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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pounding poi for Uncle Eddie

Ka'anana memorial taro pounding photos

By Gordon Y.K. Pang and Lesa Griffith
Advertiser Staff Writers

Vince Kana'i Dodge, left, and Jamie Makasobe, far right, share a papa ku'i ai (poi board) to pound kalo (taro) into pa'i 'ai (a heavy poi) to be served as poi (by adding water to pa'i 'ai) at today's funeral service for cultural figure Uncle Eddie Ka'anana.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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SERVICE TODAY

The funeral service for 'Anakala Eddie Ka'anana begins at 10:30 a.m. today at Borthwick Mortuary, 1330 Maunakea St. Visiting hours for Ka'anana at the mortuary will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Kealoha Smith, 12, and Kaia Kong, 12, both seventh-graders at Kula Kaiapuni O Anuenue School, look over the mural they helped to paint, part of which depicts cultural figure 'Anakala Eddie Ka'anana.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Some 300 pounds of kalo from Maui, Kaua'i and O'ahu were pounded yesterday into pa'i 'ai, mashed taro, then mixed with water to become the poi that will be served today at the funeral service.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The pounding went from morning to dusk under the tarp next to the taro patch along Ioleka'a Stream in Ha'iku Valley.

Some 300 pounds of kalo, or taro, from Maui, Kaua'i and O'ahu were pounded yesterday into pa'i 'ai, mashed taro, then mixed with water to become the poi that will be served today at the funeral service of 'Anakala Eddie Ka'anana.

"We think that this is the most taro that's been pounded (in one place) in quite some time," said Vince Kana'i Dodge, 49, one of the organizers of the effort. "But this is not for show. This is for love, man. This is for Uncle."

Ka'anana, for whom the word " 'anakala," Hawaiian for uncle, seemingly always preceded "Eddie," touched the lives of scores of Hawaiians who turned to him as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

Dodge, who works with youths at the Ma'o Organic Farm in Wai'anae, was one of them. Dodge said Ka'anana was among the first people he saw pound kalo and was always at ease when he did it. These days, Dodge is known for the poi pounders and boards he creates.

"Look at this this is the life," he said. "You get together with your friends, new and old, and you make food together. There is definitely something wonderful about making food with your hands."

Ka'anana died of cancer July 16. He was 80.

He was raised in the Hawaiian fishing villages of Miloli'i and Ho'opuloa, where he learned to speak fluent Hawaiian, fish, grow kalo and live the life of generations of his ancestors. He left the Big Island at 17, and raised his family on O'ahu, Guam and Wake Island while working as a civilian heavy-equipment operator, first for the military and then the Federal Aviation Administration.

It wasn't until he retired in the 1980s that young Hawaiians seeking kupuna, or elders, to help guide their fledgling Hawaiian movement turned to the soft-spoken 'Anakala Eddie.

He taught generations of youths sometimes for pay, but not always at Ka'ala Farms in Wai'anae, 'Anuenue School, the Hawaiian language immersion school in Palolo Valley, and at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's Center for Hawaiian Studies. He also served as a cultural and spiritual adviser for many.

Several dozen people from those byways of 'Anakala Eddie's life were on hand to help with yesterday's poi-making, as well as the imu cooking on Thursday night.

Kaipo'i Kelling, 35, met Ka'anana a decade ago when he was studying the Hawaiian language at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and in need of someone with whom to speak fluent Hawaiian. Eventually, the two spoke of kalo and the role it played in Hawaiian culture.

Ka'anana later helped Kelling, a teacher at Kawaiha'o Church School, set up a series of kalo patches on his property. Two years ago, Kelling started clearing a lo'i on his property, and Ka'anana paid him a visit.

"He talked to the water, talked to the trees, said it was going to be a good place," Kelling said, noting that he discovered the property is old taro land.

It was in Kelling's yard, sitting along the stream next to the lo'i, that Ka'anana's friends gathered for both the cooking and the pounding.

Peewee Almarza, 37, was among those pounding kalo yesterday as others peeled the tubers with the help of a net, a technique taught by Ka'anana.

Almarza, who works in different capacities at 'Anuenue, said Ka'anana helped provide spiritual guidance to his family when their 3-year-old son, Maka, was diagnosed with cancer.

"He gave us a lot of strength, a lot of hope," Almarza said, recalling that Ka'anana would take Maka aside and speak to him privately.

Two years later, Maka is now about to start kindergarten at 'Anuenue.

"He really opened up a lot of doors for me," Almarza said. "He made me realize what priorities were: Take care of your family, and everything else will fall into place."

Ka'anana also had an impact on Almarza's other children, who also attend 'Anuenue.

Wainani Almarza, 17, remembered visiting Miloli'i with her class, with Ka'anana accompanying them.

"He explained to us how he grew up, and what he used to do. We know it's going to be different at school without him."

Kalena Almarza, 16, said Ka'anana was well-respected at the school. "It was nice how, when he was talking, everybody would just go silent," she said.

Peewee Almarza said the 'Anuenue Na Koa football team is dedicating its season to the memory of 'Anakala Eddie.

Puaonona Stibbard, 22, and Kahiau Wallace, 23, are the site coordinators of Ka Papa Lo'i O Punalu'u, a 2.5-acre project sponsored jointly by Kamehameha Schools and the UH-Manoa's Center for Hawaiian Studies that is designed to teach youths about lo'i production and culture.

Both said Ka'anana was the first person they ever spotted pounding kalo and that much of what they learned about taro came from Ka'anana first as students and later when they sought an adviser.

Stibbard said Ka'anana's pounding technique was smooth, adding, "It was as if the kalo didn't stick to his hands."

Wallace said Ka'anana also taught them a Hawaiian motto: "He ali'i ka 'aina he kauwa ke kanaka," which means "The land is chief and the people are its stewards."

Ka'anana's point was that "when you take care of the land and treat it like the chief, it will take care of you," Wallace said. "But when you forget about the 'aina and its worth, then you're lost."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com and Lesa Griffith at lgriffith@honoluluadvertiser.com.