Death of a People

King Kamehameha I

Hawaii is an amazing place of opposing happenings. This culture is living and breathing and dying all at the same time. My new friend, Uncle Junior, has been fishing since he was 12 or 13. He shares his story with me about how he learned fishing from his grandfather. He shows me a conch shell.  It was huge and beautiful. I feel his pride in finding it and collecting such a large and beautiful example of Hawaiian history and culture. He shares how they are difficult to find. I asked him if the islands are fished out?  He says that people come over here and pick up the small ones.  Then let them go.  The sad part is this, the moment someone removes the conch from the reef it begins to die. Even if you put it back, it just washes away. They never get big.  Thus the big beautiful conch are never seen again in the wild resulting in the death of a way of life and the death of a very special culture. You can feel it. It reminds me of the Native Americans.

When we lived in Flagstaff, we were 35 miles from the Navajo reservation. If you took the time to listen, you could see the beauty of their interconnectedness with the land and the elements. You can feel the depth of their culture and their people and their history.   So strong and so deep, but dying.  It breaks your heart to see it happening. For me, there is a feeling of hopelessness. There is also a feeling of possibilities.  How will this culture, Native American, Hawaiian, or any other adapt to the new, the future, the inevitable.  The only constant in the universe is change.

As this world of ours becomes more interconnected any of us have a choice.  Do we go into the future and embrace it? Do we shun all things different and reject change? If so then we become obsolete and we die a cultural death as we die a physical death.  The key is to study the past, our past, your past, any past and carry that into the future.

As the last of the conch die off and we remember the stories of the conch and we share how the conch was important and useful in our life we keep the conch alive for all eternity. Reach into the past, learn about that which excites you yet that which you feel is slipping away in the hustle and bustle of a changing world. Teach the significance of that something to the next generation. Teach how the fits into an ever changing world and the conch, your conch, will not have died in vain.


James Christopher

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