Sustaining Culture in Hāna

Hāna’s families teach acclaimed chefs about living off the land—and remind themselves what it means to be Hawaiian.

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Chefs are all smiles at last year’s ‘Aha ‘Āina celebration. From left are Isaac Bancaco of Andaz Maui, Mark Noguchi of The Pili Group, Bella Toland of Travaasa Hāna, Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof, and Mark Pomaski of Moon & Turtle.

“A lot of us Hāna people are so used to just doing these things and keeping to ourselves, not realizing that what we do here can help our culture and people prosper,” he explains. “With any kind of cultural practice—whether it’s hula, voyaging, lāʻau lapaʻau [medicine]—sharing it is a way to keep it going.”

Adds his brother, Bronson Konohia-Lind, “It’s good to see all the families come together—from the oldest ones getting pushed in the wheelchair, to the babies in the stroller. It’s about the knowledge, tradition, and culture being passed down from all these generations.”

For Kanakaʻole, a former teacher at Hāna High School, the importance of subsistence skills extends beyond having fresh food. Rather than simply sharing their knowledge, she hopes Hāna’s families will be inspired to more deeply explore their own cultural practices.

Hana fishermen
Hāna fishermen lead visiting chefs to a favorite fishing site in Mu‘olea, the ahupua‘a (traditional land division) stewarded by Nā Mamo o Mu‘olea, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the area’s abundant cultural and natural resources.

“Instead of just practicing these traditions, the hope is that they culturally identify with those places,” she says. “For example, how is that particular fish related to the name of the area and how does that relate to the tide and the moon?”

Hāna Kū is a step in that direction. “The Hāna families become these experts,” Kanaka‘ole says. “I think it’s the first time they really see themselves in that light. They start to look at their practices as not just feeding their family, but continuing a cultural relationship with the land.”

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Enjoy a taste of Hāna Kū during the second annual ʻAha ʻĀina, A Hāna to Table Culinary Experience, held July 14, 2018, from 5 to 9 p.m. on the grounds of Ala Kukui. Tickets start at $175 per person. Seating is limited; advance purchase required. Proceeds benefit Ala Kukui’s community programs. Visit AlaKukui.org for details.

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