Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ripples in History II

The decision to have me meet Lani and Lono only during their lunch break meant I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. One of the things I did was follow them around at a distance. I did that mainly when they were working on my side of Leilehua Road. I learned new songs that way, listening to Lani sing while he worked.

At the beginning Lani sang what I would call post-colonial songs at our lunches. There weren't lyrics about the old Hawaiian gods, for example. But when I listened from a distance he would often sing the older songs, including prayer chants.

When I asked about those songs at lunch during our Hawaiian period Lani got upset and walked away. I asked Lono what I said wrong. He told me Lani was afraid of hurting me. That made no sense to me at all. I couldn't imagine either of them hurting me. When Lani came back I insisted that he tell me himself what was wrong.

I was so determined about it, Lono said it was like I was from Ni'ihau myself. He explained that there's a saying that people of Ni'ihau lean against the wind. The rest of Hawaii considers them stubborn and contrary.

They started telling me history. They said that a long time ago, after White People came, the old Hawaiian customs were overturned and the people who hang on to them had to do it in secret, and that was still the case then. They said that even in their own family Lani's following of the tradition was not appreciated. Most of the family was Christian. He had to learn from a grandfather. His own parents didn't approve.

They also told me about discrimination against Hawaiian people, in addition to the rejection of the old culture. They described an incident in recent history of a Hawaiian man who was killed because people were quick to believe accusations against Hawaiians without evidence, and his murderers went free (they were probably referring to the Massie-Kahahawai Affair). They said this incident proved to them that Hawaiians could get no justice from the haole, and therefore it was very important that nothing be done that could arouse suspicion.

They said that telling me about the ancient gods could get them into trouble, because it would look like they were trying to make me non-Christian. They also said that for men their ages to be too close to a boy my age, could be seen as bad, because people might think they were doing something wrong with me physically.

I said, oh, like what my Mother does? I described how my Mother touched me.

At that, Lani began to cry. Lono just stared ahead for a minute. Then very quietly he said, "Let's try this. Do you know what a secret is?" I said yes. "Can you keep everything we tell you about the old songs secret from everyone, including your parents?" I said yes.

They talked about it between themselves a minute more. Then they told me they believed me, and that they could tell me about the old songs.

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