Kanenuiakea is an ethnic, indigenous or original religion of Hawaii‘i Nei. It is a living faith and practice for two thousand years. One does not become a member of Kanenuiakea but is born into the ‘ohana (family, Hawaiian community) or is hanai-ed (adopted). One does not join but can opt out of ethnic religion. However, because there has been a long period of persecution and contempt, those who kept the faith and practice continued its worship in secret (as huna). Many Hawaiians are not aware that they still practice Hawaiian values of Kanenuiakea and feel the sacred in traditional places.
With conversion to exclusive and conservative religions, some Hawaiians have opted out of Hawaiian indigenous religion. Hawaiians who are still practicing their ancient culture, the deep values in the language and religion, can be found in the Waianae Wahipana (the leeward or western coast of O‘ahu). Yet there is no reason that one cannot accept truths from many sources or practice several spiritual paths at once.
Kanenuiakea is a huna term, so sacred that it has not been used in public for at least a century. We live in the Waianae Wahipana (a “sacred place” designation which includes all of the Waianae coast of Oahu, Hawai’i). Kanenuiakea is the indigenous, earth or Gaia religion that had been practiced for centuries before the arrival of the Tahitian navigator Paao and priest of Ku in the tenth century CE. Kanenuiakea has been in continuous practice as a religion since the first arrivals, probably from the Marquesas, variously dated from the first to the eighth centuries CE. Archaeologists confirm that there has been continuous habitation of the Waianae coast [wahipana] for at least 2000 years.
Kamehameha the Great established his worship of Ku as the state religion when he conquered the islands. This state religion was dis-established in 1819, so it was taught that Hawaii was the first nation to be without a religion. This misinformation is self-serving for those who stole or desecrated indigenous religious properties, although Americans profess belief in the freedom of religion clause in the U.S. Bill of Rights and are a signatory to the Universal Bills of Rights.
Even after the state religion, the Ku religion, imposed by the unifier and conqueror of the Hawaiian islands was abolished in 1819, Kanenuiakea practice and worship continued uninterrupted at its sacred sites (heiau and ahu). Just in the Waianae Wahipana more than 30 of these sacred sites have been preserved and remain in use. All are occupied by military, federal and state agencies, corporations, and individuals. There is no “absolute title” to these religious properties. (Note a recent US Supreme Court ruling against the claims of the State of Hawaii concerning title to Crown Lands of Hawai‘i.) Occupiers of several sacred sites allow limited access and restoration, while others deny public access and try to prevent Hawaiian worship.
Kanenuiakea has a formal priesthood, passed down by special adoption and training. It had to go underground [huna] because of direct persecution as the Kingdom of Hawai’i transitioned from an independent, neutral, sovereign nation (recognized by more than 40 nations in the “family of nations” including the United States) to an occupied territory and then [disputed] state of the United States of America. During the US-assisted overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the religions of Hawai‘i (with worshippers of at least four indigenous worldviews--of Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, Lono) were outlawed as sorcery and prohibited until 1971, well into the period of US statehood (which many kanaka maoli or Hawaiian Nationals view as an occupation of the still existent Kingdom of Hawai‘i).
Kanenuiakea is an oral religious tradition with two thousand years of continuous practice and transmission, still preserved in the Waianae Wahipana. As most religions, its majority of worshippers are devotional, worshipping a personal, creator as Kane--symbolized in many natural manifestations. However, the religion is more complex (see section on Worship). Hawaiian is its sacred language and formal prayers and chants have been passed down in a spiritual tradition that pre-dates the first arrivals to the Hawaiian islands. Offerings were strictly vegetarian, and animal or blood sacrifice was and is a desecration of any Kane heiau (temple) or ahu (altar). Only offerings of fruits, vegetables, flowers and koa should grace the altars.
Rituals are both traditional (practiced by strict memorization of sacred ceremonies according to time, place, and occasion) and spontaneous. There are also intellectual and mystical dimensions of Kanenuiakea which are now completely huna (taught only to ohana [family] because of past persecution and contempt).
The US House of Representatives told the Republic of Turkey in 2011 that it cannot confiscate Christian religious sites and must return them. So it must follow that First Amendment rights must apply to freedom of worship and protection against confiscation of sacred sites in American territories, states and occupied lands. Thus, the sacred sites of Hawaiian worshippers and practitioners must be respected, preserved and returned.