By Banning Ramirez
On March 29, students, faculty and the young and old of the Arcata community, came together for the first annual Makahiki games – a traditional Hawaiian ceremony appropriated with games, food and a plethora of fun activities that has been dated to take place annually for hundreds of years in the Hawaiian islands. Coordinated by students of the Multicultural Center, curious attendees were left excited and a little bit more enlightened on the indigenous culture that thrives on eight little islands out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
For Hanakekua Joao, a 21-year old recreation administration major and student coordinator at the Multicultural Center, bringing the annual Makahiki games to Humboldt was a big step in both her life and at Humboldt State University.
“The spark of inspiration that influenced the creation of HSU’s first Makahiki is the need to represent the inevitable connection we have to Hawaiʻi,” Joao said. “There is something special about essence of being a kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian): a sense of pride, a sense of sharing, a sense of unity. The influence was our people, with the result as knowledge to continue the flame.”
Joao’s role as the Asian Pacific Islander Creating Community Coordinator for the Multicultural Center has blessed her with the chance to reach out to the North Coast community. From time to time Joao may feel a little overwhelmed behind the scenes, but she always stays humble and collects her thoughts by sticking to the righteous values of her people and her roots.
“I am born with a lineage that has seen, felt, tasted turmoil and transcended into strength – I feel this mana (power) flowing through my veins,” Joao said.
The actual four-month long Makahiki events took place in native Hawaiʻi hundreds of years ago when they celebrated and gave thanks to the god Lono – the god of fertility and agriculture. During this time, natives celebrated the festivities by playing games, feasting and dancing. Today, those who choose to celebrate the games, often compete in teams and celebrate with lūʻau dinner.
Co-coordinator Alana Souza, a 20-year-old film major, felt the pressure of putting on the event but was humbled to know she was perpetuating her culture and reaching out to people who were unfamiliar with what Makahiki was.
“For me, being Hawaiian is more than a culture or a blood quantum; it’s also a choice,” Souza said. “I choose to educate people when I can about our history, our culture, and our people to dissipate stereotypes and ignorance.”
Lauren Pang, a 19-year-old English major and Hawaiʻi resident felt comforted to know that the Multicultural Center was bringing the annual Makahiki to Arcata.
“Growing up in Hawaiʻi, I had always seen the Makahiki as just another celebration,” Pang said. “Attending the Makahiki on campus made me fully realize the importance of celebrating and preserving ancient Hawaiian culture and honoring its ties to the land. It’s funny how I had to travel away from Hawaii to see that.”
The Multicultural Center coordinates and showcases cultural events and provides a safe place for students to embrace and accept different ethnicities and identities at Humboldt State University located south of the library in the Balabanis house.