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Navy and Air Force celebrate 17th annual Makahiki Festival

Naval officers and paddlers bring Lono, a Hawaiian deity, to shore during a Makahiki festival.
HONOLULU (Feb. 1, 2020) Lono, the deified guardian of agriculture, rain, health and peace, is brought to shore by Naval officers and paddlers during a Makahiki festival at Rainbow Bay Marina. Canoes are an important part of the Makahiki and adds to the festive atmosphere by providing a traditional means for the image of Lono arriving at the ceremony. The Makahiki festival is a yearly celebration similar to Thanksgiving that brings communities together to thank Lono. Since 2002 the Makahiki on Pearl Harbor has been meant to bring together the Native Hawaiian and military communities. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Molly M. Crawford)

02/05/20 01:48 PM

Story by Seaman Apprentice Molly Crawford, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii 

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - The 17th annual Makahiki festival, a celebration that brings together the native Hawaiian and military communities, took place at Rainbow Bay Marina on Saturday, Feb. 1. 

Makahiki parallels the Western tradition of Thanksgiving. Historically, it was held during the constellation Pleiades, or Makali’i. During this time, warfare was forbidden, thanks was given to Lono, the god of agriculture, rain, health and peace, and games were played. 

The Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) hosted Makahiki started 18 years ago at Ford Island with the support of the United States Navy and Air Force. JBPHH invites the Oahu Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and native Hawaiian societies as guests. The intentions are to teach military personnel and their families about native hawaiian traditions, culture and history. 

“What this event is particularly highlighting is the relationship between our military community and our native Hawaiian community,” said Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and commander, Naval Surface Group MIDPAC. “It’s a long standing relationship and this is just one great example of how we work together.” 

Shad Kane, a Navy Vietnam veteran, started the modern Makahiki in 2002 as a result of his work representing the Native Hawaiian Community consultations for the Ford Island Master Development Agreement. 

“This Makahiki was the result of an effort to find a historic cultural event that represented establishing relationships,” said Kane. 

The event begins with Lono being brought to shore by canoes paddled by up to four Navy officers and other volunteer paddlers, all in kihei, a hawaiian cloth. The canoes and Lono are welcomed by one Navy officer in uniform and Native Hawaiian societies. 

Opening and welcoming chants are then sung as Lono is taken into the ceremonial event area. 

Ho’okupu, the offering of gifts to Lono, then takes place. Lei and other ceremonial gifts, such as harvested fruits, vegetables and flowers, are presented to Lono as thanks for agriculture bounties. 

After Ho’okupu, games of strength and skill are commenced. Such games include Ulu Maika (stone rolling), Moa Pahe’e (dart tossing), Haka Moa (one leg wrestling) and Make Ihe (spear tossing). These games further help bring the communities together and create bonds between the people. 

It’s important that the Makahiki and similar events continue to be celebrated because of their cultural significance and the goodwill they bring between communities. 

“I think Makahiki is a good celebration of culture and remembering the traditions of the past,” said Xavier Conrad, a civilian participant at the event. “It’s important to remember where we came from and the cultures of the island and the history of the place that we’re at. I think it’s important to know the past and keep those traditions alive.”