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Ancient Hawaiians Lived Earth Day Values Everyday

The practices of mālama `āina (care for the land) and mālama kai (care for the sea) have become very popular in Hawai`i, but they are part of a larger tradition known as Aloha `Āina — love of the land.

Love of the land and culture is paramount for Native Hawaiians.

In the 1400s, the high chief of O`ahu, Mā`ilikūkahi, created a management system that allowed all Hawaiians to take part in caring for the land. This system is called the ahupua`a system, and it is still used today.

The ahupua’a system divided lands on all the islands into sustainable watersheds that extended from the top of the mountain ridge out to the reef. The top of the watershed was known as Wao Akua, realms of the Gods, and were not often accessed by people.

People worked and resided primarily in the lowland areas, known as Wao Kanaka, realms of man.

Every family was given land to tend. Families often cared for more than one parcel of land, at least one piece for farming activities and another parcel on which they resided.

All family members had jobs in helping to care for the land and family, from young children to elders. Knowledge was also dutifully passed from one generation to the next, so strong family relationships were essential to the long-term care of the ancestral lands.

All life was valued, so all resources were treated with respect.

Prior to foreign contact, Hawaiians held very strong polytheistic beliefs. Some of these values continue today. Traditional Hawaiians believe that the spirits of the gods reside in natural resources; these are known as kinolau, body forms.

Many traditional stories teach of kinolau, where Hawaiian gods took on other body forms to interact with humans.

Pele, the volcano goddess, is famed for her kinolau, either the body form of a young woman or sometimes a small white dog. Pele is also lava and all volcanic elements.

Conversely, her sister, Poliahu, is the snow goddess, and her kinolau are all snow elements.

Just as Hawaiians had love and respect for the land, so did they have love and respect for the sea, an important part of Hawaiians’ lives.

Just as Hawaiians were expert agriculturalists, they were also expert aqauculturalists, developing the Pacific’s most sophisticated traditional aquaculture system.

Hawaiians built and operated approximately 500 fishponds across the archipelago for raising fish for community consumption.

While many traditional practices have been lost, Hawaiians’ love of the land and culture remains strong.

While the world celebrates Earth Day every April, Hawaiians and those who love Hawai`i celebrate it every day by caring for the unique and beautiful place that is Hawai`i.

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