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Part 2: Hawaiian Treasure: Kindy Sproat
by Hal Cannon and Teresa Jordan

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Hal: There's a house at the end of the road where Kindy and Cheri live. Perched on the cliff, it overlooks the Pololu Valley. This is an extraordinary place by any reckoning, but Kindy's tie is more personal. He grew up here, as did his mother and grandmother, and a whole line of ancestors.

Hal: It's late afternoon. Kindy's godson, Josh, has come here after school for a ukulele lesson. We sit on the deck on lawn chairs, with a million-dollar view in back of us.

Hal: But Josh is now 14, tall with knowing green eyes and crazy, jet-black hair. Josh's mom is like family here, even though she's a transplanted New Yorker. Josh never had a real father and Kindy has been there for him since he was born. Around here, all the kids call older friends "Uncle" or "Auntie." Josh calls Uncle Kindy his treasure.

Josh: "See, he's like the father figure in my life. He taught me how to ride horses and all kinds of Hawaiian stuff. All the foods that I think are weird, he teaches me to eat them and they're really good too! One time he gave me cow-heart stew. And he's been here a long time and he tells many stories and so many songs to listen to. He's been there and supported me a lot."


Hal: Kindy uses the term "sticky brain" to describe the kind of person who remembers all the details. Even though Josh doesn't have an ounce of Hawaiian blood in him, Kindy has found a willing sticky brain to pass on a world of lore and history. Kindy grew up with a traditional respect for his elders and the knowledge they could impart. Now, in his late sixties, he is an elder himself, passing on knowledge in the traditional way -- by demonstration. But with all there is to learn, there's still plenty of room for play. Josh offers us a show-stopper, "Jazzy G."

Josh: "It's pretty much the only song I can play behind my head."

Hal: "You can play that behind your head? Let's hear it."

Josh: "I haven't done this in a long time."

Hal: After a few tunes we start talking about all sorts of things Hawaiian. I'm curious about that Island word, aloha, emblazoned on everything from beach bags to jumbo jets.

Josh: "It's a real powerful word, even though they use it a lot. It's like the direct translation is 'may you have ever-lasting breath.' Yeah, and so that's a real deep meaning that the Hawaiians use. That's why when they came up to say aloha they did their honi which is a nose-to-nose thing so they could breath in each other's breaths."

Hal: "So when you came to someone, you put your nose against theirs and breathed?"

Josh: "Yeah, forehead and nose. It's the ancient Hawaiian greeting that they used, called the honi. Kind of the Hawaiian kiss."

Kindy: "Exchange of breath."

Hal: "So you don't take aloha very lightly."

Kindy: "Aloha is a very serious word and if you don't mean it, don't say it. You see, alo is of deity. It's like a forward call to deity. Ha is the breath of life and it goes way down in."

Josh: "Actually, the translation of Hawaii is ha-va-ii...the breath of life and the water of life...of I the creator. They named this whole thing that 'cuz it was so beautiful and luscious and they had everything they needed to survive."

Hal: Josh catches Kindy smiling at him proudly. But it's not just Kindy who is proud. Josh finds the attention embarrassing, as any 14 year-old would, yet the respect is reciprocal.

Josh: "When we have Hawaiian studies, I'm usually the top student...'cuz right here...information source."


Hal: The sun has set and there's a kind of silence before the night falls. Kindy sniffs the air and sighs with pleasure. He asks quietly if Josh wants to join him in a song about the beauty of this part of the Island, Kohala.

Hal: Though we've only been here a brief time we feel the Aloha spirit. Kindy and Josh have planned a hike in the morning and they ask if we want to go along. Somehow, I'm starting to sense that Josh is not the only student here. Kindy has invited us into his world with an open heart. I just hope I can hold this moment with what's left of my sticky brain.

Teresa: It's morning, bright and clear and we've picked up a trail that follows the high ridge above the Pololu Valley.

Kindy: "I remember carrying you all the way up...put you on my shoulder and carried you all the way."

Josh: "Hey, you can see the waterfall...a little."

Teresa: We're penetrating deeper in the forest. This narrow path cuts into the sheer side of the mountain and we look down hundreds of feet to the tops of trees in the valley below. Kindy grew up in this forest. In fact, he was five years old before his parents brought him out of the woods for the first time and he saw his first car.

Teresa: "Kindy, what's this bird we're hearing?"

Kindy: "That's a cardinal. Growing up in the valley I knew every sound...and that's REAL knowledge. When I heard a bird sing...I knew what he looked like...I knew the bird by his voice. Like the Hawaiians say, pa hona pa a kalima, keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and you'll learn a lot."


Hal: Every few feet Kindy stops to show us something. He peels a long strip of bark off one tree, gives me one end, and challenges me in a tug-of-war. It turns out to be an incredibly strong natural strapping material for canoe building. He picks two different kinds of guava for us to taste. He shows us medicinal leaves and berries, all the time progressing along the trail.

Hal: It's almost with shock that we bump into a line of tourists with cameras dangling around their necks. Leading them on their nature walk is a handsome young Hawaiian wearing neatly pressed Bermuda shorts and a Four Seasons golf shirt.

Hal: "Hi...how you doing? How's the trail?"


Group: "Wonderful!"

Hal: "What did you see today?"

Woman: "We saw a butterfly...the kin dkameha mea butterfly. Spiders, saw spiders and a waterfall...you can go under a waterfall, if you're brave enough. We're glad we had to get up early today to do this."

Second woman: "But we're missing golf."

Hal: Kindy seems anxious to show us something up the trail.

Kindy: "Do you think you can climb up here?"

Hal: We scramble up the hillside through thick brush to a lookout that reveals the entire valley and the wide Pacific beyond. It takes my breath away.

Kindy: "When I was in high school, and I was suffering from tangle mind syndrome, my mind was all tangled...I would run away from school and walk all the way up here. And climb up over here and lay down and look down...I would sit down here and look out over here and count my blessings. Pretty soon when you go home...my, you're in a good mood."


Hal: Kindy tells us about this place of his ancestors, and as he talks, we begin to see this valley not as overgrown and uninhabited, but with villages and people, taro patches and gardens everywhere. Kindy's ancestors were canoe builders, navigators and historians. On the walls of his great-grandmother's hut hung maps made of seashells and twine, charting tides, wind patterns and the islands of Polynesia. Kindy explains that even without a written language, Hawaiians knew who they were and where they came from. Everyone could chant their genealogy. There were even those in his family who were chosen to remember the past. They actually put their lives on the line for the sake of history.

Kindy: "They selected them when they were five years old...and they lived with the kupuna...the old fellas. And they put the little guy in a dark room and they chanted these things over and over...daily. And they kept chanting to him until that was so locked in his memory. And then he chanted it back to them and they listened and monitored him and made sure that the whole lineage was just right. When they did that..and found out that one of the kids didn't work out."

Teresa: "He didn't have an acumen for it."

Kindy: "Unfortunately, but true...that child was put to death. That's how serious record-keeping was to the Hawaiians."

Teresa: Like the lines that connected the Islands on those ancient charts, the lines that connected families and villages in Hawaii were critical to every chance meeting along the forested trails.

Kindy: "There wasn't any strangers in Hawaii...no strangers. 'Cuz if you met a guy maybe for 10 minutes he was a stranger...but once you started to chant your genealogy...'I'm the son of so and so, who's the son of so and so'...you found a common progenitor: properly identified."

Teresa: "Then you're cousins."

Kindy: "Ohana kay ea means we're related HERE."

Teresa: But with the coming of Europeans after Captain Cook's initial voyage to Hawaii, that critical connectedness was shattered forever. Strangers were called Haoles, Ha-ole, without the breath of life, without a common ancestor. Plenty of Haoles have left their mark on this valley. Today much of North Kohala, including almost all of the Pololu Valley, belongs to a Japanese investor and before him, a big sugar plantation diverted the water that fed these valleys, which made it impossible for the villages to survive. Kindy has watched old Hawaii disappear before his eyes from this perch on the mountainside. Amazingly, he's not bitter.

Kindy: "They can buy it, they can build it, they can desecrate it. But what I have in my heart, they cannot damage that...it's there. It's..."

Hal: "Indelible?"

Kindy: "There forever!"

Click to go back Click for more

Hawaiian Cultural Preservation Association http://www.hawaiiancultural.org/
Bishop Musuem http://www.bishop.hawaii.org
United States Resources: Hawaii http://www.rootsweb.com/~roots-l/USA/hi.html

For suggestions on Hawaiian Literature, be sure to visit:

Native Books & Beautiful Things
222 Merchant St. #101
Honolulu, HI 96183


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