I have written about destiny. ‘Iokepa has spoken of it. He calls it the promise we made when we took on life. Yet there is persistent bewilderment among moderns who have refused it. Echoing the Hawaiian grandmothers, I have written: no one of us is born with the same destiny; we’re gifted with individual and cultural gifts to help realize our specific promises.
I’m a writer, not a doctor, sculptor, computer programmer, pastry chef, or automobile mechanic.
I’m a deeply Jewish woman – so my cultural gifts are not my husband’s. He sees with his Native Hawaiian eyes the whales on a distant horizon; I don’t. He feels the changes in the ocean water when a shark is nearby; I do not. I’m from a scholarly tradition; he is not. We share our gifts with one another; we celebrate our differences; we don’t judge one another where we fall short of the other’s possibilities.
‘Iokepa’s promise – his destiny – lies within his name. His full name translates: “The best from heaven (who is God) has chosen him, to work, to bring the people together.” His work for the past sixteen years – cultural immersion on the beaches of Hawai’i, and now sowing the seeds of what he discovered – is the fulfillment of his calling.
But there have been some people – Native Hawaiian and other – who have read our story and have challenged us. “I have problems with your returning to the traditional life of our people, and yet not partaking in the traditional methods of feeding yourselves. Why did you starve instead of fishing or instead of growing kalo?”
‘Iokepa answers: “I am not all Hawaiians; I am one Hawaiian. I don’t own every gift of every other Hawaiian – nor anyone else’s destiny. Through community we share our gifts.”
He says: “I’ve fished, but my destiny is not as a fisherman; I‘ve helped tend and clean ka ‘āina (the land), but I’ve been in these years without land to grow food. My destiny – my work – lies within the name that I carry, and my cultural gifts are those that support that work.” Modern Hawaiians are like other people, critical of one another, judgmental at times. ‘Iokepa’s work is to remind them (and us) of the ancestral intelligence that all of us carry in our DNA – an intelligence that refuses judgment, competition, hierarchy, gender segregation, and of course, war. ‘Iokepa’s work on the Islands is in the face of those infections from the modern Western world.
People in the United States often ask us: “How do the Native Hawaiians respond to ‘Iokepa?”
The answer: Often with tears of gratitude. Often like this: “The words you speak are exactly the words that my grandfather spoke.”
And sometimes with challenges: “Why did you starve? Why didn’t you do what your ancestors would have done?”
‘Iokepa responds: “Not every Native Hawaiian was a fisherman or a farmer – and community always took care of those who were not. Now it does not. Apparently Inette and I needed to live that, to be able to speak about it now.”
This has been a tougher time for ‘Iokepa and me to live what the aboriginal Hawaiians lived effortlessly for over 12,000 years. We work to turn that around.