Mikahala Roy

On Thursday, January 16th, 2014, our Hawaii Winter Term class had quite the experience to finish off our stay on The Big Island in Kona. We were privileged to be able to listen to the words of Mikahala Roy. For those who don’t know, she has inherited the role as Kahu, which is a spiritual guardian of the of the sacred land of Kamakahonu, the First Capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, from her father, also a preservationist, Kahu David Kahelemauna Roy Jr.

She started her talk to us with a pretty emotional greeting. We met her by a large Banyan tree in an area in which was called Kailua bay at Kamakahonu, translated from Hawaiian to mean  “eye of the turtle.” She told us that she asked her ancestors to welcome us with the “highest Aloha.” Right then and there, I felt as if we were in the presence of a very important person. As we made our way across the street, you could tell just by the way she walked and how she smiled at the sky how much she loved and embraced the land around her. As we walked up on the pier towards to ocean she gazed out into the waters and smiled. She seemed to take in every bit of the beauty that was the day. After she did the Oli chant, she began to cry and told us not to be embarrassed about crying as it is the truest form of anything, and you cant be false in tears. I don’t think anyone anticipated how much attachment she had with the area around us until that moment.

Once comfortably seated in the shade, Mikahala talked about the spiritual area we were in. The Akaka Bill was mentioned as an important factor of the preservation of the land. She said that her father worked for much of his life to preserve sacred lands. The Akaka Bill is federal legislation that would create a process for Native Hawaiians to gain federal recognition. This would mean if the Native Hawaiians were to sign this bill, as a result, the government would strip them of their sacred land. Mikahala told us that the government sent Native Americans to Hawaiian news papers to report their own stories, and were used as scare tactics to convince the people of Hawaii to agree to the bill showing that if the Hawaiians did not comply their land would be lost in a similar way the Native Americans on the mainland lost theirs and were placed in reservations. According to Mikahala, the people of Hawaii showed they did not want anything to do with the Akaka bill  & that they do not want to create a new nation; they already have an abiding true nation.  With thatMikahala spoke about the meaning of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  She said that there should respect to Hawaii and to the Hawaiian people; for the long connection Hawaiians have with their ancestral lands.

When the discussion we had with John Osorio was brought up, Mikahala agreed with everything he had to say in relation to the importance of ancestry and politics. She said that politics don’t solve problems but people and a culture can solve problems. Just as Osorio expressed, she believes that returning to the roots of the culture and learning about the meaningful history and making a move back toward those traditional practices will eventually lead Politics to follow. While in the middle of her discussion of the importance of her ancestors and of the spirits present, she paused; she smiled up at a bird in the tree behind me and said “Aloha” to it and looked back at us and said, “See? Spirit is everywhere.” In a lot of the traditional cultures, birds symbolize the gods because of their proximity to the sky. It was clear that this moment made her so happy and it was really interesting to see that connection between nature and the gods.

Following in her father’s footsteps and in relation to the article Native Hawaiian Decolonization, Mikahala said to have agreed that as a woman, her gender has made it difficult for her to be as successful in this type of endeavor as her father had been in the past. She is still remarkably successful in the work she has done even though she has felt oppressed by the western society because of her gender.

Mikahala Roy is a woman of many words and emotions. It was moving to meet such a moving and influential person. I felt like I had a better understanding of how important every aspect of the island is to her and so many other Hawaiian people.

“Go on in the way we are and do our best no to become anyone else.” –Mikahala Roy

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