This month’s feature is close to home for me and yet is connected to the greater movement towards the restoration of the earth by following Indigenous lead. As we in the United States have just passed Indigenous People’s Day and are coming up on Thanksgiving, it feels both necessary and important to acknowledge, honor, and give back to a Native-led movement happening right here on the land I am privileged to call home. I invite you to join me in learning about their efforts, sharing their work with someone you know, and consider donating so that they may grow their circle of allies.
Creating A Sustainable Hawai’i
‘Āina Momona [Hawaiian for fertile or rich land] is a Native Hawaiian organization proudly founded by Walter Ritte [a pillar of social activism in Hawai’i for over 40 years] for the purpose of achieving environmental health and sustainability through restoring social justice and Hawaiian sovereignty. They are led by a board of Native Hawaiians that support the critical work of their talented staff who work in grassroots communities to restore fragile ecosystems, promote cultural rights and practices, enhance community well-being, and advocate for native rights and social justice.
ʻĀina Momona's land base is Keawanui Fishpond and Cultural Learning Site in the Kaʻamola land section of Molokaʻi island, however their efforts are inclusive of the entire island chain.
‘Āina Momona has four primary program areas that the organization focuses on:
‘Āina (land and environmental health)
For Native Hawaiians ‘āina (land) is their eldest ancestor. It is that which sustains and has sustained for countless generations. In their hearts, the land loved them first, and as such, feel it is their responsibility to protect, enhance, and aloha ‘āina (love the land). Following a long and proud line of aloha ‘āina activists, ‘Āina Momona strives to preserve, enhance and protect the land throughout the Hawaiian Islands, working directly with communities. They recognize that social justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked. The wellbeing of the ‘āina and people are one, and by bringing greater resilience to their communities, they can together restore greater health to their land.
‘Ai (food and agriculture)
ʻAi in Hawaiian refers specifically to poi and kalo. In the Hawaiian worldview, no meal was complete without ʻai, which is what gave the nourishment and strength for life. ʻĀina Momona is dedicated to restoring nourishment to the people of Hawaiʻi through food sovereignty and the restoration of subsistence practices. They work to revitalize traditional kalo production practices so that Hawai’i can end its reliance on imported food systems. One of their primary goals is to plant edible food for their people to be able to live off of the land once more.
Hawaiians understand the extraordinary value of fresh water, that water is life. This truth is revealed by the Hawaiian word for wealth, which is "waiwai," because to have fresh water in abundance is the highest indicator of wealth and well-being for Hawaiian people. ‘Āina Momona fights for water rights because they appreciate that the just allocation of water resources is essential to the promotion of customary practices, food sovereignty, and social justice.
Ea (sovereign, resistance and social justice)
An intrinsic part of ‘Āina Momona’s work towards land restoration is giving power back to native Hawaiians. Amongst the various fights for sovereignty is that of protecting Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in Hawai’i, which happens to grace the island I call home. For decades, environmentalists and cultural practitioners have long fought to protect this mountain — one of Hawaii's most sacred sites and fragile ecosystems — from the ongoing desecration and destruction led by the University of Hawai'i. I have been equally humbled and honored to stand beside Hawaiian activists and allies in peaceful protest on the mauna, forever changed by witnessing firsthand their love for their land and people.
[one of the peaceful protests as the base of Mauna Kea to oppose the construction of the thirty-meter-telescope on this traditional sacred land.]
For Hawaiians, the land is not separate from the body. To care for the land is both an act of self care and a devotion to the ancestors, a reciprocal ecological relationship.
Visit their website to learn more about their work and sign supportive petitions, read through their blog highlighting Hawaiian activists throughout history, and donate (upper right corner on their website).
Their instagram page is also a wellspring of educational info-graphic posts addressing everything from the impacts of tourism to the history of Hawaiian monarchs to calls to action.