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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
June 06, 2015
Field trip to Waimea Valley
When we went to Waimea Valley, we were able to see and experience in person a taste of the ancient Hawai'ian culture and practices that we had studied in the classroom. Every person we talk to enriches our understanding of the deep connections between the resource management and spirituality of the ancient Hawai'ian's. Kaila Alva (education and outreach coordinator), who works at Waimea Valley, taught us about the sacredness and importance of the Ahupua’a watershed system and the work that she and others are doing to preserve it today. Before taking water samples in the nearby river and learning more from Kaila about various plant species, we sang the ‘E ho mai’ chant as a way of asking for permission to enter sacred territory. The ‘E ho mai’ chant is literally asking ‘for knowledge from above, knowledge hidden in the chants’, and as I sing it I hope that my shipmates and I can immerse ourselves in this experience and further absorb the values of the Hawai’ian people.
The taro plant was one of the most commonly cultivated plants in ancient Hawai’i. In Hawai'ian mythology, Kalo (taro plant) is the elder brother of Kanaka (man). I learned that when you cut an old taro plant, it secretes a red liquid that looks like blood. Later, I found that the Hawai'ian word for blood, Koko, is also the Aka (umbilical) cord that connects man to the Wau Akua (realm of gods), Aumakuas (ancestral spirits), and 'Aina (land). I am constantly amazed at the way Hawai'ian's have valued the land and the complex understanding that Hawai'ian's had of the natural world.
Later that day with some free-time on our hands, I swam through the open ocean to a small islet called Mokoli'i. I looked back at the setting sun and felt an overwhelming sense of Aloha 'Aina (love of the land). Surrounded by ocean water and lush mountain ridges, I thought that maybe I had caught a glimpse of the powerful and intimate relationship the Hawai'ian peoples have had of this land for over a thousand years. In that moment, amongst my shipmates, the warm breeze, and rolling waves, I knew that if we could spread that sense of pride and love for the earth, we could change it for the better.