Ahupua’a: Hawaiian Wisdom for Healing the World

Water connects the clouds to the earth, the mountains to the oceans, and it is the resource that sustains all life on our planet. It is no wonder that the Hawaiian’s have a term for their watershed called Ahupua’a that is directly related to the health of their whole community. Andrew Millison and the Oregon State University Permaculture Department recently spent time in Oahu documenting the cultural practice of stewarding this ecological system. If Hawaii is a microcosm of environmental and social challenges it may also be a source of inspiration and solutions for the rest of the world.

“Bringing back the Ahupua’a and especially bringing back that mindset of caring about others, of sharing resources, of equality… That’s something we want for our nation, fo our people, that’s something we want for the world, that’s something we want to teach about.” Brandon Maka’awa’awa, Vice President of Hawaiian Nation

Andrew’s short film (embedded below) is exemplary in the way it highlights indigenous wisdom, educates, and connects various historical, social, and environmental issues in Hawaii. The story takes place at the village of Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo. This community is ground-zero for the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. This small village is a working-model for how to gently reclaim the land while also healing the people from degradation due to the impact of US occupation and colonization.

If there is one enduring fracture in the human psyche that is felt across the globe, it is the way that colonialism has separated people from their sacred connection to the land. Capitalism has taught us that the planet and her resources are mere commodities to be extracted, exploited, and sold to the highest bidder. We are now seeing the disastrous effects of this mindset in every aspect of society and in collapsing ecosystems around the world. An indigenous worldview sees the humans as responsible stewards and caretakers of living systems.

There is no way to erase the wounds of centuries of colonization, over-extraction, and broken communities but we do have the capacity to heal, regenerate, and emerge with a renewed sense of resilience. That process starts by observing the perennial wisdom of nature, recognizing the value of the indigenous worldview, and remembering that we are all interconnected. When we damage the waters, we hurt ourselves, each other, the forests, and the animals.

Andrew is on a mission, with the support of Oregon State University, to travel the world documenting the people who have kept traditional ecological practices to heal our planet. By highlighting and sharing these practices communities everywhere will have a resource for innovating in their own region. Humans are resilient and vy combining the best of traditional knowledge with modern technology we may find a path through our current environmental and social challenges.

This is Solutionary Activism at its’ finest. When initiatives like this are combined with creative, engaging, and educational media then regenerative practices can flourish on a global scale. We now have a model for how local actions can lead to global solutions. Special thanks to Andrew Millison, the people of Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo and Oregon State University for this inspiring and compelling short video.

When the water is healthy, so are the communities that depend on it for survival. When people shift from a competitive, extractive paradigm to a collaborative, regenerative model we will see many of our greatest social and environmental challenges fall away.



Cultural-Creative, Media-Maker, Dreamer, Musician. Technology, Art, Science, Health, Spirituality, Culture, Community, Environment. UNIFY Co-Founder

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Jacob Devaney

Cultural-Creative, Media-Maker, Dreamer, Musician. Technology, Art, Science, Health, Spirituality, Culture, Community, Environment. UNIFY Co-Founder