Hawaii Fathers and Role Models

article top

BY J. ARTHUR RATH – Coconut Willee and I talked about Poppas and kids who don’t share blood lines and about Hawaii’s always had an “inclusive family” outlook.

Mighty Kamehameha and other Hawaiian kings weren’t raised by parents because of all kinds of circumstances–similar to why England’s famous King Arthur was saved and raised by Merlin the Magician.


Guiding a kid was known as “mana makua” (wisdom from an elder). Sometimes it was formalized through “mana kia’i” (guardian power), being “hanai,” a foster child, was considered an honor.

Coconut Willee told me of his hanai father named Benjamin Komaka (“Ko” means sugar kane, maka is vision…”eyes”).

“Poppa Ben worked in the sugar cane field, had good eyes and could see far and wide, even through the red dirt dust and black smoke when cane leaves burned for harvesting.

“His father was a Hawaiian Civil War soldier. Poppa Ben fought in World War I.  Did you realize Hawaiian guys were in both?”

“Nodding, I said, “And after the war one Hawaii volunteer, Samuel Clayton Armstrong, a Punahou graduate, started Hampton and Tuskegee, colleges for Black Americans.  Two Hilo Lyman relatives taught there.”

Willee declared fervently: “I always say ‘Hau’oli mau makua kane’—‘Happy Father’s Day’–for those in who we can place our trust to do the right thing for future generations.

“Any elders acts like hanai parents too, when they think things through and make decisions that won’t burden the young —our mo’opuna–with debt, causing financial problems if they stay here.”

“Honoring the elderly, the makua, is a Hawaii tradition,” I told Willee.  We say “Hauoli Makahiki Hou” to wish others a Happy New Year. “Hau’oli mau makua kane” is what we said to elderly men (makua kane) on Father’s Day.

“Not in the Honolulu Firehouse,” Willee interjected. “The chief is huhu (angry) at retirees.  He won’t allow them in the station to pick up their mail or to share old times.  Wants them out of sight, out of mind, and not to be heard, he believes in HART, not having a heart.”





Comments are closed.