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Rowan Kapanui
Coffee Program Manager at Mr. West Cafe and Bar — Seattle, WA

I would like us all to generate more equality and respect for each other and the land that we occupy. We only get one chance here, and if we ruin it now, we ruin it for everyone. Even the people that don't exist yet, and that stems from a lack of respect for what we have. I'm really passionate about my heritage and culture as a Native Hawaiian. The strong ties to our ohana (family), respect for the 'aina (land) and remembering our kupuna (ancestors) is very important to me.

Growing up, I wasn't taught anything about my heritage other than the fact that I'm Native Hawaiian. All of the things I've learned about my culture have been either self-taught or come from my partner who is also Native and had the opportunity to grow up on Oahu surrounded by our culture. A lot of what I know has come from books that I make sure were written by people of Hawaiian decent. A lot of material is produced by non-natives and tends to have a good deal of inaccuracies or just be tourist guides. I've been pursuing a more in-depth understanding by joining a Hula Halau and also considering going back to university for a degree in Hawaiian Studies. As of right now, the only decision I've really come to is to move to the Islands so I can continue to learn. There is a saying, Nana i ke kumu, which means, “Look to the source," and what better source for me to learn from than the people and the land itself.

We only get one chance here, and if we ruin it now, we ruin it for everyone.

In my daily life, I try to remember to have aloha (love and respect) for the people around me. I keep track of current events and political changes that go on in Hawai'i and every day, I remember how our land has changed after it was colonized. Breaking down stereotypes and recognizing the white-washing of Native Hawaiian culture is also a regular occurrence for me. It's hard to say the word ohana without people thinking of ‘Lilo and Stitch’, as much as I love that movie. There is so much more that has been ignored, but must be remembered.

 

I practice my culture by being Hawaiian. Right now I'm learning about the art of tatau and its symbolism, hula kahiko (traditional style dances) and how that developed culturally, along with being an advocate for Native Hawaiian rights and decolonization. I believe that the land should be occupied and taken care of by the people that love and respect it the most. The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness - Ua Mau ke Ea o ka 'Aina i ka Pono. Mahalo Nui!

 If my culture has taught me anything, it's to enjoy life as it happens but also to have respect for my surroundings. 

Lili’uokalani is someone that I really look up to. She was the last Queen of Hawai'i, and the last monarch in the States. As the last ruler, she was the last one to try to do something about the colonization and the illegal annexation of the Islands. She inspires me to do something about the things that are happening today in the best way I can.

If my culture has taught me anything, it's to enjoy life as it happens but also to have respect for my surroundings. It has taught me that there is great value in tradition and that it is important to remember, but not to be so caught up that you are unable to change