‘Iokepa and I return to our Islands. But before we step off the airplane, we take ourselves to task. We remind ourselves that ends never justify means, and that our only hope of influence is by living example – our observable behavior. For many months and even more car miles, we drove the American continental freeways. But we spoke out, always, on behalf of this place and these people.
We return now to swim in the ocean and eat our ration of mango, papaya, bananas, and coconut. We return to watch the sun set and the moon rise over the Pacific horizon; to star-gaze without intrusive city lights; to follow the ubiquitous rainbows – in sum, to drink from source. We come home to be quiet and to listen.
We return to listen, but the people of these Islands ask us to fill them (ears and hearts) with what transpired in our long absence. They yearn for accounts of how the aboriginal cultural message was received outside of Hawai’i. They count on ‘Iokepa to be an instrument of change; they expect it. It is a weighty expectation. But it rests easily on ‘Iokepa’s shoulders; he hands it off to his ancestors. He is simply, he knows, the conduit for their words and wishes.
Since 1972, when the culturally repressive laws were wiped off the books, Native Hawaiians have pleaded and fought for their freedom. They’ve struggled, too, for the resurrection of their battered land. From the moment that they were un-gagged, they have spoken: softly – with hula hands, in their mellifluous language, and in prayer; loudly – through the political Sovereignty Movement to the World Court, the United Nations, and the U.S. Congress.
Opponents of freedom for the Native Hawaiians mock the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement as, “hopelessly divided.” Where ‘Iokepa sees passion, they see rage. Where ‘Iokepa sees excitement, they see threat. Where ‘Iokepa enthuses: “When it all comes together…!” they labor to make sure that it never does. Land developers, hotel magnates, and politicians have a lot vested in keeping the Native Hawaiians hopeless.
For thirty-seven years, the strength of the political Sovereignty Movement, like the brilliant Hawaiian moon, has waxed and waned. Tortured recurrently with dashed hopes, deferred dreams, and disillusionment, there has risen a tidal wave of despair.
Anger, ‘Iokepa reminds his people (and ours), is the antithesis of what his original culture was about – what it has to offer the world. ‘Iokepa comes to the table with something else.
The existing Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement has failed in any significant numbers to win the hearts of its people. To a people who’ve seen their homeland stolen and trashed, their culture kidnapped and commercialized, the sovereignty groups ask that their people give something more to a political cause: sign up and trust us.
But ‘Iokepa sees it through a different – an apolitical – lens: pure culture, pure spirit. He says: “We begin with the things we can agree on.”
His people yearn for change and they welcome it. ‘Iokepa brings something to them. He reminds them of what has been taken: their self-confidence, cultural validation, authentic heritage – and the absolute certainty that what they uniquely possess, the entire Earth has been waiting to hear.
For 12,300 years, the indigenous people of these Islands embraced a culture that refused the possibility of war. We work to awaken that ancient intelligence – ritual practices that dissipate anger, prevent violence, foster harmony, and share their profound implications for the 21st century.
This conversation does not require a passport.