WHAT WE SEE, what we are
Some look at Mākua, a sacred valley on Oʻahu's Waiʻanae Coast that is home to endangered species of plants and animals and more than 120 known ancient cultural sites, and see a perfect place to practice war by dropping bombs and firing bullets. But we say: ʻAʻOLE! We look at sacred Mākua, where Earth mother Papa and sky father Wākea created human life, and see a breathtaking wahi pana (legendary place, often sacred) that is vital to the Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) culture, and thereby vital to all of the Hawaiian archipelago, for without Kānaka Maoli, there would be no Hawaiʻi.
Mālama Mākua, organized in 1996, strives for the preservation, community access to and return of Mākua Valley, which has been occupied by the U.S. army since World War II, for culturally appropriate use. The non-profit organization hosts free cultural accesses to ancient and culturally-vital sites in sacred Mākua twice each month. All are welcome. Come home to Mākua.
DOWN TO EARTH: Mālama Mākua LEGAL COUNSEL David Henkin TALKS STORY ABOUT SACRED MĀKUA
Click on the audio player below to listen to an episode from the Down to Earth podcast from Earthjustice featuring an interview from 2012 with Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represents Mālama Mākua, to learn of the history of the legal action against the U.S. army.
Click here for a transcript of the interview, as well as links to Earthjustice press releases which provide additional information.
KŪPUNA OF Mālama Mākua
On a Sunday morning in early March 2019, more than 80 of the 108 people featured in Kapulani Landgraf’s installation ‘Au‘a, one of four works that were on view at the Honolulu Museum of Art as part of the Honolulu Biennial 2019, came to the museum to see the finished artwork. Landgraf selected subjects she felt have contributed to the community and photographed each person, including Mālama Mākuaʻs Sparky Rodrigues and Lynette Cruz, then superimposed the words “we are not american he hawaii au mau au mau” on their larger-than-life portraits.
Sparky Rodrigues, founding member: Admitting the Truth
As told to Kathleen Wong, from a Honolulu Museum of Art blog post entitled: “Kapulani Landgraf: ʻAuʻa | Voices of Those Who Refuse, [Part] I”
I was a little skeptical, there’s a lot of fear that goes along with stepping up and making that comment. Admitting that as being truth was a challenge, but once it happened, it…was responsible. The kuleana that goes along with it is always present in everything that we do. The militarization here, the way the government is and how the Hawaiians have just been pushed aside and denied access to almost everything and becomes normal, even for us. We tend to say, ‘Oh well,’ and to make the step, you know—‘I am not American—to take that stand is really a challenge. And I think a lot of people that didn’t want to do it was because that line of fear that we face, kept them from taking that step.
When I first saw it, I realized, when we’re doing our individual work sometimes it feels like you’re the only one, very lonely, and a lot of times, especially when you’re in public, making statements, it’s a challenge. But to see everybody here—we’re not alone and even though we only do a small part, the foundation is getting bigger and stronger and deeper and more stable. All of these faces could be replaced with kupuna who were here before us. And that’s a different tribute, because they laid the foundation and their bravery is what set the path for us.
About the subject: With deep roots in Wai‘anae, Sparky Rodrigues has been a key player in the legal fight for the halt of live-fire training in and access to Mākua Valley, which is been occupied by the U.S. military since the 1920s. He is a member of Mālama Mākua, for which he has served as director, president and board member. He is pictured above with his granddaughter Alina next to his portrait in ‘Au‘a.
Lynette Cruz, PELEKIKENA (president): IT WAS VERY LIBERATING
As told to Kathleen Wong, from a Honolulu Museum of Art blog post entitled: “Kapulani Landgraf: ʻAuʻa | Voices of Those Who Refuse, [Part] IV”
I was surprised to hear that this project was happening and I was at Thomas Square at an event called La Ho‘iho‘i Ea. I forgot who approached us but they said, “Hey you guys want to take a photo and say you are not an American? And I think everyone around me said, “Let’s do it,” and so we all trotted up the steps and took photos. I wasn’t alone when I came up, there were five or six people with us. I thought it was progressive and…nobody had ever asked. Because a lot of us are employed by the system, so this is not exactly a popular thing to say, because people are fearful. And yet, the fact that somebody would ask me that question, “Are you an American?,” and for me to be able to say, “I am not”—it was very liberating. I kind of loved the idea of being honest and straight up, and not thinking about the potential impacts of it because some point in my life I actually had to say my own truth.
Just coming in here this morning overwhelmed me. I actually felt like I am going to cry because all of these faces represent voices. They represent people I have met over the years, and they are where I am and everybody wants to say their truth. And it’s about time. So for me this is a really good and forward thinking and probably controversial topic, but eh, that’s the way it is and history tells us we are moving in that direction. Whether people like it not, whether it is popular or not, it is irrelevant. I can be me.
I am proud to be among so many outspoken, educated, well-respected people in my community. It makes me feel not alone. Because I think for many years I felt like the crazy person in the group, the one who would say stuff that other people found indelicate, so you’ve always got to watch your words, but here in this space, it’s kind of safe, and I really like it.
About the subject: Dr. Lynette Cruz is a retired professor of anthropology at Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU), where she is currently kupuna-in-residence. When her sister and her family became homeless in the 1980s, her awareness of this issue spurred the woman who thought the only thing she could do was work in fast food to attend college. She is a long-time community organizer and advocate for Hawaiian independence.