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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2001

Island Voices
Children journey into past

By Lee Po'uha
Social worker with the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center

Recently a group of youngsters, chaperones and kupuna from the Waialua and Sunset Beach areas of O'ahu journeyed to the Big Island and visited the Mo'okini heiau in Kohala. The youths are members of a cultural project sponsored by the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center that is focused on involving youth in opportunities to enhance their knowledge of our Hawaiian cultural heritage that continues to have profound meaning for us today.

What made this a meaningful trip is that while at this sacred place of Mo'okini, the group was hosted by a "living treasure," Aunty Leimomi Mo'okini Lum, kahuna nui of Mo'okini Heiau and her 'ohana. Aunty Momi comes from a long line of family descendants who have been given the sacred responsibility of caretakers or kahuna nui of Mo'okini Heiau, ever since it was built 1,500 years ago.

Mo'okini is a luakini heiau, a large temple where ruling chiefs conducted their spiritual activities and also where human sacrifice was offered. The construction of the heiau involved a human chain of Hawaiian males 10 miles long that moved, hand to hand, stones used to build the heiau. The amount of protocol, planning and strategy and use of human and natural resources that went into the construction of this heiau was incredible.

The ceremony within the heiau was a profound and moving experience. It provided the children with the opportunity to give a lei of aloha that was placed on the altar. Being a sacred site, the children learned throughout this process the importance of observing, listening and respecting the places of our past. With the lifting of the kapu, Aunty Momi has been able to offer to our children of today and tomorrow the opportunity to experience a place that has so much mana, history and respect. It further helps the children learn respect for themselves, for others and to appreciate the sacredness of the land we live in.

As one of the youth commented, "It is one of the best trips I have been on. Doing something for the 'aina that my ancestors lived on makes me feel good. ... It feels like I had been there before, a long time ago."

In this day and age of technology advancing at blinding speed, it is good to know that we still have culturally sacred places and living treasures such as Aunty Momi. They keep us centered and connected to our past. They remind us of the values of spirituality, protocol, respect, reciprocity and aloha that give meaning of how we treat each other now and in the future.