LIHUE — Cal Toyofuku of Lawai was among the stream of people who flowed through the gathering on the lawn of the Historic County Building under the strains of Hawaiian music and the chatter of young people from the Punana Leo School.
“I used to ku‘i a lot when I was hungry,” Toyofuku said, taking pride in using the wooden scraper gifted to him by the late Jerry Konanui. “When he saw me using my hands to scrape, he gifted me this wooden one because he said it was bad to use plastic. It’s been a while since I ku‘i, but now, I don’t need to do it because the kids can do it.”
The purpose of Ku‘i at the County was an opportunity for Hawaiian cultural practitioners and kalo growers to come together to perpetuate the culture through ku‘i and hula.
This year’s celebration is to honor the late Jerry Konanui, Fukino’s teacher, and coincides with the annual Ku‘i Kalo which is held on the opening day of the Legislature on O‘ahu.
“We remember the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, 125 years ago,” said Pua Rossi, an instructor at the Kauai Community College Hawaiian Studies program. “But today, we celebrate the vision of Queen Liliuokalani to see the keiki practice the Hawaiian culture.”
The event was a celebration, said organizers, not a protest.
On Oahu, the Coalition of Hawaiian Nationals was out in force at Onipa ‘a Kakou, an all-day event observing the 125th year of the illegal seizure of the Hawaiian Kingdom government.
“Where‘s the Hawaiian Kingdom? You‘re looking at it,” said Hawaiian Kingdom Foreign Minister Leon Kaulahao Siu.
“Hawaii is my mainland. We will mark this important date as are many others by calling upon the US to de-occupy our nation — the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
In a commendation from the Kauai County Council, Rossi, Josh Fukino, and the gathering of kalo farmers and others were commended for perpetuating the Hawaiian culture through ku‘i, or poi pounding, and hula.
“This is the time of year when people talk of new beginnings and change,” said Councilman Mason Chock. “Not all change is good. Ku‘i at the County is more than the opening of the state Legislature. We recognize the injustices to the Hawaiian people in the overthrow, and through events like this, look ahead for a brighter future.”
People also participated in konane, a traditional Hawaiian game with John Kaohelauli‘i, listened to the Hawaiian music and watched others work the cooked kalo into poi.
Malia Reghi and Eric Hansen offered huli, or starters, to anyone interested in growing kalo at their homes.
“A lot of these varieties are through the goFarm and Kauai Food Forest programs,” Hansen said. “Some came from Jerry whose dream was to perpetuate the Hawaiian varieties of kalo. By having people plant these, we hope to have more huli to offer.”