I wandered into a used bookshop yesterday not knowing why. My feet seemed to guide me there, and in my depleted state, I simply followed. It had been a strange day. Walking through the city, I somehow felt as if my heart had swam across ke kai kāwahawaha o ka moana Pākīpika, the furrowed waters of this Pacific Ocean, leaving my body moving slowly, without purpose. I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be on my mountain, standing with the other kānaka kū kiaʻi mauna, the other protectors of our home.
I had been following the movement—the incredible movement of hope occurring in my beloved Hawaiʻi—and was moved as I watched people come together across the island chain to stand for the life of our mountain. And yet, a sadness stirred within me as my feet tread upon the land of long white clouds, yearning to plant in the soil of my ʻāina kulāiwi.
As I stood near the entrance of the bookshop, my body heavy, I turned and saw the title, Tangata Whenua, a book about the indigenous people of this whenua, this ʻāina, this land, Aotearoa. And seemingly without purpose, I reached for it, opened the cover, and learned of why my feet had guided me there, head unconscious, heart across the ocean:
The centre is the now place which each of us occupies for a time. From the centre one reaches in any direction, to the outer circles from where understanding and inspiration are drawn. There is no great distance in the reaching because we are our own tūpuna. Also we share the dust of stars. Reaching out and drawing in one comes to know oneself, becoming whole and human.
The words of Māori novelist, Patricia Grace, seemed to reach out to me, embracing my cheek like the gentle touch of a kupuna, a tupuna, an ancestor. I wanted to cry. But in that moment I realized the purpose of me being here, thousands of miles away from my mountain, away from my people, away from my home.
I am but one voice. And there are times that I get caught up in being just one voice, one small voice, armed with words and a bit of awareness. There are times that I get caught up in asking myself if I have the ability to really do anything to initiate change. Then I read something like this and remember that I am of no use to my people or my home if I lose any sense of hope that even the smallest voice can stir oceans, can stand upon mountains, and can ring across the sky.
For as Grace reminds us, “…we are our own tūpuna…” They are not separate from us; they are not gone, away, untouchable. They are here, wherever here is because we carry them with us, always. So wherever we stand, we stand as many. And whenever we speak, we speak as many. And whenever we fight, we fight as many. We are our ancestors and our descendants will be us, reaching out to draw inspiration from our actions now. So we must give them something to stand with, to stand for, to stand by.
For those of us who cannot be there physically, standing upon our Mauna Kea, we need not reach far to be there emotionally, spiritually, culturally. For as Grace states, “There is no great distance in reaching…reaching out one comes to know oneself, being whole and human.” So we reach from every corner of the Pacific, drawing understanding, drawing inspiration, drawing support, and drawing hope to the center of our existence, wherever that center may be. And in the act we come to know ourselves as connected, as truly connected.
That is why our mauna matters, why our people matter, why this movement matters. It is because that connection makes us whole, makes us human: conscious of responsibility, ready and willing to move, to act, and yes, to raise our voice, no matter how small it may be.
This is not a Hawaiian movement, a “native” movement, an “indigenous” movement. It is a human one. It is time to stand for the betterment of our future through protecting our ʻāina, our whenua, our land and mother now. So stand with us. Kū kiaʻi mauna. Stand as a protector. Wherever you are. Whoever you are. Stand as and stand with your kupuna, your tupuna, your ancestors, using their languages to speak to new issues, using their metaphors to understand current fights, using their values to guide current actions.
No longer will I waste time walking unconsciously, heart across the ocean, head bent, caught up in my own doubts. I will stand with you, e kuʻu mauna—connected, whole, human—and will walk with you, e nā kānaka kū kiʻai mauna, until the last shout, the last chant, and even the last whisper of my voice.