Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻ Āina i ka Pono
The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness
All kids in Hawai’i grow up saying these words. It’s the state’s motto and written into songs, but it took me so much longer to truly understand it’s meaning and to take pride in what it represents.
My story really starts with my grandmother, a native Hawaiian woman and my grandfather, a Portuguese immigrant. They were two of the most foundational people in my life. My grandmother lovingly taught me to honor our traditional Hawaiian Gods, to dance hula, and to speak Hawaiian. My grandfather taught me there was only one God and to believe otherwise was blasphemy, told me I shouldn’t dance hula because the outfits were too revealing, and taught me to speak Portuguese. Although they both loved me, they’re cultures fought against each other and pushed me to sacrifice pieces of who I was. I struggled wanting to be both Hawaiian and Portuguese.
It was my mom that saw my struggle and showed me I didn’t have to choose. I remember her words as if it was yesterday, “Nani (my Hawaiian name), you are both Hawaiian and Portuguese and you can be proud to be both, BUT remember you are always Hawaiian first.” She pushed me to learn the history of British colonization and then U.S. occupation. She taught me pride in King Kalakaua, the Merry Monarch, who brought hula and the Hawaiian language back to our people, to revere our last reigning monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, who fought against annexation and was imprisoned until her death.
It is family. It is history. It is my rich Hawaiian culture that makes me proud to acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day.
As a I decolonize myself, I acknowledge both the colonizing nature of my grandfather’s culture and the rich heritage and history of my grandmother’s. For me, it is referring to myself as Kanaka Maoli, the true people. Although I no longer live in Hawai’i, I continue to stay informed on issues that center the needs of Hawaiian people. Most importantly, I channel the Aloha spirit and Malama Pono (take good care) towards myself and those around me.
As I write this blog and reflect on my state’s motto, I come to realize that it is through me, my people, and my culture that the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. We must educate ourselves and the next generation on the truth. Columbus didn’t find the indigenous people of America, they were already here! We must continue to push back against the injustices done to indigenous people. We need to be civically engaged and join movements that center the wellbeing of indigenous cultures. Most importantly, we must be good to ourselves and create community where colonization has sought to strip us of that humanity.
Today I acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day, a decolonization of Columbus Day for the strong native cultures of this country. The cultures that persevered through colonization, that didn’t break when Europeans tried so hard to rob them of their language, their art, food, dance and dress. Their past and future.
As we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, I want to take a moment to recognize that the land Mockingbird occupies is stolen land from the Coast Salish peoples. Let it serve as a reminder today and all days, that native cultures continue to struggle against the long-term impact of colonization.
Paula Lehuanani Carvalho