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The revival of Makahiki as a restoration of Native Hawaiian identity

Members of a ceremonial procession present gifts to the Hawaiian god Lono during the hoʻokupu protocol presentation of a Makahiki festival in Waimanalo. Lasting from October until February, the Makahiki season honors Lono, the guardian of peace and health, as he arrives for the transition from Kū, a time of war, politics and construction, to Lono, a time of relaxation and celebration of life.
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Members of a ceremonial procession present gifts to the Hawaiian god Lono during a Makahiki festival in Waimānalo.

We all feel it. Summer flowers are gone, days are way shorter, there's a nip in the breeze. We're in Hawaiʻi's Makahiki season. Let’s learn more about it to feel our place in this time of year.

Imaikalani Winchester was born and raised in ʻEwa, on Oʻahu. He's in a Ph.D. program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa studying Hawaiian pedagogy and he's been teaching at Hālau Kū Māna Public Charter School in Makiki for 18 years.

Their beautiful Makahiki festival is scheduled for later in November this year. Even now, Winchester says, they’re preparing for protocols and events that mark this significant season.

"Makahiki is about time. Specifically for an agrarian society, the seasonal aspect of our relationship with nature becomes incredibly important to cohabitate and coexist with nature in a way that we can produce what we need to survive," Winchester said.

He said the revival of Makahiki is a restoration of Native Hawaiians and their identity as kanaka living in an occupation that has tried systematically to remove and dismember their identity.

"That's ultimately what the season takes a look at, is an evaluation of our practices, an evaluation of our success, an evaluation of our progress," Winchester said.

In ancient times, Makahiki was the season of Kū to the season of Lono, he said.

"Lono came during the winter seasons and so his kino lau, or his body forms, come in the form of the dark clouds, the shorter days, the rains, the heavy rains that are going to be coming that we're all so accustomed to," Winchester told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "During this time, the chief in ceremony and ritual would meet with the kahunas and they would kilo, they would observe, the rising of Makaliʻi (the Pleiades constellation) in the east."

"It's a very special opportunity to always be able to participate in any Makahiki ceremony and there are many different ones throughout all of Hawaiʻi," he said. "It's an important time for all of us to come together and to have important conversations that heal, conversations that clarify, conversations that move us forward. In this season of Makahiki, we make plans and resolutions for what the following year will bring."

This interview aired on The Aloha Friday Conversation on Nov. 12, 2021.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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