Keiki and keiki-at-heart tested their skills and strength while embracing Hawaiian culture Saturday during the Ka Moku o Keawe Makahiki in Waimea.
Hundreds of students, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, hailing from 11 Hawaii Island private, public and charter schools, and adults ascended upon Waimea Park for a day of camaraderie, fun and traditional Makahiki games.
The all-day event featured 12 games total, including konani (Hawaiian checkers), kukini (foot racing), uma (arm wrestling), pa uma (standing arm wrestling), pohaku hooikaika (stone throwing), ulu maika (lawn bowling), hukihuki (team tug-of-war), hukipapa (one-on-one tug-of-war while standing on a board), hukikahi (one-on-one tug of war), hakamoa (chicken fighting) and moa pahee (dart sliding).
While the participants, more than 325 in all, took part in nearly every game, each had their favorite.
Kamehameha Schools Keaau campus student Kepola Ishikawa said pa uma is her favorite Makahiki game because it allows her to get some of her frustration out while having fun. She also enjoys kukini for a special reason.
“I feel free. I feel I’m in my own world,” said the 13-year-old.
Having participated in the Ka Moku o Keawe Makahiki for three years now, Ishikawa said more students from other schools should participate.
“I hope this Makahiki stays for a long time,” she said. “It’s all about fun, camaraderie and celebrating what Makahiki is all about.”
“It’s an awesome cultural experience,” classmate Jacob Perry, 13, added. “You always gain more every time you’re here.”
The Ka Moku o Keawe Makahiki, now in its ninth year, brings together children and adults from all over Hawaii Island annually to celebrate Hawaiian culture and tradition, community and healthy living, said Keala Kahuanui, who coordinates and directs the Makahiki, which falls under the auspices of nonprofit Pukoa Kani Aina. Pukoa Kani Aina strives to provide “educational and socioeconomic opportunities for Hawaiians and their communities in order to achieve empowered, healthy and sustainable lifestyles,” according to its website.
Sponsors in addition to Pukoa Kani Aina include Na Pua Noeau, Kanu o ka Aina New Century Public Charter School, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Punana Leo o Waimea and Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School.
“This is a full morning and afternoon of family engagement and Hawaiian culture,” Kahuanui said, emphasizing the importance of gathering together people in the community, considering how fast the area is growing. “The kids get to play in the morning and the adults get to cheer them on, but, then in the afternoon it changes and the children cheer on their moms, dads, aunties and uncles.”
Ka Moku o Keawe Makahiki is hosted amid the traditional Makahiki season, which lasts from November through February, said Kahuanui. Makahiki is a time to gather, celebrate and pay homage to Lono, the Hawaiian god of fertility, peace and agriculture.
“It’s a time of revitalization of human and natural resources,” she said, noting it is also a time for reflection and planning for the coming year.
Antonio Coffee, 10, a fifth-grader at Kanu o ka Aina, said the Makahiki event helps him feel connected to the Hawaiian culture. It’s also just a lot of fun, he said.
“It’s what the Hawaiians did,” he said. “I feel ‘Hawaiian’ when I run (the kukini).”
For more information about the Makahiki program, visit facebook.com/KaMokuOKeaweMakahiki or email Kahuanui at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.