In Hawaiian tradition, there are descriptive sayings for each island which reveal the characteristics for which it is well-known and respected. Four of the most famous sayings for Moloka‘i provide insight into her history and character, the time-honored values of her people, and the close relationship of her people to the land.
Moloka‘i Nui A Hina: Great Moloka‘i, Child of Hina
The saying, “Moloka‘i Nui A Hina” or Great Moloka‘i, Child of Hina, affirms that Moloka‘i, like a human child, was born to a mother and father: Wākea, god of the sky, and Hina, goddess of the moon and weaver of the clouds. This traditional legend of origin establishes that the island of Moloka‘i, like a child, is small and fragile – unlike a large continent. The resources of an island are finite, and these finite resources need to be nurtured by the island’s “family” if the people are to grow strong, healthy, and prosper. Many of the families of Moloka‘i trace their roots on the island back to antiquity, making the island an integral part of their ancestral family. Moloka‘i’s modern-day stewards have a special responsibility to care for the island as they would care for a member of their own family – a responsibility bequeathed to them by Hina, birth mother of this island.
‘Aina Momona: Land of Plenty
Before Western contact, the economy of Moloka‘i was agricultural and centered on inshore aquaculture, the cultivation of various crops, fishing, hunting and gathering. As a result of the industry of her people, Moloka‘i, with its extensive protected reefs and fishponds, gained a reputation as the land of “fat fish and kukui nut relish.” The “fat fish” came from Moloka‘i’s fishponds and the waters surrounding the island. The “kukui nut relish” was a metaphor for the lush resources of the land. The island as a whole was popularly called “‘Āina Momona” or “Land of Plenty” in honor of the great productivity of the island and its surrounding ocean.
Moloka‘i Pule O‘o: Moloka‘i of the Powerful Prayers
“Moloka‘i Pule O‘o,” island of powerful prayers, is another traditional name for Moloka‘i. In ancient times this name inspired fear and respect throughout Hawai‘i, because it was based on the island’s reputation as a training ground for the most powerful priests in the islands. Legends say that the people of Moloka‘i could drive invading armies from their shores by simply uniting in prayer. This name recognizes Moloka‘i as an ancient center for learning, and honors the spiritual strength of Moloka‘i’s people, and their historic sovereign control over the island.
Although Moloka‘i is not self-governing today, her people are nevertheless respected for their ability, thus far, to protect the Hawaiian culture, subsistence lifestyle and the natural resources upon which they are dependent. Their feat has been accomplished by combining an intimate knowledge of the island’s resources with strength of character and fearless determination to deal with threats to their environment and lifestyle. The enduring description of Moloka‘i as “the last Hawaiian island” affirms the success of the community in protecting the Hawaiian way of life as the core of the island’s multi-ethnic, close-knit society.
Moloka‘i No Ka Heke: Moloka‘i is the Greatest, the Foremost
“Moloka‘i Nō Ka Heke,” or “Moloka‘i is the Greatest, the Foremost,” is a famous boast about the island of Moloka‘i. It is the traditional Moloka‘i rejoinder to Maui’s boast of “Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi” – Maui is the best. “Moloka‘i Nō Ka Heke” – Moloka‘i is better! This saying reflects the pride that Moloka‘i’s people have in their island and their community. The strength of this community is dependent on the physical, mental, cultural and spiritual health of the people.