Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hawaiian Adoption Tradition

From Hana Hou:  The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines, a story about  a form of adoption in Hawaiian tradition called "hanai:"

“I am a child of hanai,” says Auntie Leimamo Lee of Hana. In other words, as an infant she was given away by her birth parents to be raised by another couple. The transfer occurred when she was one month old, over eighty-five years ago.

Given away, but not in the usual Western sense of adoption. The transfer of little Leimamo was done Hawaiian-style—without shame or secrecy, without falsified birth records, in fact, without paperwork of any kind. It was a simple matter of friendly agreement between consenting parties. “My parents never had any children of their own,” Leimamo says. “But they loved children, and they asked for one.” In fact, over the course of their lives, Leimamo’s makua hanai (feeding parents) asked for many such children and eventually raised seven keiki hanai (feeding children) in their plantation-style home on Hana Bay—“feeding,” of course, being metaphorical for all forms of caretaking, including emotional and spiritual nourishment.

* * *

One might wonder how any parents could give up their newborn with such apparent ease. So it’s important to remember a key element to all true hanai agreements: No one loses. Leimamo has had a close, lifelong relationship with her birth family. “My adopted parents made sure that I would always love them,” she says. “Our ties cling together very tight.” She demonstrates this by twining all ten of her 85-year-old fingers together, raising her hands and smiling brightly.
Although "hanai" is no longer legally recognized in Hawaii, it's still an interesting look at adoption in another culture, yes?  It makes me think, again, about how birth parents in another country may not understand what is being proposed when aWestern agency or orphanage proposes an adoption placement (I blogged about that problem here).

1 comment:

SustainableFamilies said...

Agreed. In my mind, you gain family members and they become real. You just don't lose family in order to do that. They all stay equally real, equally important, and if possible, should all be equally involved in the childs life. Obviously if the first parents were easily able to be parents half the time with the adoptive parents, it wouldn't really make sense to do an adoption to begin with. However, it should be a goal to achieve if possible.