He Wahī Paʻakai: A Package of Salt

adding flavor and texture to your world through story


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Let us begin.

kia mau

For Kia Mau



August 31, 2019, Ihumātao

Tina Ngata once said,
“To be born Indigenous
is to be born
into a political reality.”

Today our political reality
is walking perimeters
lined with native trees
at Ihumātao,

recalling when Quine Matata-Sipu
told me the story of their maunga,
the one they once had to send karakia to
through a blockade of armor,

as if weapons can detain prayers.

“If your mountain is the biggest,
ours is the smallest,” she said.
But size does not matter
when it comes to the sacred.

All lands and waters
are sacred.
And I think, if the world could just
wake up to that indigenous reality

we wouldn’t be here:

living lives still
impacted by racist doctrines
that allowed for discovery
disguised as conquest

or standing near old rock walls
trying to imagine a post-
Discovery Doctrine
future.

“In that future,” Tina asks,
“What wakes you up in the morning?”
I find myself struggling
to dream

knowing clearly what I stand against
not always exactly what I stand to create,
the hope of something else
beyond this:

chained to the earth
to save mountains,
to fight evictions,
to stop oceans

from rising.

Tina says,
“The doctrine of discovery
continues to dispossess
Indigenous people of our rights

every day.”

Today, we stand for those rights
and even if my dreams of the future
are not yet fully realized,
I will stand for hers:

a post-doctrine future
where her babies know nothing
but clean water, clean soils
the ability to plant and grow

the land and themselves with it.

I’ll stand for her dream:
one where little girl giggles
are all that wake her up
in the morning

in world transformed.


October 8, 2019, Bushmere Arms

Audre Lorde once said,
“The master’s tools
will never dismantle
the master’s house.”

But today I’m thinking:
no matter the tools you use,
you can’t dismantle the house
when your people are sitting in it.

How do you dismantle
a colonial narrative,
tear down the celebratory décor
uproot the flowery fictions,

to see the place for what it is:

Waerenga a Hika
the site
of a colonial land grab
over 70 killed,

more than 400
chased down,
imprisoned or
executed.

My friend said he’ll indigenize it
from the inside.
But you can’t sit in the house
drink your tea on bones

and call that decolonization.

Then I remember what
Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang said:
“Decolonization is not a metaphor.”
It has to result in land repatriation

But how do you call for land to be returned
when you walk the crew
of a death ship into a colonial house
and reinforce its walls with your brownness?

I am brown.

But my brown comes from the soil
of Papahānaumoku
and trails of soldiers
who trained in the stinging rain.

But I cannot stand for a mountain,
lift my voice at the base of Mauna Kea,
call for the halt of destruction,
of desecration

and then come here from Hawaiʻi
and lend any inch of my brown skin
to the commemoration
of something that made being indigenous

a crime.

Tina will not give any of her brownness
to celebrating colonialism,
and following her lead,
I will not either.

 

November 3, 2019, Parliament

Haunani-Kay Trask once said,
“We exist in a violent and violated world,
a world characterized by
‘peaceful violence.’”

Violence does not have to be
the direct bullet to our heart,
the direct bombing of our land,
the direct murder of our women.

Violence can be
the Cook bicentenary plaque
on the grounds of parliament
unveiled by the queen in 1970.

It can be parliament
built over running water
named Waipiro,
and now being forced to walk over it

not knowing it’s even there.

Violence can be every street name
in the city
and having to reinforce
colonial narratives daily,

just to give directions.

Violence can be the Endeavor
on the back of a 50 cent coin
or the Endeavor
sailing into harbors

marking 250 years of colonialism.

Violence can be
not knowing to question violence,
not knowing how to see violence
not even being aware

that you’re in pain.

Today, my Hawaiian friend and I
walk the grounds of parliament,
look at the bicentenary plaque,
see Cook’s face

and think of justice at Kealakekua.

Tina says Cook used deadly force,
motivated by the doctrine of discovery
that said our ancestors were not human,
not worthy of life.

Cook’s actions were violent
and his name continues
to cut and rip at my tongue,
a dirty word

still hurting.

But not all C words are bad,
I think.
I’m a Case committed
to containing

Cook’s bones in a casket
concealed

along with his memory.

 

November 8, 2019, Wollongong

Teresia Teaiwa once said,
“No one truly benefits from
exploitation and abuse
ever.

Oppressors lose their humanity
in the process of
dehumanizing
others.”

Today I miss her fierce brilliance,
her sharp poetry,
the way the tattoos on her arms
seemed to point to pathways

always worth traveling.

Today I think about the path
that brought me here:
an indigenous checkmark
in a room satisfied with my presence

and no real intent on listening.

The conference ad read:
“Food and Colonialism,”
a chance to think about food
as a colonial tool, I thought.

One woman talked about refrigerators
boxes of ice and cold air,
another about what colonial women
drank:

tea, coffee, alcohol?

And I think:
this conference
would have been better titled:
“Food of the Colonizer”

They don’t talk about
Indigenous peoples
cut off from land,
from water

from the ability to grow their own food
rather than sitting with the discomfort
of generational disease
in their chests:

sugars high, heart beats low.

They don’t talk about the doctrine,
about how the very fact of it
allows them to sit here
pretending blindness.

They don’t talk about the fact
that Cook’s death ship
will be here next year:
still eating them, eating us, again.

They start with empty platitudes:
“We’d like to acknowledge
the traditional custodians of the lands
upon which we meet.”

Then continue to ignore them,
ignore us,
moving on to talk of ice boxes,
coffee, and their colonizing,

not of colonialism,
and as Teresia would say,
the fact that they lose their humanity
when the cannot see what they do.

I try to sit quietly,
but the sound of my eye rolls
at the back of the room
seem to scream:

I don’t want to be the angry brown girl.

But then I remember
Audre Lorde who said,
“Every woman has
a well-stocked arsenal

of anger.”

So, I raise my hand,
armed with generations of fury,
and the refusal to
quiet the burning in my gut.

I don’t think
I’ll get invited
back

next year.

Their colonial food
leaves a bitter taste
in my mouth
anyway.

Tina says colonialism
is like a creeping weed,
suffocating, taking over.
We need to take it out

from the roots, she says.

In Hawaiʻi,
colonialism
is not a weed
but a bug.

To hoʻokolonaio is to colonize
Hoʻo meaning to make something happen
Kolo meaning to crawl
Naio meaning maggot

Maggots crawl, squirm

ingest
and digest
feeding on and hoping for
our decay,

getting into everything we know,
even the ways we think
about ourselves
our pasts, our futures.

The naio even crawl into our food.
And while our very substance,
what makes us who we are,
is still so attractive to the

slimy, white bugs

I will never
have the privilege
or the time
to write about

refrigerators.

 

November 28, 2019, Wellington

Steve Newcomb once said,
“Working on climate change
without working on paradigm change
would be a grave mistake.

We need a mental and behavioral shift
away from the prevailing paradigm
of domination and dehumanization.”
The Doctrine of Discovery, he said,

“unleashed this paradigm.”

Today on Turtle Island,
turkeys will be baked,
pumpkin pies will be cut,
and families will share

what they’re thankful for:

mouths salivating,
bellies stuffed,
eating their way
through erasure

I think about the annual violence
that is the American Thanksgiving:
the celebration of massacre,
and of the same doctrines

that allow for Tuia 250.

Tina says,
“The first step
on the pathway to justice
is truth.

Uncompromising,
unwavering,
unsanitised
Indigenous truth.”

And the truth is,
the same doctrines that allowed for genocide
allow for turkey-filled holidays
of cultural amnesia

year after year

the same doctrines that led to dispossession
allow for telescopes to be built on summits
of ancestors
with the promise that they will

crush our souls
kindly

the same doctrines that led to the theft of our lands
continue to keep us off those lands,
even while we are
the most well-equipped to save them

even while our planet is drowning

and the same doctrines that allowed Cook to come here
allow him to return
time and time again,
every visit as violent

as the first

And the truth is,
we stand no chance of survival
if we only snip off the buds
of colonialism

while still feeding its roots

or smash the crawling maggots,
while flies continue
to lay eggs
birthing more and more of the same

250 years of it, infesting.

And the truth is,
the truth is difficult,
it’s heavy,
it’s painful and confronting,

but it’s the only way to breathe,
deep
sovereign
breaths

to know the fullness
of the air in your lungs
rather than be satisfied with
shallow breaths

always on edge of your indigeneity,
never tasting freedom.

Tina teaches me this.
Tina serves uncompromising,
unwavering,
unsanitised truth.

And we are better for it.

We are braver for it.

Today is Lā Kūʻokoʻa in Hawaiʻi,
our independence day,
the day the sovereignty of the
Kingdom of Hawaiʻi

was recognized,
November 28, 1843.

Sovereignty that was stolen.
Today, I hunger for that kūʻokoʻa,
that independence, that freedom
that justice for us
and for the earth.

Today, I feel the tug at my gut,
the constant pull to something better,
not for me
but for them:

those I’ll only meet in spirit
generations from now.

When the world we stood for
will be a world realized,
where Tina’s mokopuna
only know clean water,

clean land,
food to nourish their bellies,
oceans that are safe
not consuming.

She teaches me
how be an ancestor
braver, bolder
than ever I thought I could be.

Her book says,
“Let us begin.”
So buy a copy.
We have so much work to do.


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Thirty MORE ways to stand for Mauna Kea when you cannot physically stand on Mauna Kea. (One MORE way for every meter of the TMT.)

Sings of the Times

  1. Carve out time for talking about Mauna Kea with your family. Make it a discussion. Ask your children about it. Introduce them to concepts like racism and injustice. Don’t worry about them being “too young.” Do not underestimate their ability to understand and have empathy. Raise them now to be the leaders we need in the future.
  2. Learn one of the Mauna Kea chants or prayers and pray for the mauna and the kiaʻi everyday, three times a day. If a time comes when the kiaʻi cannot hold their daily ceremonies, hold space for them. Let the words they recite every single day ring out from you mouth and from your soul wherever you are.
  3. When posting about Mauna Kea, explain why you are posting. Tell people what this movement means to you. Even if you’ve never been there, share why you’re standing in solidarity. The more people can see and hear the multitude of “whys” that drive this movement, the more they will be motivated to stand with us.
  4. Write poetry and share poetry. Sometimes the only way we can give words to our struggle is through poems. Release your poetic wisdom and dare to dream and envision something better for our future. Maybe write a poem envisioning what the mauna will be like post-telescopes, when all of them are taken down, and when Mauna Kea is given time to just be.
  5. Continue to pressure government officials, Governor Ige, Mayor Kim, President Lassner (of UH), and TMT investors. Continue to call their offices, send them emails and letters. Continue to insist that they hear us. Flood their inboxes with messages of support for the mauna. Don’t take their non-responsiveness as a reason to stop asking or demanding.
  6. Organize solidarity movements wherever you are. If you don’t feel comfortable or confident enough presenting or teaching, find video clips and interviews online, watch them as a group, and then have discussions about them. Follow Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu, Kanaeokana, and Kākoʻo Haleakalā on Facebook for video clips to use for your gatherings.
  7. Read the work of kiaʻi like David Maile here and here, Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua here, Bryan Kuwada here, and countless others who have written about Mauna Kea. Also read through special forums like this one. If you find other sources, read and share those too.
  8. If you are a researcher, consider connecting your work to Mauna Kea. Explore the movement as it relates to settler colonialism, white supremacy, environmental injustice, or even the Doctrine of Discovery, or as it relates to health, violence, trauma, and even body oppression. Or, take a more positive route, and look at in relation to resistance, resurgence, nation-building, and sovereignty. Then post what you discover online or publish your findings. Make your research shareable so that we can inform ourselves and others of the many ways the TMT is unjust.
  9. Remain in kapu aloha. Even if you are not on the mauna, conduct yourself as if you are. Do not jeopardize all of the work done on the mountain by spreading negative words and energy. Let us ensure this movement is remembered, generations from now, as one that was driven by aloha and only aloha.
  10. If someone you know is having trouble understanding why people are fighting to protect Mauna Kea, have them think of their own place, their own land. Have them think of the places that nourish them, that feed them, that sustain them mind, body, and spirit. Then have them imagine that place being taken, destroyed, desecrated. Then ask them to take that pain and sorrow they feel and transfer it to the mauna. That feeling, the one that hits them in the gut, that’s what the kiaʻi feel. Tell them to feel it. Know it. Then, let it propel them to action.
  11. Do not waste energy on thinking about what you’re not doing because you’re not on the mauna. Instead, think of all the things you can do because you’re not on the mauna. Be a mouthpiece, be a messenger, be an advocate, be an example in all the spaces you are in.
  12. If you have a hae Hawaiʻi, a Hawaiian flag, fly it wherever you can. After one of our hae was sawed in half on the mauna, we owe it to ourselves to continue flying them as constant symbols of our resistance and our sovereignty.
  13. Although this particular movement is about Mauna Kea, know that the motivation to protect it extends to so much more than one mountain. Therefore, learn about the mountains, the water sources, the shorelines, and all of the sacred and special places where you are. Take the value of “kū kiaʻi mauna,” or standing to protect the mountain, and let it reach all lands, waters, and oceans.
  14. Recognize the power of being self-actualized. Know what you’re good at and use your own individual talents. If you’re a painter, paint. If you’re a teacher, teach. If you’re a scientist, discover new ways to “discover” the universe without needing a telescope. And if you think you have no special talent, use the mauna as your motivation to find it. We all have something to contribute as individuals and the mauna needs the range of our expressions.
  15. Post signs of support everywhere, in your car, in your office window, in your house, and anywhere else you can think of. Make your signs conversation starters so that you can hopefully inspire people to ask questions. Every conversation is an opportunity to teach and learn.
  16. If you are a teacher, consider ways to bring the mauna into your classroom. Age does not matter. You can talk about Mauna Kea with everyone from preschoolers to university students, adjusting the depth of your conversation to their levels. Even if you just let your students know that a mountain named Mauna Kea exists and that it is special and sacred, you are doing the mauna a service, putting its name into the minds of our future.
  17. Consider a movie night. If you have access to films like Temple Under Siege, organize a time to watch it with your friends and family. You can also watch films like Noho Hewa to get a better sense of the political context within which this movement is taking place.
  18. Listen to a podcast and interview with Pua Case here. Let her be the inspiration and the constant motivation you need to be braver than you ever thought you could be. Let her inspire you to “rise like a mighty wave.” Also listen to recordings on It’s Lit here. This Honolulu based radio show/podcast features people writing and speaking about Mauna Kea.
  19. If law enforcement attempt to sweep people off the Mauna Kea Access Road at Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu, share every picture, post, and video you can. Make injustice visible. Call it out. Let people see events as they unfold. Do not let the state get away with treating our lands and peoples unjustly without being seen.
  20. If you are able to, continue to donate funds. Though money is certainly not the only way to contribute, and shouldn’t be if it will put you at financial risk, every dollar does help. It helps bail kiaʻi out if/when necessary. It helps with supplies for the puʻuhonua. It helps with anything and everything necessary to keep presence on the ground at Mauna Kea. You can donate here.
  21. Consider making a sign that reads, “We/I stand for Mauna Kea because…” and then fill in your reason. Know your reason and share it. Take photos with your sign and let people know your motivation. Then make signs for others to fill in on their own. Encourage others to think about their reason(s) and let the world see why we stand from anywhere and everywhere we are.
  22. Share your stories of the mauna. The more stories we have, and the more varied they are, the more our collective voices will speak to the importance of Mauna Kea in every aspect of our lives. We need stories about everything from hunting and ranching on the mountain slopes, to driving through Māna road to get to Parker Ranch cabins, to harvesting māmane seeds for reforestation, to the joy of waking up to Mauna Kea in the morning and the warmth of seeing the mountain embraced in pink each afternoon. Tell your stories.
  23. It’s never too late to join the Mauna Kea Jam. Find the words and the translation for “Kū Haʻaheo,” composed by Hinaleimoana Wong, and then learn them, memorize them, and really feel them in your hear. You can find the words here.
  24. Think about how to live better. If we are going to stand to protect Mauna Kea, let us also think about how our daily actions impact our planet as a whole. Let the mauna inspire you to be a kiaʻi everywhere. We don’t have to be perfect; we just have to be conscious. Let’s lesson our waste, let’s give up single-use plastic, let’s use sunscreen that will not kill our reefs. Let’s be more attentive.
  25. Haku mele. Write songs. This is a movement that deserves to be sung about now and far into the future. This is a movement that should appear generations from now in old songs that children will learn from their parents and grandparents, that will inspire hula at garage parties, that will become the topics of essays written in university classes, and will speak to new times as they are continually interpreted and reinterpreted.
  26. Chant the sun up every morning. If you know “E ala e,” do it. If not, just start the day by greeting the sun in whatever way you can. Thank the sun for coming out, for being constant in its path, for rising day after day, whether we can see it and feel it or not. Let it remind us, at the start of ever day, of our place in the world: connected to nature, never above it.
  27. When you hear popular phrases or words like “Kū Kiaʻi Mauna,” “Eō,” “Kūkulu,” or “E hū e,” being used on the mauna, look those words up, think about what they mean. Be more informed in your use of language and be aware that “I ka ʻōlelo nō ke ola,” there is indeed life in the words we use.
  28. Let’s take wearing the mauna to the next level. If you have an extra shirt, shawl, beanie, or set of earrings, consider gifting something to someone else. Use it as a chance to teach them, to share the pull and power of the mauna. Let them experience what it’s like to have another kiaʻi recognize them by the messages they wear.
  29. Write your hopes and prayers down. Articulate them clearly. Pray for a time we haven’t arrived at yet, a time we are preparing for now. Then hold on to that vision, and begin to see it and feel it as if it has already happened. It will happen.
  30. Take care of yourself. Sometimes we forget ourselves in these movements. We forget that we need sleep, that we need proper nutrition, that we need time and space to process. Give and receive love where you can. Look after each other. We can be stronger as kiaʻi, regardless of where we are, when we are attentive to self. Mālama. We need you.
  31. Naʻu nō me ke kākoʻo mau. Kū kiaʻi mauna.
    Emalani


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Twelve Prayers for Mauna Kea (one for every hour between sunrise and sunset)

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E kuʻu mauna, to my dear mountain,

  1. I pray that you are guarded and protected. I pray that our collective prayers shelter you, cloaking you in a shield of aloha, surrounding you and embracing you like Kūkahauʻula does your slopes everyday, adorning you in shades of pink.
  2. I pray that you are seen, truly seen, not as a “site” and not as “contested space” or the location of conflict. I pray that you are seen for all that you are: the ancestor, the guide, the piko of our existence, our connection.
  3. I pray that our grandchildren live in a time when the mere suggestion of construction on your slopes is tossed aside immediately, deemed impossible, and when no one—no matter their background, their ethnicity, or their place of origin—can deny your sacredness.
  4. I pray that every koa tree planted on your slopes extends roots into the earth that can hold you, comfort you, embrace you from the inside, reassuring you that we are here.
  5. I pray that our children grow up sitting in your shade ready to hear all of your stories. I pray they talk with you daily, sharing their triumphs and fears. I pray that they recognize themselves in your colors: in the deep reds of morning, in the dark browns of a cloudy afternoon, in your black silhouette against a moon-lit sky.
  6. I pray that you not have to endure any more pain, that not one more structure is built on your slopes, digging into your skin, scarring your soul. I pray that you not have to suffer or carry the weight of any more greed. I pray that you are freed of any and all expectation.
  7. I pray that you are allowed to breathe. I pray that you are no longer smothered by dreams of conquest, by foreign ambitions, by false notions of human superiority. I pray that you are given space to heal.
  8. I pray that you show us how to continue standing despite all obstacles. I pray that you continue to teach us how to be better, how to expand the reach of our aloha from every summit to the bottom of every ocean, encompassing all, reaching all, hoping for all, and loving all.
  9. I pray that your waters are kept clear, that they are kept clean. I pray that they wash you, cleanse you, provide surfaces and ripples for reflection. I pray that they remind us that we are all water: made up of water, flowing like water, evolving like water, relentless like water.
  10. I pray that you teach those who do not yet understand you. I pray that you show them how to live for something greater than themselves, how to kneel in reverence of sources they cannot see, how to honor space for the relationships they hold, and how to love you.
  11. I pray that everyone knows your stories. I pray that your groves are seen as housing histories, you hillsides as holding deities, your every stone as welcoming dreams. I pray that we continue to create stories with you, at your side, walking the world—no matter where we may be—with you in our hearts.
  12. I pray that you know how much you are loved. I pray that you hear all the voices coming from around the world, voices being carried by waves and winds to greet you, to honor you, to speak to and of your brilliance.

Let these prayers be heard. Let them them lifted. Let them find you.

ʻĀmama, ua noa.


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Thirty ways to stand for Mauna Kea when you cannot physically stand on Mauna Kea (one way for every meter of the TMT)

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  1. Know that the mauna is not just a mauna; it is everything. It is our past and our future being woven together in the present, standing tall. It is who we are.
  2. The next time you pass a mountain, a hill, a river, or a stream, stop, greet them, thank them, recognize them. Know that they are not “resources” but ancient beings whose importance is not dictated by how useful they are to us.
  3. Stand for all sacred places. The more of us standing around the world, the more likely we are to be seen and heard.
  4. Wear the mauna everyday. Wear mauna-inspired t-shirts, shawls, prints, earrings, hats, beanies. Be reminded of the mauna every time you catch a glimpse of your reflection. Use your clothing to start discussions, to prompt questions, to inspire solidarity.
  5. Love the mauna. Know that love is one of the most powerful social forces. Know that it can change worlds.
  6. Know that the use of military force against people protecting space is an ongoing act of violence, not just physical violence, but a violence that seeks to harm us spiritually, psychologically, culturally, and ancestrally. It is a violence that seeks to destroy us. Recognize this violence and call it out. Make it visible. Make it known.
  7. Where ever you are, put your hands to soil. Feel the earth pulse. Know that it is alive and that it is this life that we stand to protect.
  8. Hold a sign. Be a sign.
  9. Listen to mauna music. Hāwane Rios’ album will soothe you, inspire you, make you stand like the mauna.
  10. Call a kiaʻi and let them know you’re with them, in heart, in spirit, in song, in prayer. Give them your energy and your strength.
  11. Give money. Donate to funds established to bail out any kiaʻi who are arrested for being protectors. Donate funds to help the petitioners who work tirelessly and endlessly. Give what you can.
  12. Learn a chant about the mauna and chant it wherever you are. The vibrations of your voice will travel to the piko, to the summit.
  13. Just say the words “Kū Kiaʻi Mauna.” They will put a fire in your belly.
  14. Write. Write. Write. Put words to these movements and these moments. Then share those words with friends. Read them out loud. Let them get spread widely. Put words to feelings and experiences that people may not yet have words for. Know how powerful they can be.
  15. Pray. Do not underestimate the power of intention.
  16. Know that “science” is strategically used to justify destruction and desecration and that “for the betterment of humankind” is one of the most dangerous phrases used in colonial contexts.
  17. Refuse to allow your spaces and your peoples to be sacrifice zones: zones deemed not important enough to protect but important enough to sacrifice “for the rest of the world.”
  18. Be aware of insidious rhetoric meant to trick you. Do not allow anyone to tell you that we are living in the past; that our structures are not old and therefore can be dismantled and destroyed; that we are afraid of progress; that we are anti-science, that we are selfish. Do not believe any of it.
  19. Use your voice. Be creative. Seek new and interesting ways to spread the word, to educate, to impact. Write poems. Create art. Print stickers and badges. Sell them and donate the proceeds.
  20. Send letters to politicians, to the University of Hawaiʻi, to anyone who is involved in the construction of the TMT. And if they don’t listen, post your letters online, make them open letters for everyone to see. Hold our so-called “leaders” accountable.
  21. Educate yourself and educate others. Learn about colonialism and settler colonialism so that you can recognize their tactics and call them out.
  22. If you’re given a platform to speak, speak about the mauna.
  23. Teach others how to put their pointer fingers and thumbs together to form a triangle. Teach them how to lift that triangle to the sky. Tell them that they are creating the mauna, giving it presence anywhere and everywhere in the world.
  24. Never lose hope. Even when the world tries to tell you that having hope is useless, or that change is impossible, be radical and hope anyway.
  25. Know that when we stand, we stand as thousands, with generations of ancestors at our sides.
  26. Do not ever believe that you can’t help, or that you are too small or too distant to have impact. One voice raised in defense of the mauna is one more voice added to the collective, making it stronger, making it pulse deeper, making it ring louder. Know that those who want to construct telescopes on our mauna are depending on our feeling small, feeling helpless, feeling defeated. Do not give them that. Ever.
  27. Let the movement transform you. Let it teach you how to live better, how to love deeper, how to stand taller in the wisdom of your ancestors.
  28. Learn stories about the mauna. Learn the names of all the deities who dwell there. Listen to the stories of those gods and goddesses and know that they are not “myths.” Recognize that the category of “myth” has never served indigenous peoples well and that it has been used to disregard our beliefs and our ways of knowing and being in and with the world. Learn the stories as truths.
  29. Recognize that you are an ancestor in the making. Be the type of ancestor your descendants can look up to with pride, knowing that you stood for something larger than yourself.
  30. Aloha ʻāina. Live it. Feel it. Act upon it. Know that it is what we do and who we are. Forever.


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Lost in Wellington

Welly

Sunrise, Te Whanganui a Tara

Lost in Wellington
            for my love of Te Whanganui a Tara

It’s quite insidious
if you think about it.

Give them names to speak
over and over again
for direction
With no alternatives
they’ll be forced
to reinforce
one story

Slowly your mouth
finds comfort around names
that may have cut
in earlier times

You release a tiny breath
for Wakefield,
Your tongue hits the roof of your mouth
for Tory
Your purse your lips slightly
for Cuba
You enjoy the swift flick
of Lambton
And the wave-like motion
of Oriental

Names slide slick off your palate
and with every mention
you forget what they used to taste like

As early as 1825,
pushed by group of white men
like John George Lambton,
an expedition was launched
with sights on
New Zealand

William Wakefield
arrived in 1839
on a ship named Tory
with the intent
to purchase land,
all part of his brother’s
“colonisation plan”

In time, settlers
came by the thousands,
aboard huge ships,
like Cuba and Oriental
with the New Zealand Company
promising land
they had no right to
promise

These are the names
we say everyday
with ease
while ancient names,
names with stories,
and genealogies
tied to this place
get erased,
replaced,
and sometimes
butchered beyond recognition

I walk down city streets,
a bitter taste in my mouth,
wanting to spit names
on the footpath,
wanting to resist
being forced
to recount one story
day after day
while so many others
lay waiting
to ease off my tongue,
to be pursed between my lips,
to find comfort in my mouth

I feel lost in Wellington,
a place named for a Duke
famed for winning a battle
that was not fought
here

But I suppose getting lost is easy
when the names you’re
forced to utter
are not the same names
you want to follow


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Dear Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

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screenshot from The Rock’s instagram

Dear Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,

You don’t know me, of course.
I was once one of your adoring fans,
captivated by your wide smile,
your muscled humor,
your bulging, pulsating, titillating

voice.

Then one day you lent your voice
to a singing and dancing mockery
of my fisher of islands,
my keeper of fire,
my kupua from moananuiākea,

Maui.

And I remembered what Maui once said,
“Moʻa aʻela no kā ka ʻalae haupī.”
Some people are selfish,
some seek only for themselves,
some have little regard for the oceans

they claim.

You claimed belonging, riding the back of
the one who slowed the sun,
the one who made the day longer,
the one who punished the selfish ʻalae
and stole her fire

so that we could cook.

And boy did we cook.
We even cooked Cook,
ending his syphilis spreading,
land snatching,
murderous voyages

of the Pacific.

We restored a sense of “pacificness,”
by burning his color of violence,
filling our bellies with his history,
to let it rage in the pit of our stomachs
where fire burns

and births islands.

Our islands once housed you,
gave you a place to become a rock,
shaping and shining your rough edges,
so that you could fit in,
throw your shaka in the air,

and call us “home.”

Now, here’s a lesson from home,
one you need to hear,
and here’s a reminder,
one you need to recall,
and here’s a warning,

one you need to heed.

Take heed, Dwayne “The Rock” Jonhson.
I heard you hope to achieve
academy award celebrity
on the back of my chief, my ancestor,
my muscled memory of Kohala,

Kamehameha.

But you will be mehameha.
You will be lonely in your pursuit,
because my history is not a backdrop,
to your story of success.
And my chief

is not a stepping stone.

He lifted stones,
overturning naha larger than you,
sealing his fate as a conqueror,
and his role as warrior
who craved the eyes of niuhi,

before he was even born.

He was born of and for greatness.
And you, you cannot “play” greatness,
cannot bench press your way into my history,
cannot laugh or smile into ʻĀwini,
the valley that raised him:

sharp and rough.

This is my sharp and rough refusal
of everything you have claimed:
you say you want to tell the story
of the legendary chief
who’s “fabled” life lay the foundation

for the 50th state.

But the real fable is the state,
the fake ass state,
with their fake ass claims,
who occupies my land,
and keeps my people

hungry.

We’re hungry, starving for pono
for a restoration of balance,
of justice,
of sovereignty,
of the right to shape and tell

our own stories.

So you would be wise to remember our story.
My kūpuna, they sang songs of protest
against the loss of their kingdom,
the overthrow of their queen,
the taking of their ea,

their life, their breath.

And they let that breath out in song:
“Ua lawa mākou i ka pōhaku”, they sang.
We can eat stones, they said,
we can endure, they promised,
and we can survive

off of rocks.

So, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,
If I must, if I am pushed,
I can and I will
eat rocks again,
even captivating, smiling, titillating ones

like you.

 

– Emalani Case


2 Comments

To love beyond love: a letter to Hawaiʻi

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Roots

E kuʻu Hawaiʻi,

I want a word for this, for this ache. Maybe the word is “love.” But even “love” comes with expectations and definitions. Even “love” cages and binds us to what is familiar, what is understood, what has already been assigned words. “Love” cannot describe what it is to touch you, to put my hands to your soil and smell you, to wake up curled into your slow-moving silences: a flushed red glow on your mountain, mist caught on your hillsides, sweat dripping. “Love” cannot describe what it is to find comfort in your small spaces, nestled somewhere between red dirt footprints and morning dew, the smell of drenched lauaʻe. No, “love” is far too small a word for this.

My Hawaiʻi, I know you beyond love. I love you beyond love. And while my mind wants a word to explain this feeling to myself, maybe the absence of words is what allows me feel you, to see you without boundary, to know you and I as one. Maybe the absence of words is what keeps me searching for every new way to appreciate you, to rejoice in the very fact of you, to know your moods and shades, what you look like in the shadows of the sun, and then again in the light of the dark. Maybe this, this “something,” is why I cry and shout for you, why I dance and chant of you. Maybe this “something” is every reason I pray.

Hawaiʻi, you’ve taught me that loving you, or knowing you, or what ever “this” is takes courage because with all of “this” there is the inevitability of pain. My stomach churns whenever I see you hit, ripped, targeted by greed, knowing that every sign I hold, and every letter I send, and every protest I stand at cannot erase your scars or relieve the agony of torment. When I see what’s happened to your oceans, your waves impregnated with the runoff of waste and a ravenous hunger for “more,” I want to clear every bit of you, to rub you down, and bathe you. I want to massage away the memories of destruction, soothing every inch of you with my fingertips. When I realize that I’ve heard too many stories spreading the myth of separation—my separation, our separation, from you—I carry the weight of what it has done to you: stagnant waters, severed summits, barren soils. When I know you’ve been wronged, hurt, made to bleed, I want to find your roots and nurture them, bringing each and every one up to my lips to whisper: “crawl, spread, grow; hold her together from the inside.”

You, my Hawaiʻi, you are my ʻāina. You are every thing that “feeds,” that nourishes. But I know that I’ve done damage calling you, and every aspect of you, a “resource.” I’ve centralized my needs, our needs, forgetting that you are far more than what you’ve been used for. You are sacred and special, beautiful and fearsome, able to create and thrive without me. So, sometimes I wonder if my unrelenting passion to protect and “save” you comes from the false notion that you somehow need me. Sometimes I think that that the best way to help you is to let you be, to step out of the way—and to pull everyone else to the side with me—to give you room to breathe and stretch. Sometimes I think that I owe you space and time to heal. And in quiet, solitary moments, I wonder if that’s what it really means to “love” you beyond love.

Oh my Hawaiʻi, I’ve loved and been loved. But I’ve also smothered and been smothered. I’ve been told I’m too intense. I’ve been told my fire is too strong. I’ve been made to believe that this, whatever “this” is inside of me, needs to be tamed. I’ve even been instructed to drink water—to always drink water, to swim in water, to have water around me at all times—to control my flame. Because sometimes, my Hawaiʻi, I burn. And sometimes I hurt. But, while I tried for so many years to squelch this, to suppress this, to swallow this even while it blistered my throat, you showed me that the same intensity that is overwhelming for some is what allows me to love you beyond all love. It is what allows me to find you in spaces where words don’t exist, where they can’t exist.

It is to those spaces, my Hawaiʻi, that I will always return. I may leave, but it is only to dip into deep blues, to find myself in waves, to arrive at stones, ready to taste them. It is to learn to love all the way I love you: beyond. Tomorrow I leave for another place, for a land of long white clouds and the view of skies through pohutukawa branches. And I know that in time I will come to ache for this place and for others the way I ache for you, to want to protect them the way I want to protect you, to want to take my lips to their roots, whispering. I know in time that I will allow myself to be loved in return, to be seen beyond words, to be open to the pain of a fierce and brave connection. And it will be, all of it will be, because you loved me beyond love, in every shade, in every small space, and in every slow-moving silence of the morning.

Me ke aloha pau ʻole,
Emalani