U.S. Coast Guardsmen, Auxiliary join Molokai residents for Native Hawaiian festival

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael De Nyse

KAUNAKAKAI, Hawaii – U.S. Coast Guardsmen from units on Kauai and Maui partnered with local Coast Guard Auxiliarists on Molokai to celebrate giving gifts to the “alii” (the ruling chief) and compete in team games during a Native Hawaiian festival featuring ancient ceremonies, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2010.

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Kiska, a 110-foot patrol boat home ported in Hilo, the Cutter Kittiwake, an 87-foot patrol boat home ported in Nawiliwili, and a 45-foot Response Boat Medium (RBM) from Station Maui joined Molokai residents to celebrate the 29th Annual Ka Molokai Makahiki events.

The clouds parted and the rain let up just as Coast Guard Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown, the 14th District Commander, Lt. Charlotte Mundy, Kiska’s commanding officer, and Lt. Gordon Hood, Kittiwake’s commanding officer, presented gifts during the games’ opening ceremony.

Brown was also accompanied by several members of his command cadre and numerous Coast Guard family members during the presentation.

“I have never seen so many Coast Guard family members here during these games,” said an Auxiliarist and game participant. “Despite the weather, this is really the best turnout ever.”

During the festivities, the Coast Guard crews of both patrol boats conducted the tours and held an open house for Molokai residents who wanted to learn more about the Coast Guard.

For many of the Coast Guardsmen, it was their first glimpse of authentic Hawaiian traditions and an opportunity to share their Coast Guard stories with Molokai natives.

Seaman Jacob Lovell, a Kittiwake deck crewmember from Spring Branch, Texas, joined the Coast Guard only eight months ago, and found himself honored to be in attendance at the games.

“I think it’s great that the people of Molokai allowed us to join in the games so we can show our support,” said Lovell. “In my opinion, the Coast Guard extended its own Ohana (family) today.”

According to ancient Hawaiian tradition, the Makahiki season was a festival held in honor of the god Lono. The people stopped work, made offerings to the chief, and then spent their time practicing sports, feasting, dancing and having a fun time. War during those four months was forbidden according to tradition.

“This is a great event that shows the Coast Guard not only cares about saving lives, but they care about the culture of our people as well,” said Kimo Young, a participant in the games and Molokai resident. “The Coast Guard members are always excited and always ready to participate in our traditional ceremonies.”

The youths competed during the morning and into the afternoon followed by the adults. There were 10 different events, including the Haka Moa, Hukihuki, Kukini, Mao Pahe`e, O`o Ihe, Pa Uma, Pohaku Ho`oikaika, Ulu Maika, and Uma. (See definitions below)

Each event involved a Coast Guard member competing against a Molokaiian. Many of the games are very similar to some of the popular games played today like bowling, tug-of-war and arm wrestling. The only difference is many of the games are played with stones and hand-crafted wood.

Along with the ceremony and games that were held in downtown Kaunakakai, the residents also staged an arts and crafts festival and cookout.

“The traditional Makahiki festival occurs at the end of the harvest season and is one of the most important festivals of the Hawaiian culture,” said Lenna ‘Aunty’ Kehema, a Molokai shaved-ice vendor. “We were very proud to host the Coast Guard and were glad they enjoyed themselves and hopefully they learned a lot.”

Game definitions:

  • Haka moa, also known as the chicken fight, is when two wrestlers stand on a single leg while holding the other ankle behind them, and linking one hand to hand. The goal is to knock down or push the other person out of the circle.
  • Hukihuki is the Hawaiian name for the tug-of-war.
  • Kukini, meaning to run swiftly, includes 100-meter and 440-meter runs.
  • Moa pahe`e is much like a short, wooden dart that is slid across the grass in through a small rectangular target.
  • O`o`Ihe is much like spear throwing at three different objects.
  • Pa uma is another form or arm wrestling, but standing up instead of sitting down.
  • Pohaku Ho`oikaika is just like the shot-put, but with a large stone.
  • Ulu maika is much like lawn bowling, but with a small stone about three or four inches in diameter that is rolled through a small rectangular target.
  • Uma is the same as hand wrestling, but the players lay on the ground.

For the past 29 years, the Auxiliary in Molokai has sponsored different Coast Guard teams in the Ka Molokai Makahiki. The Molokai Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla (Flotilla 140-03-25) is active in promoting recreational boating safety in Molokai through public education and vessel safety checks, Coast Guard-supported projects, and with State of Hawaii harbors officials and other state and federal agencies.

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