Saturday, April 25, 2015

And your names?

"Mauna Kea is often translated literally as "white mountain" because of the snow that covers its summit. But Mauna Kea is a short version of Mauna a Wakea, a name that connects it to the sky father, Wakea.: : :This is Mauna a Wakea. The mountain belongs to Wakea. It doesn't belong to you. It doesn't belong to me. It belongs to Wakea.You and what you want to do with it doesn't matter. Me and what I want to do with it doesn't matter. The mountain is sacred. It is Wakea. It is not Mount Joe. It is not Mount Kilroy. It is Mauna a Wakea.[...]Pualani KanaheleKumu Hula, Educatortestimony at public meeting on Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master PlanMay 1999 - Mauna Kea-Temple Under Seige
Mauna a Wakea

"[...]The most conclusive writing on the matter can be found in Allan Richardson and Brent Galloway’s book, Nooksack Place Names, where accurate pronunciations and precise etymological meanings of several names for parts of Mount Baker can be found. Here we learn that according to George Swanaset (1871-1961), a fluent speaker of the Nooksack Language,Kulshan is actually pronounced Kwelshán in the Nooksack language, and is the name for the high open slopes on Mount Baker (not the peak itself). Richardson and Galloway noted thatKoma Kulshan may be derived from the Nooksack kwó-mæ kwǝlšǽ·n which means “go up high” or “way back in the mountains shooting place,” which they determined was probably a phrase rather than a proper name (Richardson and Galloway 2011, pg 148). The authors also provided the proper pronunciation for the Lummi cognate Kwǝšέn and the Halkomelem (language of the people Indigenous to the Lower Fraser River) cognate Kwǝ́lǝ́xy. The Nooksack name for the actual peak of Mount Baker is Kweq’ Smánit, which translates to “white mountain.” Lastly, Richardson and Galloway provided the Skagit name for Mount Baker:Teqwúbe7 or Te-kómeh, which translates as “any snow-capped mountain.” This Skagit name is vaguely similar to that provided by Coleman above, and more similar to the name provided by Joseph Hillaire. Majors gave Puk’h’kowitz as the Clallam name for Mount Baker, and translated the term to mean “white mountain” (Majors 1978, pg 17). A variation of the Clallam term, P-kowitz, is recorded with the same literal translation in the Washington Place Name Databaseand can be traced back to a letter from James G. Swan to James Wickersham on February 3, 1892 (Wickersham 1893, pgs 4-50[...]- "Koma Kulshan"

Tomorrow will be the start of our sixth year here on this island. We are grateful. Alternately, we are amazed at the process and the journey. Just when I think the plot and the breadth of life is pretty much in its place, more is revealed and definitions, names, change.

What's happening this season as the forest around us grows, and being makua o'o takes on meaning as my ancestors say, " Lawe i ka ma'alea a ku'ono'ono. Take wisdom and make it deep?" Spring is the time when the farmers start setting up their stalls; they bring their hard work and crops of new bounty to their hungry names. Green houses and hoop houses have multiplied like Langley Bunnies here on the island. Nearly every farmer worth her salt or kale crop has one, and most are expanding their covered and weather-tempered growing spaces to start and tend seedlings. Growing food is what humans can do. Cultivating is a human activity.

Pete is out and about after a morning of washing his laundry (by hand) while he and I chatted about mending and extending the life of his clothes. I've done the mending of favorite bits of his ware, and have a good start on a patch to the knee of a very hardworking pair of jeans. While he is out, he is bound to assist at least one farmer with whatever is challenging him/her. His talent for assessing need and applying solutions is a practiced skill. People seek him out for that. And, its a reciprocal thing. Pete loves being the mender-meddler.

Back 'at the compound' here in the Quonset, I make a little space to "Let your mind air out a little." That's a phrase I've just learned as I read a new novel (her first) by Natalie Baszile. Queen Sugar is about a young woman whose inherited hundreds of acres of sugar plantation. Plantation that hasn't been tended or kept up. From L.A. to LA, Los Angeles to Louisiana the main character Charley is up to her cowlick with challenges. Queen Sugar and Charley's rites of passage in Louisiana sugar country is my bit of space to air out.

I'm in the middle of creating, or maybe, it's continuing to nurture my responsibility to dig up and air the names of things. The deep and the covered up names, the names assumed as correct, the names that have become common place or 'common law' like wedlock in some societies. Thing is, I have begun to make island and in the process the organic nature of doing so presents me with unexpected details. Another kupuna wisdom (ancestral glue) nails things in place: E kuhikuhi pono i na au iki a me na an nui o ka ike. Instruct well in the little and the large currents of knowledge. In teaching, do it well; the small details are as important as the large ones. 

HO'OMOKU - A place for Hawaiian Practices is a venture newly begun. I have the site: our partnership with the South Whidbey Tilth is in place. Now: the building blocks. Just the other day I received email, and then a phone call from the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department. Nine days ago I had written to ask for help with the 'proper pronunciation' of a Luschootseed word for Whidbey Island. I have searched for (what I thought was) that name for five years. When I found it, I had no idea how to pronounce it.

I put my practice into action. What I found was more than I anticipated, and, exactly what I needed. In a nutshell, I have much more to learn before I can teach. In the process of growing a place for HO'OMOKU, my ancestors, and the ancestors of this place are giving me the tangles and knots that need to be addressed. Naming practices weave history and events that are not visible to the contemporary eye. The two examples of names that start this post are mountainous examples in every angle of meaning.

A long scrap of notepaper has penciled letters I wrote to describe two place names on this island where I live. My email request was scrutinized for motive and intent. Many such requests would not be responded to because they are made out of curiosity, but, with no honor or respect. Waiting is important. Names are important. Names bear legacy and geographic memory. The letters I have written are in the Lushootseed alphabet. I am unfamiliar with the alphabet, and the sounds. A very well crafted and interactive website allows me to learn. I must practice to get the sounds. Early in the morning I woke from a disturbing dream. To wash the direction of the dream, I crossed the forest, turned on the black box, and went here ...

I pressed the > key and listened to the Lushootseed word for: SUN, MOON. They both start the same, but end differently. I press the > key again, and turn my good ear to the speakers to hear the word more clearly. I love the sound of the words. I'm at it for another many minutes. I hear my husband come out from the sleeping place, walk out, and then back. Later, when we were together in the washing house, he said, "I heard you. I heard you practicing." His face and his heart were soft. I was surprised he was out there listening.

We are old people, adjusting, adapting, and practicing the ways we know work. Mostly, we respectfully find our place and ask for the names that are true for things. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we get things right. While the pollen of that Scotch Broom reigns supreme on the island, I mostly stay here in the place "where gooseberry bushes grow." I stay here, and let my mind air out as I write, mend worn jeans, and hear birdsong over the hum of the refrigerator cooling last night's chicken and squash soup.

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