Aloha mai kākou,
With ATE’s 2023 Summer Conference in Washington, DC (July 28-August 1) right around the corner, I wanted to thank the conference co-chairs, Pat Tate and Vince O'Neill, who have been working tirelessly with their planning committee to put on what will undoubtedly be a memorable event. They have taken the Presidential Theme: A Professional Educator's Kuleana - Preparing for the Future through Accountability, Diversity, Advocacy, and Celebration and seamlessly woven it into all aspects of the conference event, from the keynote speakers, through the workshops and presentations, and into the Talk Story Space, which was intentionally designed to provide members with a dedicated space where they can sit, relax, and talk with one another away from the hustle and bustle of the conference.
As we head to DC, I would like to offer the following for you to think about. It is the feeling of ATE being our Ohana. It is one of the things that I look forward to when we have the opportunity to get together. Most folks, I am guessing, have heard of Lilo and Stitch, and know that the word Ohana means family, but, as with Kuleana, there is also a deeper meaning to it. I consider ATE as part of my Ohana, and though we are not related by blood, we share many central beliefs that bring us together.
For those who are interested, as I was, to learn more about Ohana, and its relationship to Kuleana, I am happy to be able to share the following explanation which my colleagues Kahea and Keoki Faria helped me to understand:
Ohana, according to Walt Disney, means family, which means nobody gets left behind. Within that statement the main character, Lilo, has laid out before us the kuleana of all members of the family or ohana. Nobody gets left behind is her way of explaining that it is the kuleana of every family member to maintain the well being of the whole.
Ohana, family, according to Mrs. Mary Kawena Pukui, is unique in greater Polynesia. It takes its name from the kalo or taro plant and its growth. Kalo has been a main staple of the Hawaiian diet from antiquity. The primordial parents of the Hawaiian people initially gave birth to a baby that was stillborn and out of this stillborn child grew the first kalo plant. The second child would be named for its older stillborn brother, Haloa, and would become the progenitor of the Hawaiian people. Kalo, similar in effect to Hawaiian families, grow, and prior to the full development of the corm, many shoots, or oha, appear around the parent stalk. These oha stay close to the parent stalk where they are fed and sheltered by its leaves until they, the oha, are strong enough to survive on their own. The Hawaiian word for ohana is a noun nominalization of the act of oha appearing, thus oha ana or the oha -ing shortened to ohana.
The act of kalo farming, in some respects, is really an outward expression of familial obligation for those who approach it with an understanding of Hawaiian language, culture and history. Kuleana dictates the interplay or interaction between man and kalo, and amongst the kalo themselves. The parent stalk of kalo, after it has babies, or oha, have sprouted up and will remain tall for a time being, creating a canopy under which the oha can develop. As the oha shoots for the sunlight the parent simultaneously begins to shrink back to allow room for the oha to grow, while also putting more energy into its corm below. At the time of harvest these oha are strong enough to become individual parent plants of their own, a cycle that has continued to repeat itself generation after generation since Haloa.
This is not the only relationship at play in the growth of kalo, the relationship between kalo and man is also very important. Returning back to the story of the first kalo and his younger brother, Haloa, the relationship between man and kalo is a familial one with the kalo holding the esteemed place of older brother, or kaikuaana, and man below him as younger brother, or kaikaina. The kuleana, or responsibility, of the kaikuaana or older sibling in the ohana is that of provider, protector, and teacher. The kaikuaana is given this role as he is closer in descent to the elder generation, or parent stalk, and closer to the essential life giving knowledge and wisdom of that generation. The kaikaina’s, or younger generation’s, kuleana is to listen, watch, learn and work. Hawaiian kalo farmers, like all good farmers, take their cues from the plants, the plants will show you what it needs to be successful.
The carrying out of these actions are signs of the most well known of Hawaiian emotions or traits, aloha, or love. I would argue that aloha may be part of the global vernacular. For all who come to Hawaii, or who have watched Hawaii Five – O have come to know aloha as a greeting. It also can be a farewell, as in Queen Liliuokalani’s, Aloha Oe. The melody of the song suggests a calm dignified gratitude with the a touch of impending sadness which comes through the lyrics whether sung by the king, Elvis Presley, in Blue Hawaii; Liloʻs kaikuaʻana, Nani in Lilo and Stitch, or our Queen, Liliuokalani herself.
All of these important values, structures and emotions derive from what grounds and makes up the very fabric of all that is Hawaiian, the aina, the land. All wealth, or waiwai, are provided for by the land, and there is no greater kuleana than the kuleana to work for what is best for the land. Doing so is an act of immeasurable aloha. And is known as aloha aina. Historically this word aloha aina takes form in the 1800s when Hawaii was under threat by foreign powers and is closely associated with patriotism, but this is a type of patriotism that goes beyond just king and country but deep into the antiquity of the origins of the Hawaiian islands and its people.
Handy, E. S. C. & Pukui, M. K. (1998). The polynesian system in Ka-ʻu, Hawaiʻi. Mutual.
So, as we head into our gathering in DC to renew old friendships and to make new ones, please reflect on your Kuleana and how that is tied into the ATE Ohana.
For those who are traveling to the conference, safe travels and I look forward to seeing you there. For those not able to make it to DC, we will miss you and look forward to seeing you in Anaheim in March of next year.
A Hui Hou.