Thursday, September 5, 2013

OUR STORIES: Responses to Tsawalk by Richard Atleo


E. Richard Atleo’s book, Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview (2004), inspires us to begin with our own stories of origin, place, genealogy and interconnectedness. We also begin with these particular stories because they ground our discussions in the particular place where our group is discussing Indigenous theory—Hawai‘i.

 “Mo‘okū‘auhau” by Haley Kailiehu
The image you see here is called “Moʻokūʻauhau,” and it was drawn in response to Atleos book, Tsawalk. In this drawing, you’ll see that the kalo (the elder sibling and food staple for Hawaiians) are actually people morphing into the plant. You’ll see that they grow in bunches with the mother and father in the center, with their children attached and growing beside them. They are all connected through a continuous stem or runner. You’ll also see that there are many plants growing healthily as if the health of the entire interconnected system were dependent on the health of each independent family or bunch. Atleo writes, “Nuu-chah-nulth life is founded by creating and maintaining relationships.” This image is a quite literal interpretation that was inspired by my reading of Tsawalk.

I live next to most of my extended family on one piece of ‘āina in Kahakuloa, Maui so my nuclear family is very connected to them. I grew up with most of my aunties and uncles as if they were my second mothers and fathers. My cousins were like my brothers and sisters. We are all extremely close. When situations that arise that will affect the quality of our relationships, we will almost always come together to meet and make resolutions. With this said, my family has maintained a relatively good understanding of our responsibilities in maintaining a healthy connection with all members in our nuclear family as well as with members of our extended family. This drawing reminds of that and how understanding my genealogy is extremely important because it defines my connection to my family and my ancestors and the responsibilities associated with my position.

The variety of kalo in the drawing is 'Oene, which usually grows in clusters, has runners, and doesn't need much soil to grow. It is a wild variety that many thought had gone completely extinct.  Up until a year ago, my family knew that there was a specific spot on the vast sea cliffs of Kahakuloa where there grew a large cluster of kalo, but we didn't know exactly what variety it was. And honestly we were much more interested in the water that supported the kalo than in knowing the specific variety. 

You see it grows well in this specific area because there's a constant stream of water flowing from a spring just 40 feet above sea level, and there's also a stratigraphic layer of ʻāina at exactly that level as well. I can remember my father telling me, 'Eh, only pack enough water for the climb down the cliff. And then when you thirsty, just go to the spring after."  The climb down is pretty strenuous so we were always encouraged to pack light.  Fortunately for us at the bottom of the climb at sea level there was this spring from which we could drink water.  As far back as the eldest fisherman in our family, my father, can remember this kalo has always been growing there. About a year ago, kalo expert, Uncle Jerry Konanui confirmed that this cluster of kalo is of the ʻOene variety, reserved for our akua (gods) and usually eaten in times of famine. Why it didn't completely die for all these generations has to do with the fact that among all the waters of Mauna Kahalawai, the waters of our area have not been diverted and continue to flow freely.  Thus the spring water that brings life to this kalo has never faltered and remains because it's source continues to flow. 

“Who are you?” by Malu Kido

 As I found my way through the spacious, brightly lit lecture hall, I sat upon on a petite seat amongst the dense assembly of wary students. There was a sense of excitement and nervousness as I came to the realization that the last time I was in Hawaiian Studies 107 was six years ago - my junior year of high school. In the midst of this oddly comfortable, yet chaotic environment, my internal dialogue quieted as I became cognizant of the commanding presence of Kumu Jon Osorio's voice. He began his lecture by introducing the majestic heritage of the Kumulipo (a Hawaiian creation story) and chanting a section of lines from wā ʻakahi, the first epoch:

"O ke au i kahuli wela ka honua
O ke au i kahuli lole ka lani
O ke au i kukaiaka ka la
O hoomalamalama i ka malama
O ke au o makalii ka po
O ka walewale hookumu honua ia
O ke kumu o ka lipo i lipo ai
O ke kumu o ka po i po ai
O ka lipolipo, o ka lipolipo
O ka lipo o ka la, o ka lipo o ka po
Po wale hoi
Hanau ka po
Hanau Kumulipo i ka po, he kane
Hanau Poele i ka po, he wahine"

The sound of his calm, yet un-mistakenly confident voice resonated through the lecture hall. He then explained the chant of the Kumulipo to the mixture of diversely receptive faces. In the process of explaining the Kumulipo, he intertwined the poetic meaning of moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) and ʻohana (family). He eagerly described the vastness of the Kumulipo and its importance to Kānaka Maoli (Hawaiians). As the lecture proceeded, he also told the moʻolelo (story) of Papa and Wākea, revealing the twists and turns of the epic tale that leads to the birthing of our ancestor, Hāloa (the kalo plant). He used the story of Hāloa to talk about the Hawaiian sense of self and world: we, as Kānaka Maoli, carry with us our kūpuna (ancestors). While he was speaking about these genealogies of our people, I pictured the voice of Umeek in his bewildered conversation with the elder at Tofilno wharf.  

"'Uh-chuckh [Who are you]?' an elder asked me on the Tofino wharf one day during the mid-1950s.
'Richard Atleo,' I responded.
'No, no,' he replied in English, 'Who do you belong to, who is [sic] your father and mother?'"
(Atleo, 2004, p. 95).

I immediately noticed the parallels within the Kānaka Maoli and Nuu-chah-nulth views of self, family, and genealogy. Both cultures hold strong beliefs that lineage is central to one's identity. It reminded me of the purposeful repetition of the first two questions that become engrained in all ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) learners: "ʻO wai kou inoa?" and "No hea mai ʻoe?," which loosely translates to "What is your name?" and "Where are you from?" It also brings me to the two most common questions in local culture: "Where you from?" and "What schoo' you grad?" These questions allows for the understanding of our setting, our context, from where we find our foundations. Importantly, in the process, we also find the interrelatedness and the interconnectedness of one another.

So, who are you?
Who do you bring with you?
Who do you belong to?
Who are you?

“How you know?! - The Context and Language of Knowledge Acquisition in Tsawalk and ʻKa-Miki’” by Noʻeau Peralto

How is it that we come to know what we do? Methods of knowledge acquisition often vary from place to place, person to person, time to time. Understanding the ways in which we come to understand the phenomena that occur around and within us is perhaps more important than the body of knowledge that we acquire over time. For it is in the process of coming to this understanding that we develop the metaphors and teachings that insure that our knowledge is transmitted to the many generations that will follow in our path.

Central to any method of knowledge acquisition is an understanding of place and the language of that place, which contextualizes the space in which the acquisition of knowledge occurs. E. Richard Atleo’s Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview is one example of an Indigenous scholar’s analysis of methods of Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge acquisition, as understood through the traditions of his family. Atleo writes particularly of the spiritual method of Oosumich, framed by the theory of Tsawalk, from his perspective as a Nuu-chah-nulth male, drawing upon examples of the employment of this method in both creation stories and personal stories passed down within his own family. The place-based context and language of his framework for analysis is established and maintained clearly throughout the text. His is a Nuu-chah-nulth method, framed by a Nuu-chah-nulth theory, derived from a Nuu-chah-nulth worldview.

What value then, does this text provide for those of us who are not Nuu-chah-nulth? Speaking from my own perspective as an ʻŌiwi of Hawaiʻi, I find most value in the analytical process utilized by Atleo in articulating an understanding of his ancestral traditions of knowledge acquisition. Reading Tsawalk, I found myself constantly reflecting upon the moʻolelo (stories) and moʻokūʻauhau (genealogies) passed on to us by our ancestors as pathways of knowledge. One moʻolelo in particular that came to mind is the moʻolelo of Ka-Miki. This moʻolelo comes from the island of Hawaiʻi, my one hānau (birth sands) and kulāiwi (place where the bones of our ancestors are interred), it was published between 1914-1917 in the newspaper Ka Hoku o Hawaii in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian langauge), and it reflects a consciousness that is born of a Hawaiʻi island-based ancestral lineage.

The moʻolelo of Ka-Miki is the story of two brothers, Ka-Miki and Makaiole, who are being trained in the arts of lua and hoʻopāpā by their grandmother, Kauluhenuihihikoloiuka. The final task on their pathway to becoming ʻōlohe (masters) in these arts is a huakaʻi (journey) around the island of Hawaiʻi to challenge other ʻōlohe in hoʻopāpā, battles of the wits. On their journey, the brothers face many challengers, but are defeated by none. In each of their encounters at various places around the island, Ka-Miki and Makaiole initiate their challenge by calling upon their grandmother for strength and guidance. It is from her that their knowledge is derived, and it is through her training that the brothers eventually complete their journey and achieve the status of ʻōlohe.

Like Atleo, my analysis of this moʻolelo is framed by my position in relation to an extensive genealogy that connects me to Ka-Miki, his grandmother, and the island around which he travels. From this perspective, I have come to understand this moʻolelo as one of a method of knowledge acquisition, referred to in this moʻolelo as papahulihonua. Ka-Miki’s grandmother, Kauluhenuihihikoloiuka is a manifestation of Haumea, or Papa, an akua and ancestor from whom all Kānaka Hawaiʻi decend. In this moʻolelo, she is described as the originator of this method of knowledge acquisition, reflecting a well-established ʻŌiwi understanding of the relationship between wahine and methods of knowledge acquisition.

Ua kukulu iho la ua kupunawahine nei i ka papa huli honua o na ike apau, ame na mea e pili ana i ka oihana kilo, a pela me na ike e ae o kela ame keia ano mai ka po mai...
This ancestress established the papahulihonua of all knowledge, [including] of things related to the observance of the heavens, as well that of the knowledge of each and every thing from the pō... (Mar. 12, 1914)

The moʻolelo of Ka-Miki can thus be understood as a metaphor for the ways in which knowedge of the various places around the island of Hawaiʻi can be acquired. Similar to the method of Oosumich explained in Tsawalk, the papahulihonua method employed by Ka-Miki draws upon both the physical and spiritual realms of experience. Drawing upon the mana (spiritual power) of his grandmother while physically traveling around the island, Ka-Miki is able to become kamaʻāina (familiar) with places that he is not necessarily a kamaʻāina (native born) of. It is through this process that he acquires ʻike maka, experiential knowledge.

Each of us is born of a genealogy, which carries with it a particular language and set of traditions that form our iwikuamoʻo, our backbone as human beings. Whether we work in a university or a loʻi kalo, we have the ability to access knowledge in ways that are consistent with the contexts of our own birth, upbringing, and training. Our ancestors understood the human mind so intimately, that they were able to develop methods of knowledge acquisition and transmission that remain relevant to us to this day. It thus compels us to establish such an understanding ourselves, so that we may continue to perpetuate the genealogies of knowledge from which our descendants will stem. In doing so, not only will we insure that the generations to come will be equipped with the knowledge of their ancestors, but more importantly, they will be equipped with the tools necessary to acquire and transmit the knowledge born of their own experiences and contexts as kamaʻāina of their place and time in an ever-changing world.

No comments:

Post a Comment