Monday, September 07, 2009

Hawaii - the 'Aumākua

I'm still pissed off whenever i read it.

I'm referring to this announcement that some council on Maui has decided to ban all Shark tour businesses in the County. Mind you, pre-emptively, as there are no such businesses there!
Some other council has obviously just ratified it.

It's not the decision in itself, although I find it really bizarre.
It is statements like "I believe the commercialization of a religious symbol that's so important to the host culture is inappropriate" and ...the bill prohibiting shark tour operations in Maui County was a matter of respect for Native Hawaiians who consider the animals sacred and especially, the following that really gets me going.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. reminded council members that many Native Hawaiians honor sharks as aumakua, or guardian spirits, and said treating the animals as entertainment was invasive and disrespectful.
"Any time you organize a tour to look at the mano (shark), you're disturbing their environment," he said.

Well, I initially reacted angrily and wrote a scathing post about the natives playing the reverse racial card on the naive google-eyed Palangi and their oh-so-politically-correct bad conscience.
When Patric of Underwater Thrills took it onto himself to fly to Hawaii in order to mediate between the warring factions, I retracted the post as a token of good faith as I was told that it was detracting from the efforts to find a consensual solution.
That solution has been found - and I'm still waiting to see if the rep. Gene Ward will keep his end of the bargain and finally distance himself from the demagogic rubbish posted by the Shark Task Force and their infamous Safe WatersforHawaii website.

But back to the allegation that viewing Sharks may be disrespectful to Hawaiian culture and their belief in the 'aumākua.
Here's what our wise, and wisely anonymous Hawaiian has to say about the topic.

BAN LOGIC #1: Shark tourism is disrespectful and offensive to Hawaiian culture and religion because it uses sacred amaukua for entertainment purposes.

SMELL TEST A: Native Hawaiians venerated many creatures from the natural world as aumakua, including various birds, fish, sea turtles, dolphins, and whales.
  • Has this government body banned bird-watching, whale-watching, or any other type of wildlife viewing tours based on the logic that they are disrespectful to Hawaiian culture?
SMELL TEST B: Workers in the recreational fishing industry frequently deal with sharks that attempt to feed on their bait or catches by tossing baited hooks with floats into the water so that the shark will hook itself and then die painfully of starvation while fighting against the float.
  • Is this disrespectful of the aumakua?
  • Has this government body banned this practice?
Pretty darned straight-forward and revealing huh?

What really baffles me is Maxwell's statement in the matter.
According to this post by none other than my friend Alex the Sharkman, he is
a very well respected "Kupuna" (Elder) in the Hawaiian Community and all throughout Polynesia. "Uncle Charlie", as he is affectionately known, is also the curator and cultural consultant, for sharks at the Maui Ocean Center and is linked to sharks spiritually.

And after a lot of edifying cultural stuff, I also discover this
In ancient times, families were careful not to eat certain forms of animal life if their 'aumakua was thought to appear in that form, for if they did, they knew the punishment could be as severe as death.
And this, by none other than the revered uncle himself!
I openly talk about the shark because I too am thriving for its preservation. Before I sent you the information and picture, I checked out your website and found that it promotes preservation of the shark. Mahalo

So, Uncle Charlie, what happened?
Why do you suddenly side with people like Makani Christensen, the president of the Shark Task Force and a notorious Shark hater and Fish killer?

One can say many, mostly stupid things against the Shark tour operators.
But one thing is unequivocal: that they love Sharks and contribute to dispelling the myth of the killer beasts. And that they often enable Shark research and are often engaged in Shark conservation.

Case in point: Stefanie and her Hawaiian Shark Encounters.
Her website (and that of North Shore Shark Adventures) is brimming with pro-Shark messages and on top of that, she has even started a Shark protection org, Shark Allies!

How much more respectful of the 'aumākua can anybody possibly be?
Shouldn't the native community, especially those who are spiritually linked to Sharks, respect and thank those people instead of reviling them?

And shouldn't prominent Hawaiians like Uncle Charlie stop being hypocritical and invest all their energy and cultural might into combating the real problem, i.e. the relentless extermination of Sharks by the spearos, game and commercial fishermen - and the resulting degradation of Hawaii's reef habitats?

Questions, questions...


Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

More to the point Maui just handed Oahu a huge tourism boost. Let's see if savvy politicians can see it.

DaShark said...

Excellent point!

Yup, let's see!
Quite frankly, I'm not holding my horses - alas!

The squandering of goodwill, reputation, man hours and above all, potential income is just remarkable - and this in the middle of a recession!

The Sharkman said...

I too cannot understand this responce from "Uncle Charlie"!! During the time that I was doing that research, about Shark Gods, he was so dedicated to promoting shark conservation and we had exchanged many emails.

If "treating the animals as entertainment was invasive and disrespectful" what is Shark fishing and Killing?.

"Uncle Charlie" please answer.