I was recently reading a short piece by Elliot Holokauahi Pulham in which he traces the Hawaiian branch of his lineage back to his 8th Great Grandfather who was an Uncle to Kamehameha the Great. I have often heard that Hawaiians love genealogy and one can see this love in the text of mele chants and the events portrayed through the art of hula. My sense is that this Hawaiian love of genealogy roots the individuals within family and within history which is often that of Hawaiʻi itself.
Perhaps the need for certainty is what has driven me to track down the lineage of both of my parents. On Dad’s side I have been able to get back to Germany of the 1800’s and the Danish-German branch of the family. He also has a Blackfoot American Indian branch, the investigation of which has brought me limited success. But on Mom’s side and thanks to the work of a cousin we have been able to trace her lineage back 12 generations to the early 1600’s in Burgundy, France! We all need to belong, to know from whom and where we have come. And there is a deep human impulse for us to also give life to others. Hawaiians show us that there are more ways to make “family” than just by procreation. Through their custom of hānai they take others into their ʻOhana, their family and officially make them real members of that family, making that family’s history and lineage theirs.
As an Orthodox Christian Priestmonk I will never have offspring of my own. Yet within my religious tradition it is customary for some monks to become the Spiritual Father to other people. This forges relationships with them perhaps as real and intimate as that of hānai. I certainly know that I do have such relationships with spiritual sons and daughters which go back many years. With my love of my own family’s genealogy and with my own love of Hawaiʻi… maybe I was simply destined to become a spiritual hānai’d hāʻole Hawaiian?
I can’t wait to see who will adopt me!