Fishing is very important to the native Hawaiian culture, it’s known as a way of life and one of the ways the Hawaiians sustainably kept their people fed. There are many legends revolving around the sea gods – one of which involves 'Ai'ai, who known for being the son of the infamous God of the Fishermen, Kuʻula. In human form, Kuʻula serves as the ruling chief of East Maui as the head fisherman where he resides with his wife Hina-puku-i‘a. His son, 'Ai'ai, helps him set up different fishing stations.
When Ku‘ula died, he gave his 'Ai'ai four magic objects that allowed him to know how to set up a fish altar, address the gods in prayer, and control all of the fish. The four objects included a cowry called leho-ula, a decoy stick called pahiaku-kahukoi, a stone called kuula which had the power to draw in all of the fish when dropped into the water, and finally, a hook called Manai-a-ka-lani. Ku‘ula instructed 'Ai'ai to travel across the islands and establish different fishing stations known as koʻa at various fishing grounds where fish were used to feeding. He was told to build altars at each of these fishing stations to give offerings to the fishing gods. Legend says that each fisherman needed to give the gods two fish from their first catch – one for the female god and the other for the male.
This story allows us to learn more about Ku‘ula’s teachings and how fishermen would give respect and thanks to the gods who provided fish. Today, nearly all of the fishing stations that have been named and created by 'Ai'ai are still remaining as fishing grounds for the modern-day fisherman.
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