting), ulu maika (stone bowling), oo ihe (spear throwing), moa pahee (dart sliding), pa uma (standing arm wrestling), uma (arm wrestling), kukini (running), pohaku hooikaika (stone throwing), and hukihuki (tug-of-war). 

Awards will be given for each event. There will also be cultural demonstrations, community displays, a Kauai-made craft fair and food.

“It’s a connection to the past because we’re doing the same thing that our Hawaiian ancestors did,” Kanealii said. “It also promotes a healthy lifestyle by getting out and exercising and enjoying the camaraderie of the games.”

Kanealii said her idea for the communitywide Makahiki dates back to 1991, while she served as the coordinator for the Parent-Community Networking Center at Hanalei School. 

With the help of late Kumu Hula Peter “Pohaku” Nishimitsu, she organized the first Makahiki event between Hanalei and Kilauea schools in 1992 — a tradition that still continues almost 23 years later. 

Her idea for a larger Makahiki for the community, however, resurfaced in 2013 when her Hawaiian civic club, Ahahui Kiwila Hawaii O Moikeha, received their charter from the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.    

“We had been talking about it for a couple of years to do a bigger one for the community and we said, ‘Let’s go for it — we’ve got to start somewhere,” Kanealii said. 

After receiving a Hawaii Tourism Authority grant, the civic club partnered with the Hanalei Community Center, Hale Halawai Ohana O Hanalei, to put on the inaugural Ka Moku O Manokalanipo Paani Makahiki last year. 

Registration/check-in begins at 7 a.m. and gates open at 9 a.m.

Info: 635-9028


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