Of the more than 200 rain names recorded in the book “Hānau ka Ua,” Kiele Gonzalez says the one that best describes her mother Leimomi Akana is the kinai rain of Hilo.
“It is a persistent rain,” says Gonzalez, a Kamehameha Publishing Hawaiian-language publishing specialist who collaborated with her mother on the book.
“This can be unfortunate if you get into a disagreement with her, but is absolutely necessary if you’re trying to collect treasured rain names from hundreds of different sources.”
Akana – a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama social studies kumu – spent over a decade combing through more than 400 Hawaiian legends, chants, songs, proverbs, newspaper articles and other sources in search of rain and wind references.
Her persistence paid off with the recent release of the book, “Hānau ka Ua: Hawaiian Rain Names,” the fullest record of Hawaiian rain names to date. Her upcoming title, “Hānau ka Makani: Hawaiian Wind Names,” with more than 600 winds, is in the editorial phase of production.
Akana’s affinity for Hawaiian rain and wind names began after her graduation from Kamehameha in 1973, while training under hula masters Maiki Aiu Lake and Hoakalei Kamauʻu.
“I was introduced to the names in chants and songs,” says Akana – kumu hula of Hālau Hula o Nā Momi Makamae. “I marveled at how unique it was that our kūpuna were so attuned to their environment that they assigned individual names to the multitude of rains and winds occurring throughout the pae ʻāina.
“Our kūpuna knew when a particular rain would fall, its color, duration, intensity, the path it would take, the sound it made on the trees, the scent it carried and the effect it had on people. I believe they named each rain and wind because they encountered them almost daily and felt a kinship with them.
“This project was all about ‘Nānā i ke kumu’ – looking to the source,” says Akana. “The wisdom of our kūpuna informs and inspires us on physiological, intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels.
“Their ʻike and aloha ʻāina fill the pages of this book, and it is on their firm foundation that we will solve the great problems of our time. Our kūpuna thrived, and by caring for the ʻāina created abundance. As their descendants, we must strive to do the same.”
Akana has instilled this philosophy in her ‘ohana and haumāna by assuring that they are grounded in their native language and culture.
“Since I was a child, my mom tried to instill in me aloha for our ʻāina, our kūpuna, and ʻike kuʻuna Hawaiʻi,” says Gonzalez, a 1998 Kamehameha graduate.
“She taught me the names of the Koʻolau Mountain peaks behind our home and loved to go on huakaʻi, dragging me to wahi pana after wahi pana. And what she did for me I try to do for my keiki.”
During her 43 years of service to Kamehameha Schools, Akana has carved out a lasting legacy. Early in her teaching career, she proposed and advocated for a middle school hula club and hula class. Both endeavors came to fruition and continue to this day.
Akana has also been a proponent of making ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian culture education compulsory at Kamehameha Schools.
“This book is an extension of what my mother does and what she believes in,” says Gonzalez. “But its impact goes far beyond the walls of her home and her classroom. It is inspiring our community.”
A Book to Cherish
Since the release of “Hānau ka Ua,” Akana and Gonzalez have been delighted to hear stories about how much joy it is bringing to readers.
“We’ve been told that two sisters and a mother and daughter each bought the book for one another. While none were totally surprised by the gift, thankfully all were happy with it.”
Kamehameha Publishing Director Ron Cox says that “Hānau ka Ua” is a shining example of the division’s efforts to engage learners and to reinforce and invigorate Hawaiian cultural vitality.
“This book not only demonstrates the incredibly rich legacy of ‘ike left by our kūpuna, but also the value of the ongoing recovery effort that Kamehameha Publishing plays an active role in to locate, understand, and bridge this information for future generations.
“Diversity of language and meaning, poetics, and Hawaiian perspectives on biodiversity and connection to place, are just a few of the insights that these momi hold for those who engage with the text – educators and learners, cultural practitioners, scholars and laypeople alike.”
Showers of Praise
“Nani loa kēia a he mau ʻike waiwai loa i hōʻiliʻili ʻia ma kahi hoʻokahi. E lilo ana kēia ʻo ia kekahi o nā puke kūmole koʻikoʻi no kekahi mau hana noiʻi nui no kēia mua aku.” This book is very beautiful; it is a rich compilation of knowledge under one cover. This will be an important resource for future research. – Dr. Larry Kimura, Associate Professor of Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Studies, Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, UH-Hilo
“Mahalo kā ʻolua hana nui e naʻauao mai ai ka lāhui aloha. E komo ana nō i loko o kaʻu mau papa a pau! ʻO kuʻu paipala nō ia.” Thank you both for your hard work by which our beloved people may be enlightened. This book will be used in all of my classes! It will be like my Bible. – Kainani Kahaunaele, Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Studies kumu, Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, UH-Hilo / Hawaiian music composer and recording artist
“Pōmaikai mākou a pau iā ʻolua, ʻaʻole naʻe i ka hana noiʻi a noelo wale nō, akā, i ke ola pihaʻū i ke aloha, he mea ia e hālana aʻe ai ka manaʻo i ke ola o ka ʻāina, o ka ʻōlelo hoʻi.” We are all blessed because of you, not just for your laborious research efforts, but also for the way you live a life filled with aloha; it gives hope that the land and the language of the land will flourish. – Dr. Kapali Lyon, Chair, Department of Religion, UH-Mānoa