I'm a local girl, a keiki o ka 'aina, a child of the land. According to Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert in their Hawaiian Dictionary, the proper term is keiki hanau o ka 'aina, one born on the land.
I came into this world at Queen's Hospital, as it was then called, to a professor of history at the University of Hawaii (my dad created the first Hawaiian studies class there), and the principal of Kahala Elementary School, who came out together from Connecticut after World War II.
I grew up in Honolulu at a time when there were no freeways, when everyone learned 'ukulele and celebrated Lei Day, when fathers wore brown aloha shirts imprinted with tikis and mothers had a wardrobe of mu'umu'u. (Did anyone catch the Alfred Shaheen show at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center last fall? It was the wealthy who wore his sexy styles and gorgeous rainbow of colors.)
I went to Punahou at a time when the football team wanted to "Beat Kam" (the venerable Kamehameha Schools were thus abbreviated), when the girls drove out to Sandy Beach in matching bikinis to watch the guys bodysurf, when the plantation system was alive enough for us to go "fluming" in the windward water troughs that fed the fields. Tom Stevens (come home!) would have been in my class, but I came in the 9th grade, and he went away to boarding school in the 8th.
I was a reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser at a time when we could easily drive Kapiolani Boulevard to the Press Club at the Moana Hotel in Waikiki for lunch and back with no traffic pilikia, when one of my first assignments was to cover Elvis landing at the heliport at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, and Puakea Nogelmeier had just started to teach Hawaiian language classes at the University of Hawaii.
I came to The Maui News in 1992, when cows from Haleakala Dairy spilled across Hanamu Road some mornings when I drove down from Olinda to work, when people didn't honk at the old guys driving slow with trucks full of cabbage, when interisland airfare was $35 one way and megamansions hadn't taken over Palauea Beach.
For many years, I worked on a five-generational biography of the Baldwin family for Maizie Cameron Sanford, a tome spanning life on Maui from 1835 to 1993, a time when - well, more on my historical insights, much more, later.
In this era of cultural hypersensitivity, I wondered if my claim to the title of this column would be considered correct. I am a kama'aina, but not a Hawaiian. I decided to put the question to Kiope Raymond, chairman of humanities and Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii Maui College: Am I a keiki o ka 'aina?
Kiope's response delighted me. "Oh yeah," he said. "In the 21st century, we can't be narrow-minded and exclusive." In his mind, the term involves a complex of levels of understanding. One is the literal level that speaks to "child of the land," those born here.
On another, "You could deconstruct 'aina to mean that which nourishes you, feeds you. If a person is saying, 'I am a keiki o ka 'aina, I am a child of that which nourishes me,' I say there is a moral and ethical imperative to malama the 'aina. People tend to gloss over that."
Raymond pointed out that the word kama also means child, as in kama'aina. "To self-describe as a kama'aina there's so much more than just taking out your driver's license and getting a 10 percent discount. It's by one's actions that you show 'I really care about this place.' If you want to self-describe as a keiki o ka 'aina, do something about it."
So there it is. That is the goal of this column, to write about this blessed island, Maui, and na keiki o ka 'aina, the ones who are of her and the ones who love her.
* Laurel Murphy is a former Maui News staff writer, now a freelance writer. Are you a keiki o ka 'aina? Tell me what you're doing. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.