The Rebirth of Makahiki

Maui and her sister islands are reviving one of the most important spiritual times of ancient Hawai‘i.

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Many native Hawaiians also perform hi‘uwai, immersing themselves in the ocean before dawn in a ritual of cleansing and renewal. As Holt-Padilla told me, “During Makahiki, one can continue personal offerings, do things close to home, and remember the land, the relationship with your fellow man and your god.”

Lyons Naone and a small group do hi‘uwai ceremonies in Kipahulu at Makahiki’s beginning and end, along with chanting “E Ala E” to the sun, making declarations of thanksgiving, drinking a celebratory cup of ‘awa and leaving ho‘okupu at a nearby heiau.

Remembrances of Makahiki have a continuing role in Maui life. At the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, the large entrance gates, called “The Nets of Makali‘i,” represent a ceremony that closes the Makahiki season, in which a net was used to determine whether there would be feast or famine. The net, containing various crops, was held up in the air and shaken, and if foods fell through, like gifts of plenty falling from the gods, there would be no famine in the coming year.

But it’s on Kaho‘olawe that Makahiki is most comprehensively celebrated, as an integral part of the restoration of Hawaiian culture on this newly reclaimed yet ancient and sacred island. One can hear the warmth of the Makahiki prayers in these words from the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO). “The Makahiki season is our opportunity to celebrate and show our appreciation for the past year’s harvest on our home islands. . . . It is a period to petition the deity Lono to come again with greater abundance. On Kaho‘olawe, we petition Lono to raise the water table. We petition his presence as the gentle rain and the cloud cover to support our efforts to green Kaho‘olawe in our lifetime.”

The PKO sees its Makahiki celebrations as a way to encourage native Hawaiians to immerse themselves more deeply in ancestral connections with the original people through religion, culture, and traditional relationships to the land. As part of the ceremonies, k¯upuna (elders) and other representatives of the Hawaiian Islands come together to offer homegrown ho‘okupu and conduct the ancient rituals in full native regalia, and thus celebrate and reaffirm the society of   their ancestors.

Centuries ago, Makahiki renewed the Hawaiian people’s strength and hope by clearing a consecrated period for peace and enjoyment of the fruits of a year’s hard work. In the 21st century, the period is now the vessel of hope for a different kind of harvest: a restoration of Hawaiian culture in a more unified Hawaiian future.

For more details on the Makahiki observances of Kaho‘olawe, visit www.kahoolawe.org/makahiki.html. Please note that you cannot be a first-time visitor to Kaho‘olawe and participate in the Makahiki ceremonies.

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