Sunday, February 1, 2009

One Hänau; One Hänai

Last Thursday night I returned to my habitual weekly activity of presenting a Fun Fact about Hawaii to my hula class. I based the latest Fun Fact on a writing project I'm currently involved in, as well as on a lesson from my distance learning Hawaiian language class through Kamehameha Schools.

My writing project is to write the script for a documentary film being made by an old friend, Lois Leonard. Lois and I met at Camp Wind Mountain as Girl Scouts, then we became classmates at Grant High School in Portland. Lois's past jobs at the Oregon Historical Society and at Fort Vancouver have turned her into quite the Oregon history enthusiast. She chose David Douglas as the subject of her latest documentary film. Most Oregonians know Douglas as the man for whom the Douglas fir was named.

There is a Hawaii connection because Douglas, born in Scone, Scotland, in 1799, traveled to Hawaii after several years of botanical field work in the Pacific Northwest. He died on the Big Island July 12, 1834. According to the man who found his body, he fell in a wild cattle trap and was mangled by a trapped bull. But the large amount of money Douglas had with him was gone and, shortly thereafter, so was the guy who "found" the body.

A memorial was erected in 1934 in Douglas's memory by the Burns Club of Hilo to honor a fellow Scot. A grove of Douglas firs was planted there, at a spot now known as Käluakauka (the doctor's pit). It's pictured above. I will be visiting that place next week with Lois and the film crew.

Now here's where my Hawaiian class comes in. A recent lesson was about the expression one hänau, which means the sands of birth. It's the Hawaiian way of saying birthplace. One's adopted home is called one hänai, adopted sands.

Our homework was to write about our own one hänau or one hänai. So I wrote about my love for Douglas firs as a native of Oregon, my one hänau. But I said that when I am in Hawaii standing in the shade of probably the only Douglas fir grove in the islands, I will feel like it's my one hänai.

1 comment:

Jeanne Anderson said...

Wonderful post! I just finished reading "The Collector" which a wonderful biography of David Douglas by Spokane author Jack Nisbet. I've traveled to Hawaii several times (but not for quite a few years!) Next visit, I'm looking for the Douglas fir and its monument... Thank you for sharing your experience.