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Authors to dispel myths about women in old Hawaii

By Staff | Oct 29, 2009

OLOWALU — “October/November is the start of the Hawaiian New Year, Ka Makahiki, when Lono becomes the ruling god. It is a time of renewal, regeneration, fertility rite and bringing forward the female aspects of cult and culture,” author Katherine Smith of Kapalua explained.

Smith is a volunteer at the Olowalu Cultural Reserve (OCR), founded in 1999 on 74 acres of land running from the base of the West Maui Mountains to the ocean at Olowalu.

The purpose of the community-based organization is to support and promote the revitalization of traditional Hawaiian culture by providing cultural and educational experiences for Hawaii residents and visitors alike, including the planting and harvesting of kalo (taro) in the lo‘i for poi and restoration of the ahupua‘a.

Its president is Bishop Museum Mamo Award recipient Al Lagunero. Vice president is Judge Boyd Mossman, and David Ward is the secretary/treasurer. Other directors serving on the board are Wanda Pulama Collier and Noe Noe Marks Lindsey.

The non-profit’s lands in Olowalu are under a long-term (99-year) lease agreement from landowner Olowalu Elua Associates LLC. Its offices in Wailuku are manned and managed by the dedicated Duey family, including Rose Marie Duey, executive director; daughter Nani Santos, administrative assistant; and John Duey, volunteer field manager.

The Olowalu Cultural Reserve is open to the public and supports projects like Volunteer Community Workday the third Saturday monthly, trail restoration, planting of a native endemic plant garden through a grant from the Atherton Family Foundation, an Adopt-a-Lo‘i Program and the ‘Ohana Poi Kitchen, a facility created for community groups to cook and prepare the poi for their families.

In recognition of the season of makahiki and for the benefit of OCR, the nonprofit is hosting co-authors Lucia and Natalie Mahina Jensen to talk story with a select group of island women about “The Role of Women in Old Hawai‘i” on Friday, Nov. 6.

“We decided to have a women’s event. It’s the time of makahiki; it’s a time of renewal and regeneration. We are trying to malama and nurture the land. We thought that this would be a time to bring the female presence into the land. We’re looking for women of means who could come and help us, or women of skills who can come and help us meet our goals,” Smith explained.

“We want to solicit partners who are going to go with us on this journey. We needed to solicit women — women who can help us in this quest,” she added, then described the featured Nov. 6 afternoon ceremonies.

“The invitations to the event are seedling plants that they (the invitees) will bring with them for their ho‘okupu (offering) to enter the land,” Smith said.

“It will open with a women’s circle where we will, in the maoli (native) tradition, share a little bit of our ancestry and offer a blessing for the land.

“Then we’ll go up into the OCR and show our guests what we’ve done up there so far and offer ho‘okupu and have an educational talk story,” she said.

The Jensen mother-daughter team co-authored “Daughters of Haumea,” a 2006 Ka Palapala Po‘okela excellence award-winner.

“Daughters” is based on 30 years of research and is considered “the authoritative resource for didactic and esoteric information on women’s roles in Hawaiian culture,” Smith said.

“My function will be to introduce to these women, who have been invited, to introduce to them the pre-contact perspective on Hawaiian women, because there are so many fallacies that are continuously being written up in books, inaccurate language used to describe them,” the Big Island historian remarked.

The authors are passionate about the message.

“I really debunk all of the fallacies that have been written over the years about Hawaiian women, pre-contact indigenous women, to their life, to their equality in their society, to the fact that they were not forbidden, and that there was a kapu on them because of their defilement, because of there menses. All of that is incorrect — culturally incorrect. They were sacred. They nourished and grew life — all life from the smallest amoeba to the smallest plants to the Earth itself,” Lucia Jensen said.   

“There are various women (on island) who are in prominent positions as educators, as mothers, grandmothers,” Lagunero commented.

“How do they see their families growing,” the nonprofit president/artist/mentor continued, “and what is the balance that they can bring to their families once the women’s role is reestablished? This is why we’re having part of the talk story with Lucia… to identify what kind of things have been in old Hawaii and what they might present as possibilities for today.

“This is an attempt to launch that wisdom from the women and what they bring to the balance of the land, and what they bring in terms of their particular wisdom to make the land a nurturing place,” he added.

For more information, call 214-8778, visit olowaluculturalreserve.com or e-mail lihauolowalu@live.com.