Hawaiian Word of the Week – Kuleana
Definition: “nvt. Right, privilege, concern, responsibility, title , business, property, estate, portion, jurisdiction, authority, liability, interest, claim, ownership, tenure, affair, province, reason, cause, function, justification…”
Hawaiian Dictionary – M.K. Pukui & S.H. Elbert
The language of my kupuna (ancestor, grandparent, relative or close friend) is a melting pot of meanings. Unlike the English language, the Hawaiian language can say many different things in one word. The word KULEANA, as noted in the Hawaiian dictionary can mean right, privilege, concern, responsibility, etc. But, for me, as a kanaka maoli (native person) KULEANA is not just a word that says responsibility but it is much deeper and richer than what the English language can express. It speaks of a value, a way of thinking.
This is an example of what kuleana means to me. “It is my kuleana to teach my children and grandchildren their native culture and the values and belief of our family.” If I internalize this statement and agree that as a makua and kupuna ( parent and grandparent), my responsibility is to teach my children and grandchildren our culture, values and beliefs of our family it becomes a goal, a mission, a duty. But, if I add the additional meaning of PRIVILEGE to this statement. The perspective changes to: “how honored am I to be able to have this responsibility of having children and grandchildren to share my knowledge, stories and thoughts” This additional meaning to the word, allows one to truly think about what they are doing, how they are doing it, and to express a gratitude that is sometimes lacking in taking on a responsibility.
When given a task or responsibility, adjust your perspective to include privilege, the task will take on a new meaning and that is KULEANA.
Today and for the next week, what is your KULEANA? Live each day asking yourself, Is this my responsibility? And how am I privileged to have this responsibility? What is your KULEANA?