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Chapter 1: Mahi`ai (Farming) - Pounding the starchy kalo root produces poi, which was the Hawaiian staple for centuries. Rice has replaced it in most families, but kalo is still grown and eaten.
Growing kalo is not easy. Streams irrigate the patches, but more and more gallons of water are being diverted to resort and residential developments that do not have enough. Kalo is also physically difficult to cultivate and susceptible to storms and plagues. The children of many farmers are leaving the fields for higher and easier wages elsewhere. The result: shortages of poi.
This story is told through Clarence Kaona, a Hanalei, Kaua`i, farmer. He grew up working his grandfather and father's terraces, moved to California, and returned 25 years later to take over the patches after his father died.
Chapter 2: Mele (Music) - - Louis "Moon" Kauakahi arranges, writes, and plays music for the Makaha Sons - a trio known for its harmonic Hawaiian sounds.
At one time, Hawaiian music was America's favorite. Today, even with award-winning albums, the sound is not popular enough to feed the Sons. Louis works full-time for the Hawai`i Army National Guard, and it is difficult to get the O`ahu group together for rehearsals because of job and family conflicts.
As the group practices, goes into the studio to record, and then loses one of its prominent members, the reader learns about Hawaiian music and Louis' struggle to create sounds that are Hawaiian, yet appealing to ears that do not understand the language.
Chapter 3: Halau Hula (Dance) - Mapuana deSilva teaches 400 students how to dance hula. These children, teenagers, adults, and elders each pay monthly fees, which help support Mapuana, her family, and the mortgage on a Kailua, O`ahu, home that is also the dance school.
This Halau Mohala `Ilima is more than a place to learn hula. It is supported by a non-profit foundation, and people spend many hours there away from work and home; enjoying the companionship of friends while learning about the native culture. It is also a place to train dancers for competitions and festivals; for organizing hula concerts and fund-raisers to support those dancers; for teaching Hawaiian language to children; for training adults to become teachers; and the place where Mapuana, her husband Kihei, and their extended family prepare for the annual Merrie Monarch Festival - the state's most competitive dance event.
Through the group's preparation for and experience with Merrie Monarch, the reader sees what h~lau means to Mohala `Ilima as the deSilvas pass on the traditions of the culture about which they are still learning.
Chapter 4: `Olelo (Language)- In a state with more than a million people, there are 2,000 speakers of Hawaiian left, and many hundreds who are trying to learn. Laiana and Lilinoe Wong are among those who began studying after they enrolled their first son in a private pre-school where children are immersed only in native words.
The Wongs live in Kalihi, O`ahu, and they are committed to creating an environment where their children can speak Hawaiian. They believe if the language is lost so will the children's culture, because the words and how they are spoken express the ways Hawaiians live. However, it is difficult learning a new language in your 30s, as it is to teach it. Salaries for the few Hawaiian pre-school teachers are minimum wages, and when a child is graduated from pre-school, public schools offering Hawaiian are faced with shortages of staff and materials.
Through the Wongs, the reader learns about efforts to revive and perpetuate the first language of Hawai`i, and why the Wongs and others believe those efforts are so important.
Chapter 5: Hoe Wa`a (Canoeing) - There are almost 100,000 Hawaiians living upon the American continent, where many have found education, jobs, and homes unavailable to them in the Islands. Even with these things, the Mainland is not the home they left behind. So they have recreated the spirit of Hawai`i through civic clubs, newsletters, reunions, hula and canoe competitions, lu`au, and weekly shipments of poi. They have been so successful that few have any desire to return permanently to the Islands.
Their activities also provide a new culture for non-Hawaiians, who want to experience Hawaiian ways through hula and paddling. The book profiles Albert Kamila Choy Ching, Jr., a canoe coach now living in Redondo Beach, Calif., during a weekend regatta in California and his team's return to Hawai`i for the annual Moloka`i-to-O`ahu canoe race. The reader sees how Al has taken his traditions to the Mainland and adapted them to his new home.
Chapter 6: He`e Nalu (Surfing) - This winter thirty men hope to surf Makaha's biggest wave to a $50,000 prize in The Point Challenge, an invitational surfing contest.
Hawaiians originally surfed for pleasure and sport. Today's version also has generated billion dollar fashion and media industries for people who want to look like surfers without getting wet.
By winter, the Quiksilver contestants must be conditioned for Makaha's three-story waves, and it takes year-round running, swimming, and surfing to be ready for a 60-second streak across a wave or the wipeout that can take their life away. Surviving Makaha and making the ride is one of surfing's ultimate challenges.
Through this chapter, the reader discovers how an ancient Hawaiian pleasure has evolved into an intensely competitive, international sport. The reader also learns how Brian Keaulana, a lifeguard captain from Makaha, grew up surfing on O`ahu and how he prepares for the day when the world's best surfers will be in the water looking for the ultimate ride and the $50,000 prize.
Chapter 7: Kapa (Tapa) - There is no need for kapa. Clothing is designed in Europe, woven in Taiwan, assembled in Panama, and distributed to families whose ancestors pounded the bark of Hawaiian plants into a fabric called kapa.
When Dennis Kana`e Keawe was born more than forty years ago, there were no kapa makers left in the Islands. As a young man, he learned the techniques from books and through practice until he was finally able to pass his knowledge onto others. During the past decade, Kana`e has traveled around the world demonstrating kapa making and other craft skills he has learned.
Recently he received an invitation from a remote island in the South Pacific, where a few elderly women still beat the bark. Would he come and teach what he knew? Kana`e did and through his journey the reader sees one man's effort to perpetuate the knowledge of his ancestors beyond the shores of his Hilo home, and why he believes it is important for Hawaiians to learn the crafts of their ancestors.
Chapter 8: Lapa`au (Healing) - Before pills, radiation and scalpels, Hawaiians used plants for healing, and a few are still using them to cure bleeding hearts, ruptured spleens, boils and rashes, and to keep diseases away.
These Hawaiians use a holistic approach to healing, with knowledge passed down by their families. It is an art of patience sometimes taking three years to bring about a cure. There is a danger some of the healing arts may be lost with this generation of elders, because many of their children are not interested in learning the knowledge, and their grandchildren are being sent to doctors, trained in Western medical schools and hospitals.
A group of young Hawaiian doctors and nurses are trying to incorporate traditional healing within their practices. They want to create reference books, grow gardens, and test recipes so Hawaiians can look to the land and to each other for cures, rather than only to hospitals. However, some Hawaiians no longer have faith in the plant doctors and the medical community is concerned about licensing, liability, and fraud.
This chapter discusses these issues as it follows the late William Kahu`ena, an elder from Kane`ohe, O`ahu, while he attended conferences and conducted healing workshops.
Chapter 9: Pono (Righteousness) - Almost a hundred years ago, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group of pro-America businessmen, and ever since Hawaiians have been working to become pono with themselves and their remaining lands.
Mahealani Kamauu, executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, is helping Hawaiians understand the original injustice, the need for sovereignty today, and the forms sovereignty may take.
The state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is working for a native constitutional convention as it seeks reparations and lands from the United States for a yet-to-be-devised Hawaiian nation. Ka Lahui Hawai`i has formed its own nation with citizens who are demanding sovereign recognition from the United States. Other natives lobby the United Nations and councils of indigenous people; hoping world pressure will force the U.S. to return the archipelago to Hawaiian control.
While the reader learns about the most important political movement involving Hawaiian people today, Mahealani shares her family's story and her struggle to become pono with herself and the Hawai`i that she and other Hawaiians inherited as their legacy.
Chapter 10: Ho`omana (Religion) - In 1819, the year before Christian missionaries arrived, island chiefs began destroying the temples that had been the symbols of the ancient Hawaiian religion. The chiefs created a void that was filled partially by the Calvinists, the Catholics, and the Mormons, who urged the Hawaiians to embrace their forms of Christianity. Many did, though a few continued to worship the lesser gods that had watched over their families.
Today, those gods and others still live for many Hawaiians. Some say their beliefs have been violated by the development of geothermal energy on the Big Island, the military's damage of Kaho`olawe island, and the unearthing of native bones and sites for resorts and highways. Others "worship" more quietly, fearing criticism from those that can not or will not understand their faith.
Through this profile, the reader learns how Craig Neff became a mo`o Lono, a priest of the god Lono, as he worked to revive traditional religious rituals on Kaho`olawe, an island that was a U.S. Navy bombing target for fifty years.