I am not young. I have lived long enough to know something about massive throngs of mostly young people marching shoulder to shoulder down city streets, adrenaline pumping, boisterous chanting, punctuated with fists and V-signs - protesting. I have marched; I have protested. My first memory: the University of Wisconsin, 1967, assembling under a shower of tear-gas, when, ironically, Napalm and Agent Orange manufacturer, Dow Chemical, stepped on campus to recruit their future scientists-researchers. Chemicals heaped on chemical protesters.
I marched, again, through the streets of Berkeley, in 1968 at the University of California to chants of: "Hell no we won't go," referencing a tawdry American war in Southeast Asia. Or waving gender-suitable signs: "We'll sleep only with men who burn their draft cards," at the edge of flaming trash barrels.
I marched - no, I witnessed the marches - in Paris and in Florence, Italy - fiery protests against the American war.
I can smile now at those memories - but oh, how serious I was.
I am not young. I stood with 450,000 other young folk in November, 1969 on the Mall that stretches green between the Washington Monument and the Nation's capitol building - black armbands all. The Vietnam Moratorium March was a national grieving. My boyfriend's birthday - September 14 - was the first draft lottery number pulled from the bowl in those months.
I have marched: in anger, in frustration, in fear, in sadness, in virtuous self-righteousness. But I have never marched as I marched last Sunday among 10,000 Native Hawaiians on the tourist-filled main avenue of Waikiki.
Because, for almost eighteen years, I have lived among the Native Hawaiian people, and absorbed through my pores their beautiful, compassionate, responsible culture, the stark difference last Sunday should have come as no surprise - and yet it did. My husband's people, the Kanaka Maoli - the aboriginal people of these Hawaiian Islands - exude their soul's connection to every part of their Creator's creation. They live and they breath the truth of their trampled, oppressed, shamed (and for 150 years) outlawed way of life.
So it should come as no surprise that when they rose up, in astounding numbers for these tiny Islands in the middle of the Pacific, to claim what is theirs - the return of the stewardship of their sacred 'aina (land) - they did not demand, they did not protest, they did not point fingers or exclude. They welcomed the very source of their cultural degradation. They welcomed their oppressors to understand, and to join them.
Hence they called their grand March last Sunday through the outrageously, non-Native mile and a half of Tiffany and Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent: the Aloha 'Aina Unity March. And they were good to their word; good to their intentions.
My husband, 'Iokepa Hanalei 'Imaikalani, and I were there. How could we not have been there to witness the powerful resurgence of his people?
Those who know our story - 'Iokepa's and mine - know that on this, our eighteen year walk-of-faith, we can't ever count on the next dollar. Again, those who've read these pages, heard us speak, or have read our books know too that every one of our decisions are directed by the Native Hawaiian ancestors - 'Iokepa's grandmothers. We depend solely on their guidance.
Imagine then, how very strong that guidance had to have been, for 'Iokepa and I to spend $500 that we don't yet have to book a one-day flight from our home on Kaua'i the 100 air miles to Honolulu and back. Yet, when 'Iokepa's sister emailed us, the Aloha 'Aina Unity March would happen in one week, we did not for one moment hesitate.
I won't retell the events that preceded this moment in Kanaka Maoli history - but I strongly suggest that my readers scroll backwards just two posts to: "On Top of The Mountain..." (http://returnvoyage.com/wordpress/?p=5027) to understand the tipping point - the desecration of the Hawaiian sacred mountain, Mauna Kea, in the name of science, astronomy (but with the ever-present stench and enticement of profit).
When the University of Hawai'i invited the largest telescope in the world to be situated on top of the sacred pico or navel of the Hawaiian culture - at the lucrative rental incentive of a $1,000,000 a year to the University - the Native people drew the line. And that line extended one and half miles and 10,000 people strong down Kaulakaua Avenue on Sunday.
It was a sea of red shirts. It was an assemblage of hugely divergent groups who share just one powerful interest: stewardship of this fragile, tiny, spectacularly diverse ecosystem. Along the edges of the March stood gaping tourists from around the world. Also along the edges of the March were stationed Native Hawaiians handing out flyers explaining purpose and welcoming these malihini (guests) to join the people to save the land that the visitors love as well.
The timing of this March must have been in the hands of the ancestors. No human could have foreseen this coincidence: only four months ago, construction on the telescope atop Mauna Kea was to have begun. Four months ago, hundreds of young Native Hawaiian put their protective bodies against their mountain and prevented the construction crews egress.
Two years ago, the International Astronomical Union laid irrevocable plans to hold their first-ever conference in Honolulu this week. This meant the unavoidable collision of 2,500 of the world's most renowned astronomers with the unforeseen angst of the Native Hawaiian people over the violation of their mountain. 'Iokepa has often said: "There are no coincidences."
The Native Hawaiian protectors of the mountain were not invited to address this powerful collective of astronomers - though they requested that. But the astronomers (as well as the tourists) were invited to attend the March.
Native Hawaiians dispute the suggestion that they are "anti-science" because they oppose the monstrous telescope at the heart-center of their people's soul. 'Iokepa and others answered the accusations: "We were among the earliest astronomers - our people knew the sky, mapped the sky and navigated our voyaging canoes around this Earth by the stars."
The sun last Sunday was brutal. We arrived at the head of the shade-less March at 9:00 a.m. We left after the afternoon's inspirational Hawaiian music at 5:00 p.m. 'Iokepa's sister gushed gratitude that: "There has been no sunstroke...especially among the keiki (children)." Ten thousand people: No fights, no angry shouts, no jockeying for position, and, yes, no sunstroke either. The police smiled on benevolently. The trolleys full of kupuna - elders who couldn't manage the walk in the heat - drove alongside the walkers, revered and chanting. (No denying age: 'Iokepa was asked if we wanted to ride the trolley. He respectfully refused.)
Clearly, the ancestors had matters in hand.
The assemblage snaked very slowly down Kalakaua Avenue. At significant cultural points along the route, the throng swarmed to a stop for ritual, stood at solemn attention: listened and joined the chant and the transcendent hula. There were, as always, posters referencing the mountain, and also swatches of ki leaves on stalks, conch shells blown to ancient rhythms, and men in na malu (loin cloths).
Physically - visually - it was a March unlike other Marches I have seen. It looked like a sea of generosity and compassion. - colorful and exotic. Emotionally - it played out like an orchestral symphony without a missed note. If there is truth to, "Actions speak louder that words" - or it's complementary, "Walk the talk," then these people were the embodiment of it.
The Native Hawaiian people walked that truth. The Aloha 'Aina Unity March, said it all: the time has come; these Islands beg to be returned to the ancient cultural care of the people who were birthed by them. It would serve, as well, to begin to heal our tortured Earth.