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Ocean Water



• ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #71

He huewai ola ke kanaka na Kāne.

People are Kāne’s living water gourd.

Wai, or freshwater, is needed by all living things to survive. This ʻŌlelo Noʻeau describes kānaka as metaphorically akin to a gourd of water kept by Kāne. As one of the four main akua alongside. Kāne is associated with the forces that produce life, such as wai. When our ancestors thought of wai, they thought of Kāne. Without wai, there would be no kānaka, and life would not continue. Water is life, and Kāne is the keeper of both - they are all one in the same.


Understanding the kanaka concept of wai reminds us why it is sacred. Today, our 'āina is different than it was for our kūpuna. Our rives, springs, and other sources of freshwater have been diverted and depleted with modern development projects and colonial infrastructures. We as kānaka need to continue to protect our sources of wai so that our keiki as well as our non-kanaka relatives - plants, insects, and animals -  can continue to populate, propagate, and perpetuate the life of the land.

• ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #1979

Lele ka ʻiwa, mālie kai koʻo

When the ʻiwa bird flies (out to sea) the rough sea will be calm


• ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #2053

Mai hōʻoni i ka wai lana mālie

Do not disturb the water that is tranquil

• ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #2482

Ola i ka wai a ka ʻōpua

There is life in the water from the clouds

Our ancestors were very aware of the ways that wai traveled throughout the land from its source. Rainwater from clouds quenches the land and the thirst of those that live on it by direct contact or by filling streams and springs that act as natural conduits through the land, therefore carrying and giving life. In the wake of indigenous movements across the world to protect water sources from desecration, it is comforting to know that the literal translation of the first part of this ʻōlelo noʻeau - “there is life in the water” - echoes the rallying cry of water protectors near and far - “water is life”. In order to protect the water that sustains us, we need to be aware of the ways that the water traveled to us by knowing its source.

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