Aloha ʻĀina, which literally means "love of the land", is a central idea of ancient Hawaiian thought, cosmology and culture. The concept is felt by many people in Hawaiʻi as a focus of ecological and cultural understanding.
Traditionally, the concept goes back to mythical times, and is illustrated extensively in creation chants such as the Kumulipo, which emphasize the connection between the land and the people. In everyday practice, it embodies a deep passion for the land, as is often demonstrated in songs, hula, stories and lifestyle practices such as farming, which have many celebratory and sometimes sensual elements. As a political term, it came into wide use during the late nineteenth century through the Aloha ʻĀina Party, which transformed into the Home Rule Party of Hawaii in 1900,[page needed] after the annexation of Hawaiʻi in the last decade of the 19th century. Since that time some connotations of Hawaiian nationalism are associated with the term. Many practitioners, however, assert that Aloha ʻĀina is not itself a political term but rather a tenet of spiritual and cultural understanding which "drives one into action" (George Helm, 1977). These actions may be political, or may simply involve prayer, lifestyle choices and love and respect for the land and sea.
During the "Hawaiian Renaissance" of the 1970s, the term again came into common use, and a social movement arose based upon it. Land struggles were the locus of this movement, which brought together ecological principles, ancient practices, historical interests, demilitarization/peace concepts and Hawaiian Sovereignty claims.:11
The pinnacle of this movement came in 1976-77, with the occupation of the island of Kahoʻolawe by the group PKO (Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana). Kahoʻolawe had been used as training area for the military since World War II, and was still an active bombing practice range for the U.S. Navy at the time. The PKO planned to "complete five landings symbolizing the five fingers of limahana (the working hand)." A group of activists, kupuna (elders) and cultural practitioners led by Kawaipuna Prejean and George Helm, a lauded Hawaiian singer, musician and speaker from Molokai reached the island by boat, but were later arrested. They returned, and two of the group, Walter Ritte and Richard Sawyer, were left behind on the waterless island when the others were again removed. Helm, who had become the group's leader and a hero to many, paddled the 7 miles from Maui on a surfboard, along with Kimo Mitchell in an attempt to return to Kahoʻolawe. The pair disappeared and Helm's body was never found. The Navy later ended its use of Kaho'olawe and funded a still-incomplete program to remove unexploded ordnance from the island.
The Aloha ʻĀina movement later focused on the growing of kalo, or Hawaiian taro. Kalo is a sacred plant in traditional Hawaiian culture, believed to be the elder sibling of the first humans, and the plant from which poi is made. Kalo requires copious water and is very sensitive to pollutants (hence, urbanization); therefore, anti-development and water rights struggles are ubiquitous elements of traditional kalo culture. Kalo culture relates directly to health issues; studies have shown very high rates of heart disease, diabetes, many cancers, and most other preventable, diet-related diseases among native Hawaiians, and a major factor in these statistics is suspected to be the abandonment of traditional dietary practices. The goals of Aloha ʻĀina include the harmonization of human health with the health of the land, through the culturally pono (righteous) protection and care of the natural resources that sustain it.
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