Revered kupuna 'Anakala Ka'anana
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Raised in two traditional Hawaiian fishing villages in South Kona, 'Anakala Eddie Ka'anana spoke fluent Hawaiian and could fish, grow taro and build canoes like generations of his ancestors.
Ka'anana, who was 80 when he died of cancer July 16, inspired scores of Hawaiians and Hawaiians-at-heart with his deep knowledge and the humble manner in which he shared it.
Eric Enos, co-founder and director of the Ka'ala Farm cultural learning center, was among the younger Hawaiians who looked to Ka'anana and others like him for guidance decades ago as they collectively shaped a burgeoning Hawaiian movement into the force it is today.
Ka'anana and his cousin Walter Paulo provided counsel for the "wild bunch of young activists," Enos said.
"The uncles were grounding elements," he said. "We were just angry and trying to figure out what we were going to do ... but trying to take that anger and turn it into something positive."
Not only was Ka'anana, a volunteer for the farm, teaching the ancient ways of planting kalo, or taro, he often was the first person at the Wai'anae site every morning, Enos said.
Earlier this year, Ka'anana's was honored as one of six Living Treasures by the Hongpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i. And last week the four Hawaiian royal benevolent societies named him as a recipient of the Kalaniali'i Award.
Tomorrow, Ka'anana will be among those honored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority with a He Kuleana Ke Aloha Award, which is given to those who have spent a lifetime perpetuating the Hawaiian culture.
But perhaps the honor Ka'anana would appreciate most is taking place on the Windward side of O'ahu this week.
Hundreds of pounds of taro have been pulled from lo'i on nearly every island in the state and taken to Ha'iku Valley where this evening it will be placed in an imu and cooked, said Daniel Anthony, who is taking part in the effort.
Tomorrow the cooked kalo will be pounded by hand and turned into pa'i 'ai, mashed taro, which will be mixed with water to become poi, Anthony said. "He's been feeding people with food for the mind and the spirit by teaching us how to connect with the land. And it's because of their appreciation and aloha for him that people are doing this," Anthony said.
The poi is to be served at Ka'anana's funeral service at Borthwick Mortuary on Saturday.
Danny Bishop, a Windward taro grower who worked alongside Ka'anana to help rehabilitate taro patches around the state, said as a youth he was "a confused Hawaiian," noting that his mother was told to massage the noses of her children so they would look less Hawaiian.
"I didn't know very many Hawaiians who knew their culture, who were proud to be Hawaiians," Bishop said. "And then I met people like 'Anakala Eddie, who didn't speak very loudly but had all this positive energy and just great, great stories about who we are as a people and how we should behave and how we should live, and how we should treat each other, even non-Hawaiians."
Hailama Farden, a Hawaiian language teacher at Kamehameha, was a high school student himself when he first met Ka'anana. Farden's class was taught by Ka'anana the traditional way of fishing for 'opelu at Ka'ala Farm.
Farden would later take his own students to learn Hawaiian language and other skills from 'Anakala Eddie. "He was such an inspiring person because of his humility and his ability to reach children and adults and share his knowledge," he said.
"All of the children that he's taught — that will be his legacy," Farden said.
Born in Honolulu, he was raised by his grandparents, first in the Hawaiian fishing village of Ho'opuloa and, after it was overrun by lava, the neighboring village of Miloli'i.
Helen Ka'anana, his wife, said he left Hawai'i when he was 17 to join the Navy. An O'ahu girl herself, the couple met while both were civilian employees in Guam. They came back to Hawai'i and married in 1950. As their five children grew older, the family moved to Wake Island where he was a civilian heavy equipment operator for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Ka'ananas moved home to O'ahu in 1972 and Eddie Ka'anana worked atop the FAA installation at Mount Ka'ala until his retirement in 1981.
Helen Ka'anana said her husband was asked by his cousin Walter Paulo to help out at Ka'ala Farm. It was there, as a volunteer, he began imparting his knowledge about fishing, farming and other topics related to living in the traditional Hawaiian way.
Enos said that although it had been a number of years since their youth, the two cousins were able to recall much of how they grew up. "Things came back to them, long forgotten things that they were taught to push aside, that society had said to push aside," he said.
After five years there, Eddie Ka'anana was approached by the leaders of 'Anuenue, the Hawaiian immersion school in Palolo Valley near the Ka'anana's home, to help grow kalo there. He ultimately got on staff there as a teacher, Helen Ka'anana said.
"He loved the children, and he loved people," she said.
'Anakala Eddie was also a fixture at the Kamakaku'okalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, where he helped guide development of the kalo lo'i, taro patch, there as well as instruct students and faculty alike about other traditions.
Pomaika'i Crozier, lo'i coordinator at the Ke Papa Lo'i O Kanewai, said there are a number of kupuna who talk about the cultural practices and traditions of their youth.
"But Uncle Eddie was a real doer," Crozier said. "He really was about bringing those things to life to us, a generation that doesn't understand what it is to have no electricity or to be totally dependent on what we grow and be self-sufficient. He really made that real for us and let us know what it meant to be Hawaiian."
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at email@example.com.