Keepers of the Forest | Page 7 | Go Hawaii

Keepers of the Forest

Scroll to Continue

Kaui Kanakaole

Kumu Hula
Waves crash against the distant black rocky cliff, salting the air. Kaui Kanakaole, the kumu hula (hula teacher) and her three students chant an oli, asking permission to enter the forest, and wait for a response. A breeze filters through the canopy, and the thick air parts, giving them their answer. They pick their way through the underbrush, beyond the grove of hala (pandanus) trees, to find the lauae (monarch fern) leaves that generations of hula dancers have relied on to create their lei.
 
When they are worn during hula, the lei embrace the dancers with a touch of the forest. Their carefully gathered garb, the vibration of their voices, the rhythm of their instruments, the patterns of their movements and the story of their mele (song) all work together to replicate the environment. With their performance, they are literally connecting to Laka, the akua (deity) of hula and the physical, environmental process that keeps the forest alive. This is why every single part of the process—from gathering, to dancing, and returning to the aina (land) once again—is filled with deep respect.

What is special about Hana?

Hana is pretty unique in that, historically, traditionally, it appears in many stories, many moolelo. Kauiki in particular is a hill that was referred to as a fortress because the ocean was the natural barrier on three sides, and only one side had to be fortified with warriors. And so, if the alii were able to conquer Kauiki, they were able to conquer all of East Maui.


Who were the alii?

Alii for us is our chiefs of old and our alii were direct links to the akua (deities). They were sacred because of their direct lineage to the akua.

So Kauiki became the seat of the alii, and that's where they would hold their court and preside over East Maui. Many songs and hula were written and danced about this important stronghold.

And I think because of that history, because of the specialness of the place, which has to do with environmental resources of the area, the remoteness of the area, the energy has been kept intact. And the people and the families in the area are the same for many generations.

From a very young age, you know how to communicate with your environment through oli, through hula, through understanding the forest, and its importance to the ocean, and understanding all the different plants. And so it's important for a lot of people to return and make sure that our own kids have that same experience as we had, but also that we can keep that type of lifestyle intact.

"When you're going to a place that somebody is caring for, you walk a little lightly. You're a little bit more respectful. You're a little bit more mindful of your actions."

How can visitors help you keep that lifestyle intact?

They should understand that the people of this place have a very, very close relationship with the environment, and, you know, not just hula people. I just come from hula people. But, you know, there's fishing families, there's hunting families, there's families that farm taro, for generations, on the same land or at the same spot, down by the ocean.

And when you know, it's just like when you know when you're going to a place that somebody is caring for, you walk a little lightly. You're a little bit more respectful. You're a little bit more mindful of your actions. And I think if they knew that... I mean, if I knew that going into a place where I was gonna visit, I'd be super mindful of how I tread.

How do you share that with visitors?

At Ala Kukui we've been trying to instill that you cannot just come here and take. And when I say take, I don't mean take sand or take a rock. I mean, you can't just come here and breathe in this fresh air and experience this energy that we maintain - that we, as we live here, we have to maintain it. You have to give back in some way.

I tell people who come to Ala Kukui to do retreats, and a lot of them want to follow our protocol, but they don't know how to chant. And I say that, "You don't have to chant. That's the way we communicate with our environment. But if you're not from here, it's a simple ask: an introduction of who you are and an ask to enter into this space and what your intentions are for your time that you're here.”

And I think it's the reverberation of the voice that's important to come out in the environment, for that reciprocal relationship to start, even if it's just talk.

It all comes back to that reciprocal relationship that we have living here in this environment. We don't just take from it, you also give back. And there are so many ways to give back. As a visitor, it doesn't have to be monetary. It can be sweat. It can be just your words of mahalo, praise, acknowledging that relationship that the people maintain in whatever way you can.

More Stories

Kauai

Leinaala Jardin

A teacher dedicates her life to take on the duty of bringing hula—the life of Hawaiian culture—from prohibited to celebrated.

More

Kauai

Brandon Baptiste

A chef gives up culinary fame to come home, and reinvents a humble plantation-era dessert with world-class technique and local ingredients.

More

Maui

Isaac Bancaco

A spearfisherman and chef exemplifies taking only what you need, defending the ocean’s bounty and representing local farmers and fishermen in his cuisine.

More

Maui

Dustin Tester

A trailblazing big-wave surfer empowers women to overcome the gnarliest challenges through surf therapy, just like she did.

More

Molokai

Greg Solatorio

A cultural practitioner sacrifices everything to carry on his ancestors’ way of life, even as the modern world encroaches.

More

Lanai

Anela Evans

A cultural practitioner bridges both worlds so that luxury and ease can coexist with the grit and authenticity that shaped her native land.

More

Hawaii

Cliff Kapono

A young Hawaiian leaves home to further his education and returns with the ability to use chemistry as a platform to share ancestral wisdom with the modern world.

More

Oahu

Kyle Reutner

An ex-bartender works with Hawaiian researchers and local farmers to return glory to noble cane with craft and mixology, redefining the Mai Tai as a worthy cocktail.

More

Oahu

Keone Nunes

A Native Hawaiian tattooist bestows ancient, hand-tapped kakau upon worthy recipients willing to endure a rite of passage.

More

Browse Hawaii Adventures

Filter Results
showing 61 - 70 of 225
Bridge
Maui
Kapalua Ziplines
500 Office Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Maui's only ALL-dual zipline is located on the lush volcanic slopes of the West Maui Mountains. A trek on a suspension bridge, ATV ride, spectacular ocean views and 2 miles of ziplines are all included in your adventure!

Eco eBikes
Kauai
Eco eBikes Kauai
4347 Rice Street
Suite 120
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Enjoy the beauty of Kauai with Aloha on an Earth friendly Electric Bicycle! Eco e-bikes are whisper quiet, and as effortless as you want them to be. Our bikes are ”pedal assist” which means you can pedal, or simply push a button and go, or anywhere in between!

The Great Ohana Hunt
Oahu
The Great Ohana Hunt
95-294 Kailiula Lp
Mililani, HI 96789
Summary

The Great Ohana Hunt is a fun, economical way to explore and tour Waikiki. This activity combines a scavenger hunt with local culture, historical facts and trivia relevant to Waikiki. Great for weddings, conventions, family and corporate gatherings.

lava glow
Hawaii
Hawaii Outdoor Guides
74-5577 Palani Rd
#811
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Discover Hawaii with Hawaii Outdoor Guides - Hike on an active volcano inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, through tropical and unique rain forests, along enchanting beaches and shores, and enjoy the spectacular sights of an island that has been shaped by lava and waterfalls.

Kanu Hawaii
Multi-Island
Kanu Hawaii
1050 Queen Street, Suite 100
Honolulu, HI 96814
Summary

Kanu Hawaii provides tools and opportunities for people to connect with one another — to take action that builds more compassionate and resilient communities across Hawaii.