Like all long distance explorations, the initial 1,500 mile voyage from the Marquesa Islands to Hawaii must have been a perilous doozy. Sailing canoes across huge expanses of ocean in search of new islands, the Polynesians arrived in Hawaii in 200 AD, carrying with them all they would need to survive. They reserved space in their crafts for their 27 most important plants (botanical tool kit). Being that many of these plants were used in culinary, medicinal, decorative and ceremonial traditions, they ensured not only their survival, but also their cultural identity.
In order to support a growing population, these indigenous people developed an ingenious system of community-based land stewardship called Ahupua’a. The Hawaiians divided the land into separate but comparable units that extended from the highest point in the mountains down into the ocean. Each of these self-sustaining ahupua’a communities had all the resources needed to feed, clothe, and shelter the people living within it. The ahupua’a system recognized the interconnections between the mountains and the ocean and the roles that fresh water plays in linking the two.
By operating within this system, the Hawaiians were able to sustain a large and healthy population while maintaining the integrity of their islands’ natural resources. This also instilled in the Hawaiian people many of the traits we recognize today as especially Hawaiian: a genuine willingness to share what they have with others, and the discipline to waste nothing and to use only what they need.
Perhaps, it is no coincidence that Hawaii’s most endangered whale, the false “killer whale”, is the only marine mammal that freely shares food within their own pod. ~