Nā Kālai Waʻa hired two interns this year to kōkua with our educational programs and vessels. Kalei Yamanoha and myself, Kalei Kanehe Sine have been lucky enough to learn from NKWʻs Pwo, captains and crew. Building pilina (relationshp) with the waʻa and the waʻa ʻohana has been a healing experience for me. Both Kalei and I grew up in California and are in the life-long process of learning about Hawaiian culture, so being welcomed into ʻohana waʻa is huge.
Makaliʻi is an educational vessel for the keiki of Hawaiʻi and this internship has allowed me to be a keiki once more. The childlike excitement I get for the ʻike and manaʻo shared is addicting. Simply learning knots and lashing is pure joy for me. My tūtū kāne, Milton Kaehu Kanehe, played a part in the building of Hōkūleʻa in 1975, so my “return” to the waʻa is in a way his return too. His history taught me what I needed to do to learn how to be Hawaiian in Hawaiʻi. The waʻa are both our ancestors as well as vessels that connect us to our ancestors. When we spend time with Makaliʻi, we spend time with our kūpuna.
One part of the waʻa, the pueo, was originally carved for Hōkūleʻa, so the pueo is my connection back to my tūtū even though Iʻm on a waʻa he never touched. Every story shared and every skill taught are precious moments for us. They take us back to the time of our kūpuna and beyond.
Learning oli has also been a profound experience for me. A few weeks ago we spent a few hours practicing Au E Ua Hiti E with the Naʻau ʻŌiwi group from Kohala High School. Learning oli in a group setting like this was something I had never done, and it triggered a sense of strength in me. Learning oli gives us the courage to be who we are, even if we didnʻt get to grow up within our culture. Learning what our kūpuna did gives us the knowledge
to holo mau (continue forever).