In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction:Pacific Currents
  • Paul Lyons (bio) and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan (bio)

We are taught by our kūpuna (elders) that from the moment we enter the water, we acknowledge all of the ocean’s inhabitants. We are visitors in their home. …

When we were kids, our grandparents (tūtū wahine and tutu kāne) would sit us down on the shoreline and teach us how to watch (nānā) and listen (ho‘olohe) to the ocean. We studied its patterns and movements, its currents and weather conditions. We even watched the debris return to shore to see where the gap exit, or puka, in the waves was in order to float or swim safely back to shore.

—Brother Noland, The Hawaiian Survival Handbook

In Oceania, there is a different kind of “common sense” that circulates among Islanders, one based in a fluidity of being in the world. One might refer to this as an “Oceanic Reason” that flows from awareness of one’s environment. For the less Island-acclimated, the ‘Ōiwi (Indigenous Hawaiian) musician, outdoorsman, teacher, and author Brother Noland has produced a primer to surviving in Hawai‘i’s differing environs, inclusive of ocean, mountain, and city.1 He weaves together lessons from his lifelong search to acquire new skills from teachers throughout Hawai‘i and beyond. The resultant text offers both serious and humorous instructions on such issues as “how to survive shark attacks” and “how to poop in the woods” in order to illustrate “lessons of aloha” that foreground practices of “adjusting, adapting, blending, and being aware” of others, whether they be the inhabitants of the reef or the locals of an unfamiliar neighborhood.2 This active, survival aloha counters the pervasive tourism-driven senses of the word “aloha,” whose proscriptive grip on Native Hawaiians within “capitalist maneuvers” Stephanie Nohelani Teves indicts in “Aloha State Apparatuses” in this special issue. Approaching the sociocultural and natural worlds separately, Brother Noland suggests, can be particularly dangerous in the ocean, where his first advice is “to go with a partner who is familiar with the area and the surroundings.” If one is unable to do so, one should “sit on the shore and study the wave and current patterns for evidence of undertow, rip current, or riptide” before entering the water.3 What Brother Noland advises about the ocean—about the need to respect its inhabitants [End Page 545] and is currents—is both practical advice and a philosophy for approaching challenging environments. Following his guidance, we open this special issue, “Pacific Currents,” with a call for coalition building, solidarity among Oceanians and the peoples who encircle the ocean, that pays special attention to the place-based knowledge that emerges from the large and small currents of the Moana Nui (Pacific Ocean), including the dangers and opportunities for movement that currents present.

There is an ‘ōlelo no‘eau (Hawaiian proverb) that goes “‘A‘ohe o kāhi nānā o luna o ka pali; iho mai a lalo nei; ‘ike i ke au nui ke au iki, he alo a he alo.” The noted ‘Ōiwi scholar Mary Kawena Pukui translates this as “The top of the cliff isn’t the place to look at us; come down here and learn of the big and little current, face to face,” and provides a window on its meanings: “Learn the details. Also, an invitation to discuss something.”4 In her contribution to the land/seamark special issue of The Contemporary Pacific, “Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge” (edited by Vicente Diaz and J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, both contributors to our forum section), Teresia Teaiwa argued that this ‘ōlelo no‘eau “provides a conceptual structure for understanding” Native Pacific studies,5 especially in its “intimate approach to knowledge” based on interpersonal relationships formed in face-to-face meetings at various Pacific-focused conferences. We build on this understanding by thinking through the ways that “big and little currents” convey an intimacy between people, land, ocean, and time.6

The Hawaiian term for current is “au.” Like many other ‘Ōiwi concepts, au is rich with kaona, layers of esoteric meaning that present possibilities for decolonial praxis.7 In their Hawaiian Dictionary...


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pp. 545-574
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