Malama ‘Aina

When night comes, Maui or Pele or one of Them pulls the curtain fast.  Dark.  Stars.  Where there was light.  Fast.

The Hawi’ians Great Work (see Thomas Berry’s book of the same name) was to manifest Aloha in their treatment of the land.  Malama ‘aina means to care for the land as one would a family member. 

The land provides taro, the staple of the Hawi’ian pre-contact diet.  As a taro plant matures, offshoots known as ‘oha grow up around the plant and, in time, create new plants.  This gave Hawai’ian the word ‘ohana, family.

The pre-contact kama’aina (kama=children, ‘aina=land, therefore, native born) “honored nature and the ‘aina as a possession of their gods.” from the Limahuli Garden self-guided tour booklet.  Over time this took the form of ahupua’a, a method of land division that ran from the coast into the heights of the mountains.  In essence an ahupua’a divided the islands by watershed.  This division allowed for self-sufficiency since each ahupua’a had fresh water from its source, usually a waterfall high in the mountains, land suitable for various kinds of agriculture and living along the gradient from mountain to shore and a spot from which to set out into the sea to fish.

At the Limahuli gardens the NTBG wants to restore the Limahuli ahupua’a.  The gardens begin near the ocean and continue, in three large reserves, all the way to the source of the Limahuli stream which runs through the garden on its way to the sea.  On the garden tour the NTBG has recreated a large section, 5 beds, of taro irrigated in the traditional manner through small ditches connected to the stream, the guided through a series of waterfalls and sluice gates onto the taro beds.  As I walked among them today, the sound of the running water melded with the quiet but energetic plants to create a sense of peacefulness and abundance. 

Watersheds as a political unit is an idea that’s been kicking around the environmental movement for some time now, but has not gotten much traction.  I’ve always liked it and the ahupua’a gives a real world for instance of how it could work.  I worked out the watershed for Andover.  It begins in Lake Mille Lacs and focuses on the Rum River as it heads into the Mississippi at Anoka. 

Think what it would be like if that watershed was a state senate district and two state house districts.  Imagine congressional districts composed not of gerrymandered counties and chunks of counties, but as an agglomeration of watersheds.  Imagine the citizens of these watershed districts imbued with malama ‘aina.  Don’t know about you, but that sounds substantial to me.