Ululani Special Feature

Lāhui Rising Series

This educational series is designed to create a safe, respectful and enriching learning space for all audiences to hear and honor various perspectives on matters of Hawaiian interest.

A Season of Giving and Growing

Author: 
Kapalaiʻula De Silva
Month: 
11
Year: 
2013

 

During the time of Makahiki, there was great emphasis placed on the importance of ho‘okupu and ‘auhau. Objects of great value were given by maka‘āinana to their ali‘i and akua. It was believed that this annual practice of giving, an integral phase of the harvest season’s ceremonies, would encourage the continued growth and fertility of our lands and resources.

 

Beginning on the day of Lā‘aukūkahi in the month of Welehu, various ho‘okupu from each ahupua‘a were collected by the konohiki of that area and included kapa, pa‘ūpa‘ū, and malo, to name just a few. Dogs were also given in great abundance. These ho‘okupu were accepted over the course of three days and nights, while prayers were offered in the heiau to honor Lono. At the conclusion of this three-day period, these ho‘okupu were distributed out to the akua, kāhuna, chiefly retainers, and warriors.

Typical offerings during Makahiki might include kapa (bark cloth) or other handiwork.

Typical offerings during Makahiki might include kapa (bark cloth) or other handiwork.

On the day of Kāloakūkahi, the akua loa began its circuit of the island to collect another series of gifts, this time in the form of ‘auhau. These ‘auhau were laid in heaps at each ahupua‘a marker, and included puaʻa, kapa, moena, ʻupena, olonā, and hulu manu from prized native birds such as the mamo and ‘ōō. The akua loa would remain at the ahupua‘a marker until the tax assessors were satisfied with the quantity of objects given. If any district failed to contribute an appropriate ‘auhau to Lono, the ahupua‘a was plundered until the land was stripped bare.

Kūkaʻa lau hala, rolls of pandanus leaves ready for plaiting, were also a valuable hoʻokupu.

Kūkaʻa lau hala, rolls of pandanus leaves ready for plaiting, were also a valuable hoʻokupu.

Each district took great pride in their resources and craftsmanship, producing objects of the finest quality. Indeed, Makahiki was not a time to hoard all of the best things for oneself. If an ahupua‘a was home to highly skilled lau hala weavers, that area might tailor their array of offerings to showcase only the best in mats, baskets, and hats. Another ahupua‘a may have been known for its exceptional fishing grounds and experts, and thus would have had a large number of fishing tools and ocean resources as offerings.

Feathers were highly prized raw materials often used in aliʻi adornments and other symbols of aliʻi status.

Feathers were highly prized raw materials often used in aliʻi adornments and other symbols of aliʻi status.

As the season of Thanksgiving quickly approaches, let us consider what we may have to offer others, and let us be ever mindful of ways in which we can practice our own forms of ho‘okupu, however big or small.

[Historical information contained in this article comes from the works of Joseph M. Poepoe, a noted Hawaiian scholar of the 19th century.  His writings on Makahiki were published in the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Hoku o Hawai‘i in 1929.]

GLOSSARY

Makahiki – a time of rest and celebration

hoʻokupu – offerings or symbolic gifts

ʻauhau – taxes

makaʻāinana – citizenry

aliʻi – chief

akua – god

kupu – to sprout or grow

Lāʻaukūkahi – the 18th night of a Hawaiian lunar month

Welehu – the traditional Hawaiian month equivalent to today’s November/December

konohiki – a steward of an ahupuaʻa, a resource manager

kapa – bark cloth

malo – loin cloth

paʻūpaʻū – sleeping kapa

heiau – a place of worship

Lono – one of the four major gods brought from Kahiki

kāhuna – a priest or expert

Kāloakūkahi – the 24th day of a Hawaiian lunar month

akua loa – “the long god,” a staff used during Makahiki symbolic of Lono

ahupuaʻa – a land division

puaʻa – pig

moena – matʻupena – net

olonā – a plant fiber used to make strong cordage

hulu manu - feathers

lau hala – pandanus leaves