I found a series of books, the KA WANA Series that was put together in 2006 by a team from the University of Hawaii.  It was the culmination of grant-funded work done by a Dept. of Education team to develop a course of study for native Hawaiian children.

The project was called the PIHANA NA MAMO project or alternatively “The Native Hawaiian Special Education” project.  The books were written by cultural expert Malcom Naea Chun.

In one of the books in the series Chun does a riff on the Hawaiian concept of “independence,” which is not exactly the same as the Western version.  According to Chun, the Hawaiian form of “independence” is more about self-sufficiency, authenticity, and interdependence.

There is a strong sense of developing useful skills and one’s own style and ways in order to contribute to the overall survival of the group.  Chun makes it clear that this form of independence is not the same as the Western idea of separation and a complete, isolated state of autonomous individuality.

He goes on to say that this “sense of independence arises from the results of one’s labor and creativity.  The resulting development of one’s own style or ways implies that a person is ready…in his or her own right, to be a teacher or mentor to others….

This one resonates with me.


It has always seemed to me that American lone-dog autonomy is self-defeating.

I mean, so WHAT if you’re the Greatest and the Biggest Baddest Queen of the Mountain?  All it means is you become the one to beat and you have to keep building up your mountain so it is the tallest one in your part of the world.

Otherwise, the enviability dwindles and your awesomeness is diminished.  Talk about tiring!

Everybody I know who went for this one got trapped in the Giant Gerbil Wheel of Achievement…the one where you keep going, going, going until you’re a nubbin, albeit one that inspires a heaping helping of envy from all the other ones who are on the same Wheel.

Somehow, this doesn’t make sense to me.  I mean, doesn’t that just mean it’s you against everybody else?  Or maybe it just means you’re AWAY from everybody else.

How boring is that?

It seems to me a better plan to make the run, bust butt, hustle the hassle, and all that to develop skills that are useful and then use them to work on developing the head-room and heart-room that will make a framework to help yourself and your tribe live a good life.

My definition of “good life” means inclusion rather than exclusion.  I wonder how much of that is cultural…..Hmmm.

‘Course…maybe that’s just ’cause I really would rather be holding somebody’s hand as I make my way home through the dark….



We are, all of us,

Just walking each other home…

Holding hands

In the middle of all the Big Alone,

Telling each other stories

That make us giggle and smile,

Lending each other a heart

To hold for some little while.


We are, all of us,

Just walking each other home,

Wandering through the Big Woods

Past scary shadows

And fearsome teeth and claws,

We make our way

To the warm, sallying forth with no pause,

Singing our tiny songs,

Sharing silly dance steps,

Moving right along.


We are such little guys.

The world is awful big.

It’s always good to know

When someone else gives a fig.

And through it all –

The wind, the rain, the muck –

It’s really good to know

That you and me,

We’re just here

Walking each other home.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Relationship” by J D Hancock via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.



  1. Hi there Tita, This particular style of independence really resonates with me as well. Almost taking a page out of the Alpha human textbook on how to be a leader, but still maintaining your inner individuality and freedom. We cannot survive in a society without one another, an outcast here and there is fine but coming together while remaining strong independently is key.

    1. I like your way of thinking, Patrick….Thanks for the visit and your comments. Please come again.

  2. Hi Netta,

    Thanks for this great article. I really love the concept of interdependence and believe that there is really no such thing as living completely ‘independent’ as western culture portrays it. I also really love you reference to the giant gerbil wheel 🙂 To me this is the concept of going to work and doing the same thing all day, everyday…Yawn!

    Love and light

    1. Hey Vivia…thanks for the visit and your comments. Please come again!

  3. nardusvdv says:

    Wow! Wonderful poem! It has really made me think about my friends and I, walking each other home… Beautiful thought!

    I write poems myself but not in English. It was the part that speaks about the “sense of independence arises from the results of one’s labor and creativity. The resulting development of one’s own style or ways implies that a person is ready in his or her own right, to be a teacher or mentor to others.” I love it!!!

    My own sister tells me how she hates my poems. She says she doesn’t like it because she doesn’t like my rhythm… When someone close to you, a writer in her own right, tells you that, you start doubting yourself. But one should see your work as a sense of independence, you, that put your stamp on a product that was created by you hands and creativity. How can creativity ever be wrong???

    Thanks for this great article. I really enjoyed it – even though I don’t known much about English, I learned a lot what is happening in the USA…!

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, nardusvdv. I do agree. Poetry that speaks your heart can be any way you like.

      I do have a suggestion about your poetry-writing, however. You might want to try reading your poetry aloud and seeing how it sounds to your ear. Get dramatic, exaggerate as much as you like. Listen to your poem as you say it out loud.

      Do the words dance together? Is it a waltz, a tango, a stomp-dance, a cheerleading routine? What? If it’s a mess, then keep looking for the right words that work together well. That’s how you can start to develop different kinds of rhythm. Poetry is supposed to be a song, ya know.

      Then, break up the thing and punctuate your lines so that anybody else reading it aloud will do it the way you do. Every time you want somebody to pause, that’s the start of a new line. Use your periods, commas, semi-colons, colons, and dashes to signal different kinds of stops. (Avoid exclamation points. It just gets people going too over-the-top with the words.) That really has worked for me in getting my things to dance better.

      Please do come again.

  4. scubashawn says:

    I like your website. It really pops! The one thing that I like the most is the video you have implemented into your website. I do not have any videos yet but it looks great on your page. I also really like the poem you have written on your page. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, scubashawn.  I do appreciate it.  

      Please do come again….

  5. Crypto Dave says:

    What a refreshing post to see, I couldn’t agree more. We should all try and help each other more. It is a short walk we have here on earth and unfortunately like you say many people spend most of it chasing the wrong dreams only to realise when it is too late.

    Love the poem keep them coming.

    1. Crypto Dave, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  6. Wow what an exceptional find! I hope the course of study is still in use as I am sure the grant funding was significant. 

    I am glad I found your website! I really enjoyed the poem and the concepts expressed. I do think it is good to be an independent person but as you said we are all connected  and inter-dependent to a certain extent. The concept of self-sufficiency is sorely lacking in most of today’s society. 

    Most people are so disconnected from the supply chain that brings them things that it seems they have no idea how they even arrive at their local grocery store. Like an irate customer in Wisconsin during the winter time protesting that the store is out of some tropical fruit that is out of season and only grows thousands of miles away!

    1. Randi, I think you point up a major problem with the self-sufficiency, standalone thing:  It is so very easy in our quest for uniqueness, individuality, and personal sovereignty to get side-swiped by our own lack of connection and ignorance of real-life issues (like the chain of supply) and to go from being “self-sufficient” and “taking-care-of me” to “me-first” and “it’s-all-about-me-and-only-me.”  

      It’s kind of funny, but not.  (Sigh!)

      Please do come again.

  7. This is a really thought provoking article Netta, discussing the Hawaiian concept of independence in contrast to that of Western culture in general.

    I have come to believe that many of the ideas that we have come to accept as integral in our American consumer culture are nothing more than appropriations that have been adopted which actually run counter to the principles that many Americans espouse and claim as the underpinnings for our collective ethic.

    I can see where the Hawaiian idea of independence would be much more beneficial to the culture as a whole because it actually has other in view as opposed to the isolating nature of our popular culture.

    1. Joseph, you’ve pinpointed the problem with the idea of self-sufficiency, I think.  If everything is “me, me, me”, it makes it really hard sometimes to get beyond all the wrangling and in-fighting that distracts and interferes with finding solutions to very big problems that cannot be handled by just one person.

      Hawaiian-style can get to be stifling and frustrating for those who are into innovation and creativity if taken too far, but it does provide a framework and a gateway to working together with other people for the greater good.  There is a lot of room and acceptance in there for the strong individualists, but they are obliged to be mindful of the people around them.

      Interdependence works better for society, I think.

      Please do come again.

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