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ʻAumakua (Family Guardians)

ʻAumakua (family guardians) are important to Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian families. They are believed to be the spirits of family members who have passed on and are reincarnated in the forms of animals. Many Hawaiian families still practice the concept of ʻaumakua, maintaining a relationship with these animals in various ways. For example, some will not consume the animal or any of its relatives. Others will spend time with the animal, visiting it in its natural habitat. Something visitors should keep in mind is that ʻaumakua are not subject to environmental law or policy in the perspective of Hawaiian culture because that familial connection already serves the same purpose of any such law or policy - to respect and maintain the vitality of the creature. If a Hawaiian personʻs ʻaumakua is the honu (turtle), they will interact with the honu on a cultural level, even if the law or policy says that we are not to touch or engage with the honu. So, visitors to Hawaiʻi may encounter local people and families petting or playing with animals that are deemed endangered under U.S. policy. It is good practice to be mindful of the role that ʻaumakua still play in modern Hawaiian culture and to not cite U.S. law or policy with these individuals nor to assume that you, too, can break the rules. They are simply visiting with their ʻohana.