National | Disaster

Native Hawaiians consider volcanic eruptions a 'rebirth'

The recent volcanic eruptions from Mount Kilauea in Hawai'i are a sign of spiritual reconnection to traditional deities for the native people of the Big Island. The volcanic activity has destroyed 26 homes to date around the Kilauea area, but the cause behind the loss is also a significant moment for native Hawaiians both spiritually, and metaphorically.

Traditional Hula expert Mehanaokala Hind told Kawekōrero, "For the hula practitioners, this has been incredibly significant, our spiritual reconnection with our deities and also illustrating that for the rest of the people that live here in Hawai'i."

The Hawaiian deity Pele represents many natural phenomena including volcanoes, fire, and lightning. Hula and chant that represent her stories are therefore a preservation and celebration of the Hawaiian history with volcanoes.

"Chants that were composed hundreds of years ago, we are now able to smell them, to taste them, to touch them because now we are able to see from our own eyes these fresh new eruptions that are happening."

Evacuations have occurred throughout the Puna district where the volcanic activity has spread, that has so far affected around 1700 people. No deaths or injuries have been reported so far and there are ongoing discussions throughout the community around the loss of homes.

"On one level it's a cleansing of our 'aina (homes) and a rebirthing of our 'aina, on another level, it's a reminder again that we must pay attention to all of the natural phenomena that are going around us and so those are really strong signs that are coming," says Hind.