Feb 26, 2014 - Honor the Earth: Hawane Music
When a bulldozer began digging into Mauna Kea, Hawane Rios felt pain deep inside her. She was only able to release the pain by crying and find strength by chanting to the sacred mountain. Whenever Hawane Rios visits the military base and bombing range at Pohakuloa, a spiritual center at the base of Mauna Kea, she feels the ongoing trauma. Hawane Rios’ first act of positive retaliation for the mountain was “Poli’ahu I Ke Kapu,” a tribute to Poli’ahu the snow goddess of Mauna Kea.
Listen to Honor the Earth: Hawane Music Interview https://soundcloud.com/honortheearth/honor-the-earth-hawane-music
Conscious music raises the vibration of a struggle and begins healing the people from within, without them even knowing. Hawane Rios testified with a ukulele in front of the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, singing “Poli’ahu I Ke Kapu” to voice her opposition to a multi-billion telescope proposed on sacred Mauna Kea. Hawane Rios and her ohana testified together, and she believes that unity must come from within the family so we can grow communities, not build them. If we don’t have the love for our families, then we can’t have the love for the land. Hawane Rios seeks to raise the vibration of Native Hawaiian people’s struggle, and transform the passion of fighting into compassion and healing energy.
The military presence in Hawaii extends all the way to Kaho’Olawe Island, the Hiapo or first-born of the island chain. In the past year Hawane Rios has had the privilege of visiting Kaho’Olawe. There she feels the historic trauma of the former bombing range. While Hawane Rios helps heal the Kaho’Olawe Island, she heals herself in the process. Also, Hawane Rios spent seven months in near solitude Kure Atoll in Midway Islands at the northern tip of the Hawaiian chain. While on Kure Atoll, Hawane Rios found peace and companionship within the land, which she expresses through song and chant.
The song “Make Strong” features the warrior chant “Kuki’imauna” – Be strong as a mountain. Hawane’s reverence for the land is audible in the music that comes through her, and the song “O Kohemalamalama I Ke Kai” is a tribute to Kaho’Olawe Island meant to inspire the divine presence that dwells within all of us. In the words of her mentor Sonny Lim: “I am humbled by her passion in what she believes is righteous and how she carries it like a torch in the darkness.” Hawane Rios admits she is afraid of the darkness sometimes, but through music and tradition she is able to center herself in a grounding space and find hope. With the heartbeat of the mountain living in her chest, Hawane Rios is able to move forward with the promise she and her ohana made to defend Mauna Kea.
Colin Neary: Welcome. This is Colin Neary reporting for this week’s edition of, “Honor the Earth: Environmental Features Program,” which covers local, regional, and national stories on issues concerning the environment, energy companies, their impacts, and how community members can get involved in environmental policy.
This week on Honor the Earth we will hear a conversation between Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke and Native Hawaiian musician and land defender Hawane Rios. We will also hear original compositions by Hawane Rios, including “Make Strong,” “Poli’ahu I ke Kapu,” “O Kohemalamalama I ke Kai,” and “All is Sacred.” Hawane Rios discusses her journey with music leading her back to Native Hawaiian tradition, and she talks about using conscious, positive music to heal from Indigenous peoples’ struggles against genocide to decolonize the mind, body, and spirit.
Hawane and her ohana or family have been working for more than three years to defend sacred Mauna Kea against the forces of progress and development. Their work to protect Mauna Kea from the new telescope proposal, which will be the fourteenth on the mountain, is not a fight. Hawane’s efforts are a labor of love stemming from a promise her ohana made to Mauna Kea that the heartbeat of the mountain will live inside them. If construction of the new telescope begins, she is resolved to chain herself to bulldozers. Hawane has also worked to heal the Hawaiian islands from military development, and is active in the community opposing G.M.O.s, pesticides, and a proposal to frack in Hawaii. Hawane Rios inspires us to stand strong like a mountain, as an extension of the land that birthed us. Here she is speaking with Winona LaDuke.
Winona LaDuke: Here with Hawane Rios, and you’re not that old.
Hawane Rios: Not that old, I’m 25.
Winona LaDuke: So how long have you been singing, since you were a child?
Hawane Rios: I would say singing professionally for the past maybe 3 years, but been singing ceremonially for my whole life. So I feel like I’ve finally found my ground in music because there’s a vibration that comes out of it, especially when there’s an intention. I feel like what we create is our intention for this space, our intention for the world and the people. So I feel like it’s just a space of peace for me.
Winona LaDuke: When you’re singing.
Hawane Rios: Yeah, and when I’m creating the music.
Winona LaDuke: I was listening to some of your new music, and you have a new CD that is out. Is that right?
Hawane Rios: It’s not really new, but it’s my traveling EP so I take it with me wherever I go. So I don’t have it out in stores or anything. It’s my music to share as I go place to place.
Winona LaDuke: So you began by singing in your own tradition?
Hawane Rios: Yes, I started with chanting. I always loved singing, but it was never my way. I would always dance. Then when I came back home to Hawai’i Island, I went to college and taught myself how to play the ukulele. That is when I was learning our language, and I woke up one day really inspired to write because I felt like it was a way to keep our stories and keep our vibration and energy. I just started to write.
Winona LaDuke: You are a family of storytellers it seems.
Hawane Rios: Yes, I would say so. I feel like music is the perfect catalyst to get the message out there to the people about what’s going on here. “Poli’ahu I Ke Kapu” was my first positive retaliation to what’s going on on the mountain. We’ve seen that throughout our history, but now it’s coming back again because we have to because there’s so much coming at us at one time with G.M.O.s, geothermal, they even want to frack here, the Thirty-Meter Telescope on the mountain. I feel like we need to start singing and chanting again, so these places remember us and know that we remember them.
Winona LaDuke: So what song would you like me to play first?
Hawane Rios: I really like “Make Strong” because it’s in English, and people can relate to it. It’s really about unifying our people in our strength and in our courage. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. We all have that same connection to one another. And the chant in the middle talks about “Kukia’imauna” – Be as strong as a mountain. Be as strong, and as big, and as tall as a mountain in everything that you do. There’s so much struggle going on among all of our people, all Native people. Now we’re breaking out of this struggle, and we’re becoming strong. We need each other to be strong.
Winona LaDuke: All right, we’re going to play that song first, and then we’ll start up here. This is the song “Make Strong.”
Hawane Rios – “Make Strong”
Winona LaDuke: Back here with Hawane Rios. Now you’re friends with Nahko and Medicine for the People?
Hawane Rios: Yes, Nahko and them are doing big things around the world, and I’m super humbled to be a part of it.
Winona LaDuke: I’m a child of a generation when music had content and it had harmony. I was raised in the 70s. I’m a big fan and friend of the Indigo Girls, but they have harmony and they have content. I remember Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and I remember a lot of these musicians. I always think the 80s was not my favorite era. Well, what I’m hearing is conscious music. That’s what you guys call it, right?
Hawane Rios: Yes, I love that conscious music. I feel like people are starting to really connect back into the land now because there’s really no other choice when there’s a war on our water and our mountaintops. Music has always been about unity and about healing. I feel like now the youth are rising up, but in a different way. Not in anger, but using music to bring this kind of solidarity. So I really appreciate people like Nahko, and Trevor Hall, and Paul Isaac because they are really putting the issues that are out in the world into song, changing the vibration into something that’s positive. I love that. I’m so attracted to that. That’s why I really want to do that here for our people because we need something to step out of this spiral of anger, blame, doubt, and fear, then open up a new portal of faith, hope, and compassion. So I think that’s what the music brings.
Winona LaDuke: I’m older than you obviously. We discussed this already, but I think about how music heals you. Always I’m working on this or you’re struggling. You need something that resonates with you. It could be soothing. Sometimes it’s just instrumental, but if the musician’s lyrics are somehow relevant to your experience, there’s something that is so powerful about feeling this share. So I’m seeing that, and I know that a lot of these musicians are young. There is a vibration. Is that what you’re calling it, when you add music to a struggle?
Hawane Rios: Yes, to a struggle and it changes the polarity into something that can resonate deep within somebody’s core and start to heal them without even knowing. It starts to bring consciousness back into their body, so they can feel again because we’re in this space in time where we’re so numbed by technology, T.V., and all these distractions. Music makes you feel again, so that you can go back to the Earth, so that you can re-connect back to people, and can have a real friendship, relationship, companionship to the Universe. It’s the resonant tone of the Earth.
Winona LaDuke: It is the resonant tone of the Earth. That is a beautiful way to put it. So you want to offer another song?
Hawane Rios: Of course, I would love to offer up “Poli’ahu I Ke Kapu.” That song is for our mountain. It’s in Hawaiian. It speaks of our oneness with the elements. Poli’ahu is the snow goddess, but she’s revered because she’s the element of snow, the purest form of water that comes from the heavens. We are all very much so connected to water all around the world, especially now that there’s a huge threat to our waters. They’re drying up. They’re poisoned. There’s chemicals in them. Now we all have to beat our drums together. All have to sing our songs together and make our decisions for our water. Poli’ahu is of our most sacred. This is my offering to you, and may your water be clean. May it heal you. May the fish come back. May the whales come back, the dolphins, and we’re all connected mountain to sea. So this is for our elements and a reminder of our oneness.
Winona LaDuke: All right. Mii-gwetch. How do you say this song again?
Hawane Rios: “Poli’ahu I Ke Kapu.”
Winona LaDuke: And that means?
Hawane Rios: Sacred Poli’ahu, sacred water, sacred snow.
Hawane Rios – “Poli’ahu I Ke Kapu”
Winona LaDuke: So you’re from this village Wimea. Your parents are both teachers and have been active politically. I have raised six children. You want them to understand what it is and understand their part in it, but everybody has a different thing. So how was that, being raised conscious? I guess that’s what I’m saying because you don’t have amnesia. You don’t suffer from amnesia in the family that you live in.
Hawane Rios: No, I don’t! Sometimes it can be difficult. Sometimes it is really fulfilling. For me, I went to school away from here during my high school years. So I fell off of this path, and I’m glad that I did because it really taught me how to come back to myself. So I went to Kure Atoll for seven months. That’s the last atoll in our Hawaiian chain, and that helped me to come back into this conscious space because living in a family like this I feel like I’m lucky. My parents aren’t drinking, they’re not smoking, they’re not partying out to the wee hours of the morning.
We’re sitting down and we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to save our mountain together.
They believe in our gifts spiritually and physically.
Although sometimes it is hard to be in the face of the community, it’s a blessing because it’s an example of what we can be as a unit, and that’s the root of unity. It starts right in the family. So if we’re not strong and we’re not supporting each other, how are we supposed to support our communities? That is much more important than the struggles of being in the fight. It’s not about that anymore. It’s about being in love, and that’s what’s supporting our communities as a whole.
Winona LaDuke: Is that you all love each other, and you love your land.
Hawane Rios: We love our land. If we don’t have the love for our family, then we can’t have the love for the land. These are changing times, and it’s scary time sometimes. We need a grounding space to come back to – a center of truth. That’s what I feel like our families can provide, if we stay together because it’s the unconditional love.
Winona LaDuke: That’s a nice thing to say about your family. I don’t know that much about Hawaiian experience, but I know there was a period where a lot of things were dormant. Your parents’ generation a lot of people woke up more. Then at the same time you have a beautiful land that is highly prized that everybody wants from the military, to the telescope project, to the G.M.O. companies, to the developers. So for the 30 years that I’ve known the Hawaiian people, every time I come there is some other thing coming their way that they must fight off. So you guys have to be pretty tough bunch.
Hawane Rios: You’ve got to be pretty tough, and right now I feel like a lot of people have been in the anger and been in the fight. We’re seeing it’s not really working anymore to be in that space because it’s giving off this energy that is bouncing right back to us. It’s not helping us move forward. So what with this generation and the next generation is more compassion to one another because now we become so academic and a brainwashing has happened to us with the society. So now we have to go into this space of decolonization of the mind, and of the body, and of the spirit. Heal the genocide that has happened to us, within us and within our families. Then start to work together because we have a lot of Hawaiians now working against each other, not agreeing with each other. Now it’s a time to the ‘ano, to that space in us that is of the divine, and see it within each other. I feel like we can be our worst enemy, if we don’t unite together and find some common ground.
Winona LaDuke: Yeah, I have seen Hawaiians are a tough bunch. You have to be tough because you have islands, and it seems like you guys fight it out until the end over here. You’re not necessarily the most helpful at all times.
Hawane Rios: No, I don’t think it is anymore. I feel like it’s not necessary to continue to bring each other down like a bunch of alamihi crabs in a bucket. Everyone’s pulling each other down, trying to get out of the bucket. We just need to work together to tip over the bucket, and then we can all be free. That takes everybody. That takes everybody’s weight. That takes everybody’s knowledge, everybody’s connection, and I’m ready to tip over the bucket with these people. I see it happening, and I see that they young ones are doing something different. They’re coming in with the gifts, and I think they’re going to be the ones to shift us out of this.
Winona LaDuke: I know a little bit about Kaho’Olawe, held by the military for many years as a bombing range. The bombing stopped in the 80s, but the military still controls a big portion of Hawaii.
Hawane Rios: Yes, they do. They’re in Pohakuloa and still bombing in that area. That is a sacred center of our island, holds the grid of our island, and I’ve seen the energy come out of that space. It’s connected straight to the divine. It’s between our mountains. So those flows coming down with the lava, the Pele, that is in between those mountains is of the most high. They continue to bomb that area, and every time I go there I feel like it’s happening to me too. So that is one thing I’m trying to learn more about, and I’m very glad to be in a family that knows what’s going on over there. We need to start communicating about what’s happening to our land, and not shying away from it. So it’s the tough questions we have to ask and how we go on as a people.
Winona LaDuke: Hawaii is the most militarized state. I think that Alaska has more bases, but they have more land. Nevada has the Nevada test site, and that’s a lot of historic, but you guys are at the top. Kaho’Olawe was in many ways very much a symbol of how dominating because it’s an entire island. Most people on the mainland don’t even know about Kaho’Olawe.
Hawane Rios: Where I was – Kure Atoll in Midway Islands – are part of our Hawaiian chain. They’re also militarized, as well.
Winona LaDuke: This is the atoll. You went and lived on an atoll for 7 months –
Rios: 7 months.
Winona LaDuke: 7 months, and it’s an atoll that doesn’t have a lot of people on it?
Hawane Rios: No, not anymore but it used to be a base for the military, especially during World War II. There was a huge radio tower and that’s how they communicated back and forth from the ships. There was a lot of devastation that happened there. A lot of new invasive weeds were introduced. A lot of birds died out there from the tower. They couldn’t see guy wires hanging down. It reached all the way to our most sacred space – The Hiapo, the first born of our chain. So there’s military presence throughout Hawaii.
I know that there’s a plan to expand Pohakuloa because they have found water there. Sometimes I get super discouraged because how can we come up against this big entity? I just feel that it’s about raising awareness and raising the consciousness of the people, so that they feel connected back to the land and they want to do something and they want to say something about it. So please pray for us and our sacred spaces, and we will do the same for you.
Winona LaDuke: Yes, thank you, of course. I was in Michigan a few weeks ago. I didn’t realize how much industry was there and how much pollution was in the environment, and how much was actually in the body burden of the people. This woman said to me that people suffer from ecological amnesia.
Hawane Rios: Oh I like that!
Winona LaDuke: Isn’t that an interesting term? It’s like you got so used to that you forgot what it was like. That’s like a lot of places everywhere, and people got so that’s just the way that is, instead of that they forgot. We need to remember, and that’s what I really like about your family too is that you tell these stories and you remember, whether it is the chant or it is the stories that you remembered. People known as the rememberers. That’s what you guys have with your chants ad your stories, the people who remember. We’re not going to do well if we don’t remember.
Hawane Rios: No, we’re not and I feel like it’s going to take a forcing to remember. Here in Hawaii 90% of our food is imported. So when those ships stop coming in, you’ll have to remember.
Winona LaDuke: You’ll have to remember how to farm.
Hawane Rios: You’ll have to remember how to farm and then that’s how you’ll remember to love the land, and love the Earth, and love where we came from. So I feel like it’s a time of extremes like you said. That’s going to happen for us all around the world.
Winona LaDuke: Gas is expensive. It’s got to be expensive to ship all that stuff. I saw a store in Hilo the other day that said, “Grown Here, Not Flown here.” And that’s right. You kind of fly in all your vegetables and your food. You guys are 3,000 miles from everywhere, and your carbon footprint’s too high for you! Monsanto’s growing 12 months a year. You could be growing however much you need.
Hawane Rios: Exactly, we have incredible biodiversity here, and we have all the resources. Now we have to take our power back as a people and say, “We don’t want to develop. We don’t want to do this anymore. We want to plant our foods. We want to grow our communities, not build them.
Winona LaDuke: Grow our communities, not build them. I like that. All right, thank you again for visiting with me.
Hawane Rios: Mahalo nui, deep honor.
Winona LaDuke: Another song here, very good.
Hawane Rios: It’s called “O Kohemalamalama I Ke Kai” and it was written by my friend Akeamakamae Kiyuna. Kohemalamalama Kanaloa is the other name for Kaho’Olawe. Just in these past few years I’ve been so honored and so lucky to go there about 4 times. I see that place is a sacred center for our people. It’s been through so much, endured so much pain, and has so many gaping, open wounds, but still it is there. I feel like that’s representative of our people and our struggle. Yes, we have wounds, but now we are working together to heal them.
So Kaho’Olawe has been a place of solace, of peace for me because I have gone there to heal that island and help with the healing of that island. In turn, I feel that same healing has come upon me. So it’s a tribute to what we have gone through as a people, and the joy, and the celebration coming out of that time into this time of change. Kaho’Olawe, Kohemalamalama Kanaloa is everything. It’s a powerful center of unity. So this one’s for all of you.
Colin Neary: Thank you for listening to Honor the Earth: Hawane Music. You can find more information at honorearth.org. You can find today’s program and past programs online at @honortheearth. You can also tune in to Honor the Earth live every Wednesday at 2 P.M. Central Time at niijiiradio.org. Thank you!