AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Native Hawaiians are devastated by the latest wildfires that swept via Lahaina, Maui, killing dozens of residents and destroying tons of of houses, buildings, Christian church buildings and Buddhist temples.
It isn’t just the historic buildings and landmarks which are essential to Native Hawaiians. This area of Maui has an extended historical past.
It has been revered by its Indigenous peoples as a sacred place for generations. In the nineteenth century, it served as the house and burial place of the Hawaiian royal household and have become the primary capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Carmen Lindsey, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, stated in a press release that “Lahaina holds among the most traditionally vital cultural properties and highest-ranking sacred stays of our ancestors.”
As an Indigenous scholar who research the setting and faith of Indigenous peoples, I’m enthusiastic about how environmental change such because the catastrophic wildfire at Lahaina impacts sacred websites.
Lahaina is revered by Native Hawaiians as a result of it has lengthy been the house of Kihawahine, a lady who remodeled right into a moʻo goddess, or a supernatural shapeshifting lizard in Hawaiian faith. Her major residence was in a fishpond at Mokuʻula, a small island in Lahaina that was thought of a “piko,” or heart of conventional non secular and political exercise. Native Hawaiian royalty lived close by to be close to Kihawahine and her supernatural energy.
The historical past of the area can be related to King Kamehameha. After Kamehameha, the “aliʻi ʻai moku” or lead chief of the Island of Hawaii, succeeded in unifying all of the Hawaiian islands in 1810, he made Lahaina on Maui his royal residence.
Robert Dampier by way of Wikimedia Commons. Honolulu Museum of Art.
He chosen this place to be close to Kihawahine, the guardian spirit of his spouse Keōpūolani. He then honored Kihawahine, which assured that his lineage would proceed to function leaders.
In the following years, Lahaina turned the capital of the newly unified Kingdom of Hawaii below Kamehameha and his descendants’ rule. The capital remained in Lahaina till 1845, when King Kamehameha III relocated it to Honolulu, Oahu.
The earthly residence of Kihawahine modified dramatically with the approaching of American colonization and capitalism to the Island of Maui within the nineteenth century. Sugarcane firms diverted the waters that fed the fishpond and freshwater springs at Mokuʻula for irrigation, which induced the fishpond to dry up. Subsequently, the U.S. Territory of Hawaii crammed what was left of the pond with soil within the early twentieth century for a public park.
Efforts have been underway to revive Mokuʻula in Lahaina and revitalize its historical past as a Native Hawaiian sacred place. These efforts, nonetheless, shall be dramatically impacted by the devastation of the Lahaina fireplace.
What does the long run maintain?
According to scientists, harmful wildfires just like the one in Lahaina have gotten extra widespread and extra intense attributable to local weather change.
Chairwoman Lindsey of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs additionally sees different influences. “The fires of immediately are partially because of the local weather disaster, a historical past of colonialism in our islands, and the lack of our proper to steward our ‘aina and wai’ [land and water],” she stated.
The historic buildings and cultural properties of this place shall be perpetually misplaced. That sense of loss is summed up in Lindsey’s phrases: “We have watched our valuable cultural property, our bodily connection to our ancestors, our locations of remembering — all go up in smoke.”
But the tales of Kihawahine and Hawaiian sacred locations will reside on.
Rosalyn R. LaPier doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.