Meaning of 'Aina in Hawaiian Tradition

Boggs, Stephen T.
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Interviews with twelve Hawaiians, eleven of them kupuna (elders)who were raised on Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu around the turn of the century, indicate the following attitudes and beliefs about the land. Above all the land was regarded as the provider of everything: "food, shelter over your head, and a place to plant your feet and stand firm.” Land also meant work--hard work, because if you "turn your hands down to work you live; turn them up and you get nothing." For some land symbolized life, and in pre-Christian tradition mana (power). Since the 'ohana (relatives and friends) lived on the land, and their spirits returned there generation after generation, the land was also closely tied in thought with the chain of being: it was like a piko (umbilical cord). Just as one felt aloha for the 'ohana, so one felt toward the land on which the 'ohana worked, lived, and stayed in eternity. Aloha for the 'aina was expressed by attitudes of respect, returning gifts to the land, beautifying it, and using it properly (not greedily). More than anything else land, and all that was associated with it, gave a sense of identity to Hawaiians. Thus, for example, aloha 'aina meant love of country during the years when Hawaii's government was being overthrown. Thus it is understandable that those concerned with their Hawaiian heritage today, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, look first to the land which in former times was theirs.
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