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Like anything that you’re taught, you can unlearn too.So, it became like, well, how do I unlearn this, how do I find a way to restore, you know, that sense of purpose, that sense of connection. Kamuela Enos is the director of social enterprise at Mao Organic Farms in Waianae, Oahu, a low-income area where he offers internships to teenagers and young adults.He’s one of a few men who was of Hawaiian ancestry from the community actually teaching, and he was able to hear how teachers were talking about kids from Waianae. And they just decided to have these youth repurpose their time at this—[CHUCKLE] I don’t know what they were supposed to be doing, but what they ended up doing was cutting, clearing out haole koa, and putting in PVC pipes and bringing water back down.
And I was lucky enough to be in classes where I really found my love and I was interned at HACBED for a while. I remember there was a time, was it in the 80s, when practically everybody had a tarp and a … And like, that was an attempt to kind of look at the ancestral practice of fishponds or opelu fisheries, and to have people do it in their backyard as a way to generate revenue.You know, it’s important for you to assimilate into contemporary American society, and to, you know, be a good American, and to take all the vestiges of your ancestry, your language, your practices, and put that behind you. You know, I remember that, ‘cause I was really young.And he, you know, was from Waianae, he went to Kamehameha Schools, and then actually, he went to college.It was from Glen Kila; he was teaching Hawaiian studies at Leeward Community College Waianae. I was actually learning things I was really interested in, I was learning from a person who respected me as a learner, and I was learning in a space where I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life. Did that mean you wanted to be a teacher, or did you see another way to do that?I still didn’t know, but I knew like, I loved learning about my culture, but I also loved trying to apply it.
He comes from an ohana of cultural practitioners who turned to the wisdom of the past to create a better future for their struggling communities. One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox. They work on the farms in exchange for a stipend and college tuition assistance.