What Mālama Hawai‘i Means To Me

Each time I hold my ipu heke (gourd drum) to chant or teach hula, I give thanks for the 50 plus years this treasured implement has been a part of me. As I tend my garden, including gourds we are growing for our hula  students, I pray our students will mālama (care for) their ipu and hula education for many years, and perpetuate our culture. I thank our kumu hula (hula teachers) for these lessons of mālama Hawai’i.

Recently, our ‘ohana (family) gathered to celebrate our father’s 85th birthday at my brother’s home. While there, I took a moment to say “aloha and mahalo” to the kūpuna (ancestors) who passed in recent years, and the sweetest breeze wrapped me in their love and memories. These are kūpuna I continue to love and honor for the guidance, lessons and aloha they shared with us, including the importance of healthy reciprocal relationships with, and to care for, ourselves, each other, the land, the ocean, and all things we value – how to mālama Hawai‘i.

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Since childhood, the feel of clean cool water when washing my hands is a moment of gratitude. Living on a remote island with limited resources, we learn the value of, and to responsibly use each resource. Knowing that rain, the perfect volcanic island filtration system, and the large aquifers we have are a blessing and privilege, we must mālama our home Hawai‘i. We give thanks for the water, our islands, the rain and nature every day.

In Hawai‘i, wai (water) is the most valuable resource and we do not take it for granted.
Whether harvesting food from the ocean or land, I take a moment to say “mahalo” for what will be shared at our table. Before leaving the beach we walk and gather debris so that things don’t end up in the ocean as pollutants or pose a danger to marine wildlife. If there is debris anywhere, I pick it up and put it where it belongs. We are taught to care for the ocean and land as a beloved kupuna. With that in mind, we’d never leave or toss debris on our grandparent. I am thankful for being raised with a loving example that truly instilled this disciplined approach to caring for all that I value, including my home Hawai‘i.

Mālama Hawai‘i means that we care deeply for and about the people, places, cultures, and resources we treasure. It is our kuleana (responsibility) to take care of ourselves, each other, the land, ocean, water, planet, and air we breathe with a high level of respect, love and aloha, so that they all take care of us. It means we leave every person, place and condition better than we found it every day, at every opportunity. I want to know that we’ve done all possible to model and instill in others to mālama Hawai‘i, allowing all of our descendants, many generations from now, to have a vibrant and healthy Hawai‘i to mālama.


Ready to experience what it means to mālama Hawai‘i first-hand? Join Ka’iulani on a Hawaiian cultural adventure today.

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