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The Hawaiian story of the wind keepers - Sydney Iaukea


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Long ago, the Hawaiian wind goddess wielded a gourd that housed the winds of the Islands. It came to hold her bones, along with the life force they carried, and was eventually passed to her grandson, Paka'a. Like his father before him, he became the trusted attendant to the king of Hawaii. But his privileged status also made him a target. Sydney Iaukea shares the tale of the king's betrayal.

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This lesson follows the journey of Laʻamaomao and her descendants—Laʻamaomao, Pākaʻa and Kūapākaʻa—from the text The Wind Gourd of Laʻamaomao. The moʻolelo (story) was passed down in oral tradition and compiled and published by Moses Kuaea Nakuina in the Hawaiian language in 1902. It was later translated to English by Esther Mookini and Sarah Nākoa. In their translation from Hawaiian to English, Mookini and Nākoa reflected on the social and political importance of this moʻolelo for Hawaiians both today and in 1902. In his introduction to the English translation, Dennis Kawaharada writes:

"Nine years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893 by Americans, Nakuina was calling on his Hawaiian readers to remember their true leaders, nation, and culture: 'Here are Pākaʻa and Kūapākaʻa searching for all of you; recognize them if they peep in at your doors, and call out and welcome them into your homes.'"
This epic tale of voyaging and discovery, duty and responsibility, revenge and triumph—centers on Hawaiʻi Island Aliʻi nui, Keawenuiaumi, whose genealogy marks a primary line of high chiefly descent, one directly linked to the many gods and goddesses, in Hawaiʻi. Kūanuʻuanu, Pākaʻa, and Kūapākaʻa were three generations of ʻiwikuamoo o Keawenuiʻaumi (the backbone of Keawenuiʻaumi) who served his court and had the kuleana (responsibility) to know and call upon the winds to aid them in their endeavors.  

Mastery and skill in navigation was highly prized and Pākaʻa is recognized as the inventor of the sailing canoe, which Kūapākaʻa adopted and expanded upon to cultivate the many elements of ocean knowledge needed for wayfinding. Both Pākaa and Kūapākaʻa were keiki (kids) when they outwitted adults through their ingenuity and skillful integration of winds, rain, currents, waves, stars, and other environmental and hōʻailona (signs) readings. Generations of voyagers would resurrect this celestial navigation and pacific wayfinding, and this moʻolelo serves as a primary source of knowledge and information for them.
Knowledge is passed down through moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy), and knowing the hundreds of winds and rains that exist in each ahupuaʻa (traditional land division), exemplifies the reciprocal relationships between Hawaiians and their environments that remain today. This “wind discourse” is explored by the author of this lesson, Sydney Iaukea, in her article entitled “Land Agendas vis a vis a Makani (Wind) Discourse,” whereby “If you knew the name of the makani (wind) that blew through a particular area, you were never lost, both geographically and perhaps epistemologically as well.” Interconnections between people and their place informed cultural knowledge, and this ‘ike continues to teach Hawaiians. Find Sydney Iaukea’s website and her publications here.
The wind gourd of Laʻamaomao was given to King Kalākaua for his birthday. In 1887, his wife, Queen Kapiolani, hosted an “Afternoon Tea at the Palace,” with lady-in-waiting Charlotte Iaukea (Sydney’s great great grandmother), for a gathering with the “celebrated calabash of Laamaomao” present. In 1923, Princess Kalanianaʻole donated the wind gourd to Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The translation of the inscription to the lid of the wind gourd partially reads, “The wind container of Laʻamaomao that was in the keeping of Hauna, personal attendant of Keawenuiaʻumi. It was placed in the royal burial cave...island of Hawaii. Received by King Kalakaua 1 on January 1, 1883.” Today, the wind gourd of Laʻamaomao continues to reside at Bishop Museum—patiently waiting for her moʻopuna (grandchildren) to one day call upon her to hurry the wind and raise the waves once again.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Sydney Iaukea
  • Director Ivana Bošnjak
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Storyboard Artist Ivana Bošnjak
  • Animator Ivana Bošnjak, Thomas Johnson Volda
  • Art Director Ivana Bošnjak
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Anna Bechtol, Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie

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