A new book is out celebrating the role of women in the Hawaiian Renaissance movement. Their actions being seen as especially relevant in this #MeToo era of women’s empowerment. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has this story.
The history of the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s would be incomplete without the stories of wāhine koa, courageous women, who emerged as leaders of the aloha ʻāina (love for land and country) movement. Whether it be fighting against evictions in Kalama Valley or military bombings on Kahoʻolawe.
“Truly, why I became an activist? It’s because what you see and what you hear. What you feel for your next door neighbor or your friend across the street,” says Kahaʻulelio, “Wow, we getting hard time, so come on let’s do something about it. Come on let’s go.”
A spunky 80-year-old Maxine Kahaʻulelio is one of four women sharing their stories of political activism in the new book Nā Wāhine Koa. She joins Terri Kekoʻolani-Raymond, Loretta Ritte, and the late Moanikeʻala Akaka in sharing their journeys of living a life committed to Hawaiian sovereignty and demilitarization.
“As a woman and a wife, I knew that there were things that I couldn’t do cause my kuleana was to malama my keiki,” says Ritte, “So I support my kane. You go do what you need to do and I’ll pule (pray). But I’ll stay home, take care of the keiki, and I’ll wait for you when you come home.”
Loretta Ritte can be seen in pictures throughout the last 50 years alongside her husband Walter an aloha ʻāina warrior himself. While none of the women would dismiss the role Hawaiian men played in the sovereignty movement, the book is an effort to restore balance of male and female leadership, of masculine and feminine energies.
"We’re the foundation. We keep things together. We’re rooted like the koa tree. You know we stand firm,” says Ritte, “We’re protective. We’re going to protect the things that we love. And that’s how I see us as wāhine koa. Standing protecting.”
“It’s more than just the protests. It’s more than the things that are visible,” says Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, “You know these women, the stories that we shared really speaks to the way that aloha ʻāina is lived every day.”
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa political science professor Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua edited the scrapbook like memoir and released it to a jam-packed crowd at Ka Waiwai Collective over the weekend.
“I hope that people are inspired by their stories to fight for what they love, for what sustains us,” says Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, “That people remember that the places that we love in Hawaiʻi, that are still here today are because people fought for them, that women fought for them.”