by Ron Meshanko
Salon.com has an interesting article by Elissa Washuta entitled “The Wrongheaded Obsession with ‘Vanishing’ Indigenous Peoples.” Most Americans know about ancient indigenous cultures vanishing as we have witnessed and know about the thirty-four North American tribes like the Yazoo who no longer exist. This is not a wrongheaded obsession to say the least. It is a major concern.
However, I don’t think Huli culture is dying: It is changing as it reacts and responds to outside influences. It will survive. But will it look like the Huli culture of today?
What is happening is that Huli culture fades away every time a cultural practice becomes forgotten.
For instance, the Tege initiation rites and the Haroli Bachelor cult rituals are no longer celebrated. They served an enormous purpose in Huli society as they were the Huli cultural “institutions” that provided traditional education and initiation into manhood. Most youth will have no idea about these activities as the knowledge about them, bi mana, is sacred and known only to ritual specialists who are passing away and not being replaced. Huli culture is fading away each time a daroali, manayi or gebeali dies. They take with them the knowledge of Huli primal religion. Only they know of the sacred geography that unites all the brothers of Hela.
Yes, Huli culture is slowly fading away, but it is not dying. Indeed, the Huli population is growing by about 2% annually. The number of Huli is increasing; however, their knowledge of Huli history and culture is diminishing. Huli youth may paint their faces yellow and red, and wear the most beautiful plumes, but they do not know why they are doing so. Not knowing their cultural importance they may even stop bodily decoration altogether because they don’t know the meaning as to why things are worn and done so in a certain way.
In response to fading Huli culture, The Huli Museum is developing a Huli culture curriculum to teach Huli culture and living to primary/secondary youth. We want to take a “snapshot” of Huli culture and then preserve and share that snapshot with the Huli of today and the future. Join us by visiting the website and becoming a supporter. We need to know you stand with us.
Together we can make sure Hela Huli never fades away.
Ron Meshanko, Co-Director