School holds annual celebration that focuses on Hawaiian culture, tradition

ANAHOLA — As she watched her son and the other children play Makahiki games, Kahealani Pa couldn’t help but smile.

“The kids are so happy and they’re full of fun before they go on break,” Pa said as she held her infant daughter. “A lot of them are just enjoying it. I mean, look at their faces.”

Kanuikapono Public Charter School’s annual Makahiki celebration Wednesday was an educational experience for the students, volunteers and dozens of parents who came to be part of something special.

“This is a celebration of the season of Makahiki,” said Mauliola Cook, a cultural and performing arts teacher at Kanuikapono. “And it has been an important season for Hawaiians in time of memorial and there are many customary practices around Makahiki. It’s a very deep and profound subject. It’s a beautiful part of our history.”

Cook has a deep appreciation for Hawaiian culture and sees Makahiki as an opportunity to show that the spirit of Hawaiian culture and customs are still prevalent today.

“As a Hawaiian focus charter school, we try to practice and embed this culture as much as we can in our lives,” Cook said. “We feel as a Hawaiian focus charter school that it’s our responsibility; it’s our kuleana.”

The festivities began with an hour-long ceremony, spoken completely in Hawaiian by instructors and students. The ceremony was accompanied by hula and a special early graduation for two students.

From kindergartners to high school seniors, each student had an activity to do during the Makahiki games from spear throwing to ‘ulu maika, a game where participants roll disk-shaped stones between two pegs.

“Makahiki is important to celebrate because it’s a time of peace and you can gather around with your ohana,” said Lele Kealoha, a sixth grader. “And when you’re having Makahiki, you can prepare for war. My favorite part about today is spearing because we can throw far with it.”

Spear throwing and coconut tossing were popular games among the younger kids, in particular the kindergartners, who would throw a coconut underhanded and then chase after to it to see who threw their coconut the farthest.

Kindergarten teacher Sandra Naihe tallied the winner of each round.

“Makahiki is like what Thanksgiving is for American culture and Makahiki is for the Hawaiian culture. It’s for forgiveness and renewal,” Naihe said, as she wiped sunscreen on a student’s face. “It’s exciting for them because they’re not playing traditional games like baseball or basketball. They’re using coconuts and spears, using their bodies, learning sportsmanship as well as culture.”

On the other side of the field, the juniors and seniors were in a fierce tug of war, boys versus girls. The girls dominated, winning three out of four rounds handily. One boy blamed the loss on the grass because it was “too muddy and wet.”

But for senior Kyle Silva, it wasn’t about horseplay. Celebrating Makahiki was something he looked forward to every year he was in school.

“Every year we get to come together as a family,” he said.

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