Kalo, also known as taro, is more than just a food source for Native Hawaiians. It is a symbol of our family in more than one way. First, we look at the plant itself, where the word for family (ohana) comes from. The little offshoots are called oha, and na is a pluralizer. The larger plant that the oha comes from is called the makua, or parent. So we have the makua with its many oha, or offshoots, eventually becoming their own makua, producing more oha. And the cycle continues.
This is not the only way that the Kalo is a symbol of our family. It's also in one of our creations mo'olelo (story). Papa and Wakea are earth's mother and sky father, respectively. They created many things together, including some of the islands that we now live on. But where does Kalo come into play?
Papa and Wakea came together and had a child. She was named Ho'ohokukalani and had a son who died at birth. The son was then planted on the eastern side of the hale (house). She cried over the grave for many days until a plant began to come from the grave. The plant had a long stem and a heart-shaped leaf. She knew it was her son, so she named him Haloanakalaukapalili, or what we call him today, Kalo. Ho'ohokukalani had another son, but this one was strong and healthy. His name was Haloa, named after his elder brother. Haloa was fed using the root that his brother grew, and he survived because of his brother and his generosity. Haloa eventually became the first Hawaiian, and thus the native Hawaiian people began.
This story teaches us some of the most important values. One is Malama' Aina, which is to care for the land. To Hawaiians, the land is not something we can take for granted; it is something we need to take care of because it's where we come from. Second, it teaches us about family and the importance of family. Family should be something we can lean on when we need help. And lastly, this story tells us about our connection as people with the things around us. We are descendants of gods; thus, our siblings are the land, Kalo, and everyone around us.
When we look at the Kalo, it is now a symbol of the Hawaiian people. Our values come from the plant, our family should be like how the Kalo is, and our connection to it connects us to the world around us.
Kalo is not just a plant or food; it symbolizes the Hawaiian people.