Kanenuiakea: Persecution and Discrimination against Indigenous religion
I was trained by our kahuna, priests and priestesses of Kanenuiakea to know the teachings, values and worship of the divine as manifested in all its forms, akua, in one of our four major Hawaiian religious traditions and spiritual heritages. We have continued to teach and to worship in the ancient way of Kanenuiakea, which goes back unbroken for nearly two thousand years.
In the Hawaiian Islands, following the occupation of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, traditional cultural practices and languages were banned and driven underground until as late as 1971. While other Hawaiian religions were possibly extinguished by persecution and ridicule (although they may still be practicing in secret), Kanenuiakea continued hidden, huna, in the Waianae wahipana until 2012.
Last year we were recognized as an indigenous religion by and have become a member of the International Association of Religious Freedom (IARF), the oldest interfaith organization in the world with members from all branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, various regional faiths and one other indigenous faith from Peru. IARF has NGO status at the United Nations and is particularly concerned with religious discrimination and the denial of religious freedom, particularly worship.
Religious discrimination and prevention of the right of worship occurs today in the Waianae wahipana in numerous ways. Here are some examples. Not one of the thirty plus heiau (temples of our faith) is owned, or even administered, by its worshippers. No one who has occupied our temples has absolute title to them. Our worshippers are prevented or discouraged from worshipping at some heiau. Makua, our garden of Eden, was confiscated by the U.S. military and our entrance and worship is regulated by them. Also it is the burial place of the last warriors of the Oahu Kingdom who perished in the war of unification with King Kamehameha--our Arlington cemetery. Mauna Kea is as sacred to us as Fujiyama is to Shintoists and almost all Japanese; Mauna Kea is the sacred manifestation of Wakea, our divine father, who is an aspect of Kanenuiakea. Mauna Kea is akua, a manifestation of the ohana relationship of all creation, the interconnectedness of all of life. All life is sacred to Kane. The use of Mauna Kea for military purposes by the Space Command is a desecration of its sacredness and a violation of our Hawaiian values of aloha and lôkahi.
Are you Hawaiian by blood, by values, by spiritual practice? You may also be Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever. Of course you may be both, more than one faith and practice. Our faith is universalistic, accepting truth in its many forms, practices and symbols. But we ask you to demand that religious freedom be practiced in Hawaii for everyone, including our ancient Kanenuiakea faith, which is no longer in hiding.
Glen Kila, Kumu of Kanenuiakea
Kanenuiakea: A Living Faith and Practice
Hawai‘i is even today a disputed territory. Two United States Presidents (Cleveland and Clinton) have apologized for the illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the incarceration of Queen Liliuokalani. Pakistan this year at the United Nations questioned the validity of the papers filed by the US to take Hawai‘i as its 50th state. Many "native" Hawaiians consider Hawai‘i an occupied kingdom, and they do not want to be made into Native Hawaiians under the US Department of Interior and made wards of the state. But despite Hawai‘i's status, Hawaiians expect to have the international rights of freedom of worship honored. Just like Black and Native Americans, these rights have been conveniently violated much too often.
Kanenuiakea is an indigenous oral tradition inseparably identified with its land (‘āina) and its ancestors (kūpuna). Losing our sacred sites through Doctrine of Discovery actions is tantamount to losing ancestral connections and cultural identity as indigenous Hawaiians. In addition, the Waianae Community experiences higher than average and rising poverty levels with all the community challenges that accompany this. As a Principle-based faith ourselves, when First Unitarian began to partner with Kanenuiakea, we knew that we were partnering with a very compatible Value- and Principle-based universalist faith, not merely local but at least a half a millennia or more older in Hawaii than Unitarianism in the world.
Justice for Hawai‘i
Pres. Jimmy Carter’s book, Peace Not Apartheid, has taken untold criticism for demanding that the Palestinians deserve justice. Could Palestinians be victims, the wronged? Israelis have almost always been seen in the role of the righteous victim. How could both parties maintain that they are the victim of the other's violence? Each downplays their own “small violence” as appropriate compared with the injustice done them by the other.
There is a similar pattern of injustice around the planet -- whether it has involved the then Union of South Africa (the other USA) or slavery. From a distance it seems odd that the language of justice is used by both oppressed and oppressor. And more profoundly, each understands justice to be on their side.
The Hawaiian tradition, especially the Kane religion, teaches that anyone with breath, Ha, is a child of Kane and therefore is endowed with pono kaulike -- equal rights and justice. One owes another human being respect and fair play. We say, Aloha. Aloha is the standard of justice, of fair play, simply because each of us is a child of Kane. Put in international terms, justice is a natural right of every human being.