Historical Native Hawaiian fight against climate change detailed in new book

University of Hawaiʻi

book cover with plants and water

How abundant Native Hawaiian communities laid a foundation in the fight against climate change is the focus of a new book by a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa professor.

In Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future: Kanaka Maoli and Critical Settler Cartographies in Hawaiʻi, Department of English Associate Professor Candace Fujikane draws upon moʻolelo (storied histories) involving lands and waters to look at the ways that Kanaka Maoli kūpuna (ancestors) approached climate change events. The book focuses on community struggles over lands and waters and restoration projects in four areas: Waiʻanae, Mauna a Wākea, Kalihi and Waiāhole.

Mapping Abundance offers a hopeful view of our planetary future. The book challenges the assumption that we have passed an apocalyptic point of no return. As Fujikane argues, just as a harmful event has exponentially devastating effects, a restorative action catalyzes far-reaching and unexpected forms of revitalization.

Preorder the book on the Duke University Press website with a 30% discount using the code: E21FJKNE.

Motivations behind the book

Fujikane began writing this book thinking about the ways that Kanaka Maoli kūpuna preserved ʻike kupuna (ancestral knowledge) in moʻolelo. She uses the example of Keaomelemele, which describes the migration of the moʻo or reptilian water deities from their home islands in the clouds to Oʻahu. Thousands of moʻo marched from Waialua to Kapūkakī or Red Hill. Fujikane saw that the story was about the ways that kūpuna mapped lands and how the mapping passed on to their descendants the knowledge about elemental laws that protect water.

“As I was thinking about this story, I was also involved in different community struggles to protect lands and waters in Hawaiʻi,” Fujikane said. “I began to see the ways that developers would try to cordon off smaller and smaller pieces of land in order to argue that the lands they wanted to develop are no longer agriculturally productive or culturally significant. As I was giving testimony at land use hearings, I realized that we needed to get outside of a western, Americanized perspective of land to recognize that Kanaka Maoli valued the integrity of land and the ways that land forms are related to each other.”

Extensive research

Fujikane performed a wide range of research to produce the book, including talking with Kanaka Maoli scholars, activists, artists and cultural practitioners; attending community events and court cases; reading different translations in Hawaiian language newspapers; spending time on Mauna a Wākea; analyzing maps; and taking six years of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language).

“Research for me is relational because it is about growing relationships with people and growing aloha ʻāina for places because you love the people of a place and realize that the akua (elemental forms) are their ancestors,” Fujikane said.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Building a Sustainable and Resilient Campus Environment: Within the Global Sustainability and Climate Resilience Movement (PDF), Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF) and Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF), three of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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