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Hookuaaina Rebuilding Lives From The Ground Up

He Waʻa He Moku, He Moku He Waʻa

Imagine you are preparing to sail thousands of miles away. What would you take with you? What skills and resources will you need to complete your journey successfully? How are you preparing? 

As you launch out and begin your journey into the open ocean, the reality sets in that everything you and your crew need to sustain yourself is on board. You are surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean in all directions.

In Hawaiian, the name for the area on the waʻa (voyaging canoe) where people typically stand is sometimes known as the honua. Honua also means land or earth, which gives us incredible insight into the Hawaiian way of thinking about voyaging as well as island life. The navigators sailing between Hawaiʻi and Tahiti stand on the same honua as their ʻohana whose feet are planted in the loʻi of Kailua. Both practice incredible skill, both have a vision for what they cannot yet physically see, and both are incredibly aware of their reliance on ʻāina and on that outside of themselves.

This ʻōlelo noʻeau reminds us of our dependence on the finite resources available on an island as well as our dependence on one another. When we are voyaging long distances on a waʻa, there is a heightened awareness of the amount and quality of the resources on board, and everyone has the kuleana to steward them well. A failure to do so can be dangerous and even fatal. 

In addition, we are acutely aware of who is on our waʻa with us and where we are going. When encountering situations that can change in an instant and that will have serious consequences, it is important to know who we are traveling with, what they bring to the table, and how our skills and strengths complement one another, in spite of our shortcomings. We need to consistently bring our best selves forward and work to maintain clear lines of communication.

While the conveniences of life today may paint a very different picture, life on an island, and perhaps on the earth, is not all that different from that on a waʻa. Our present climate crisis and concerns over water quality and access to healthy food remind us of our urgent need to step into our kuleana as kānaka who truly mālama (care for) ʻāina. This ʻōlelo noʻeau helps us to remember that where we stand on the honua today is not all that different from standing on the honua of the waʻa in the middle of the ocean. Our kuleana does not change. Perhaps by remembering this, we will be able to work together as a community to steer our waʻa in a direction that brings life and abundance for generations to come.

Inquiry

  • What does the ʻōlelo noʻeau “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa” mean to you? How is a canoe like an island and an island like a canoe? How could we apply this concept to life today?
  • What does your everyday canoe look like? Who is the captain? Where are you going? What is your role on the waʻa? What are the skills and strengths you bring to the table? 
  • Who are you traveling with? What are their skills and strengths? What are areas that are challenging and how do you work together to address them? 
  • Do you like where you are going? How could you sail your canoe in a better direction? What could be your role shifting directions?

Vocabulary

  • Laulima: Cooperation, joint action. Literally: many (400) hands
  • Waʻa: Canoe
  • Moku: District or an island
  • Honua: Land, earth; Middle section of a canoe
  • ʻOhana: Family
  • Loʻi: Wetland taro field
  • Kuleana: Responsibility, privilege, authority

Moʻolelo

Keahiakahoe
View The Moʻolelo: Keahiakahoe Here Reflection Questions
  • How do the kuleana of the different characters in the moʻolelo reflect life on a waʻa?
  • What life lessons do we learn from the moʻolelo, particularly as it pertains to this ʻōlelo noʻeau?
Mākālei
View The Moʻolelo: Mākālei Here Reflection Questions
  • In the moʻolelo of Mākālei, what was Kawainui? Did people gather food there? How does this compare with Kawainui today?
  • What did the people of Waimānalo and Kailua do in order to mālama (care for) Kawainui fishpond? Why did they do this? What were they able to accomplish?
  • How do we see the ʻōlelo noʻeau, He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa, exemplified in the moʻolelo of Mākālei?
  • What other life lessons do we learn from this moʻolelo?

Possible Extension Activities

Laulima ʻOhana Challenge

Choose a task each week to complete together as an ʻohana. This could be cooking together, cleaning the yard, planting, or volunteering in the community. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is that you have a task and that you work together to complete it. At the end, spend time in reflection together:

  • What were you able to accomplish together? 
  • Take time to express appreciation for each person. What are the positive things they did or what did you notice about how they performed certain tasks that you want to highlight? Spend time thanking and/or encouraging one another.
  • What were the areas of challenge? How did you overcome them or how might you overcome them in the future? 
Laulima Puzzle

Preparation: Print out a large picture, dividing it into puzzle pieces. Depending on the size of your picture and of each puzzle piece, you can sort the pieces so that each individual receives a piece or so that each pair or small group receives a piece. Be sure students do not see the “big picture” until the very end.

Pass out each puzzle piece and have the individual or pair decorate the puzzle piece. 

Have the students bring all the pieces together to create the puzzle 

Once they can see the “big picture,” have students reflect on:

  • The importance of individual kuleana: Why is each puzzle piece important? What would happen if a piece was missing? What would happen if all pieces were the same?
  • The importance of coming together: While each piece individually is beautiful, why is it significant to come together at the end? 
  • The ʻōlelo noʻeau: How does this process reflect the ʻōlelo noʻeau, He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa?
Content Area Reflection

Have students reflect on topics they are currently covering in their course(s) or field of study. Then discuss the following questions as they apply:

  • What are ways we see the ʻōlelo noʻeau, “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa,” exemplified in what we are studying? 
  • How might thinking and acting in this way have shifted or improved the time period or topic we are covering? 
  • How might it benefit our society today?
Content Area Relay

Choose a task for students to complete. This can be aligned to any content area standards you are covering (Ex. a multiplication or division worksheet)

Split the students into groups of 3 or 4, and remind them to encourage one another throughout each “time trial”

Time students at intervals (ex. 20 seconds), allowing one student per group to be completing the task at a time. The rest of the students should be engaged in and encouraging their teammates. 

At the end of each interval, give students time to write down how much was completed during that “time trial,” keeping a running total of the number of completions for the entire group.

Repeat several times.

Spend time reflecting in your groups and/or as a class:

  • What were you able to accomplish together? 
  • Take time to express appreciation for each person. What are the positive things they did or what did you notice about how they performed certain tasks that you want to highlight? Spend time thanking and/or encouraging one another.
  • What were the areas of challenge? How did you overcome them or how might you overcome them in the future?
English/Language Arts or Social Studies

Sketcher

Have students draw a picture that reflects what “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa” means to them. Then, in one or more paragraphs, they will either:

  • Explain their sketch
  • Write a creative story to match their drawing
  • Write an argumentative essay that connects with their drawing and the ʻōlelo noʻeau

Concept Board

Have students reflect on their experience with Hoʻokuaʻāina and the lesson, “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa,” by creating a visual representation that includes the following:

  • Subtitle
  • Picture
  • Summary
  • Application
  • Question

Content on this page was written and compiled by Danielle Espiritu, Education Specialist

Hookuaaina Rebuilding Lives From The Ground Up

Hoʻokuaʻāina is located in the ahupuaʻa of Kailua at Kapalai in Maunawili on the island of Oʻahu.

For more information about our programs or how you can get involved please contact us.

visit us

916E Auloa Rd.

Kailua, HI 96734

mail

P.O. Box 342146

Kailua, HI 96734

follow us

Hookuaaina Rebuilding Lives From The Ground Up

Hoʻokuaʻāina is located in the ahupuaʻa of Kailua at Kapalai in Maunawili on the island of Oʻahu.

For more information about our programs or how you can get involved please contact us.

visit us

916E Auloa Rd.

Kailua, HI 96734

mail us

P.O. Box 342146

Kailua, HI 96734

email us

Reach Us At:

info@hookuaaina.org

follow us

Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization

© Hoʻokuaʻāina 2020 All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions | Privacy | Site By Created By Kaui

Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization

© Hoʻokuaʻāina 2020 All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions | Privacy | Site By Created By Kaui

Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization

© Hoʻokuaʻāina 2020 All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions | Privacy

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