Story. It is the fundamental instrument humans use to make meaning. In Hawaiian cultural practice, the eldest of the grandchildren is given to the grandparents. Lihau Rosehill held this place of Hiapo, eldest in her family. Her grandmother said, “Learn the stories, repeat the stories, act on the stories, share the stories, teach the stories.” Within the stories lives the collective memory, knowledge, and culture. Lihau’s life work is preserving traditional practices, protecting sacred places, and passing on the knowledge she carries to the younger generations.
Each generation is a critical link in the chain of story, memory, knowledge, language, and culture. Lihau is maintaining her place in the generational narrative and passing on of traditional knowledge. She is not maintaining this place alone. Her Hawaiian values do not allow her to thrive alone. “We move forward together.” Lihau is moving forward with multiple generations on each side. A wife of twenty-two years, and mother of four, she is bringing her children forward with the traditions and culture of their people. She is a caretaker in her community, taking on mental health issues, prenatal care and birthing, mentoring new mothers.
Lihau grew up and lives in a community where families continue to practice the old Hawaiian ways. She lives and raises her children on lands that hold one hundred generations of familial bonds. Her greatest learning comes from the kupuna (elders) who pass on ancestral knowledge. She tells the story of the ‘o’opu (freshwater gobi) which were known to climb waterfalls by clinging fast to the wet stones. “Steady and determined, these fish achieved the seemingly impossible. Their small acts became synonymous for showing steadfast love.”
Many tasks that Lihau faces seem impossible. Protecting sacred sites and burials, maintaining access and rights to the ocean and fishing—these are daunting in the reality of development and capitalism inundating Hawaii before and after annexation and occupation. Lihau’s persistence is a powerful example of steadfast love.