Celebrating Father Figures and Positive Male Role Models

With Father’s Day approaching on June 17th, it’s important that we acknowledge the critical part male role models play in our lives. I am fortunate that my own father has been a supportive figure in my life. His love and life lessons have helped guide me on my journey. While I have been lucky to have my dad in my life I have also been blessed to have other positive role models in my life who have been great influences. Uncles, brothers, cousins, coaches, and tribal leaders also stepped up to help me along my journey. One positive influence stands out in particular.

My Grandpa Vincent. He was actually my dad’s uncle who stepped up to be a positive adult in my dad’s life, when my dad was young . My Grandpa Vincent was just the same to me and my brother. We were lucky enough to not only have him as a constant in our lives we were lucky to spend time with him as a family and just one-on-one time with him. Riding horses, taking care of cows, fixing fences, and as he got older, being lucky enough to still have him here to hold his hand are some of my fondest memories. Though he is gone, his kind heart, generosity, and love are still visible in my dad, my brother, and myself.  The love he instilled in us is strong and the role he played in our lives is an example of why it is important to acknowledge all of the men who accept the responsibility of being positive male figures in our lives, even if they aren’t fathers.

Not every man is willing or able to be a responsible male figure, uncle, leader, coach or mentor; and yet those who are capable help Tribal communities to thrive. Our youth learn from their example, not only through one-on-one relationships but by watching them take on leadership roles in carrying out our traditional ways.

Many of our grantees also seek to strengthen the influence of Tribal men in the lives of youth. Aha Kane in Hawaii, for example, is training young Hawaiian men as traditional mediation practitioners through their Kapahikaua Project. There are less than seven male elders left who are recognized as Haku Hoʽoponopono, lead instructors in an ancient and traditional Hawaiian health practice, to pass on their knowledge to youth. Traditionally, kānaka ʽōiwi (Native Sons), learned hoʽoponopono from family members or esteemed community experts. However, few have furthered their training to apply this traditional method of restoring balance at the community level. The Kapahikaua Project presents an opportunity to create space for Haku Hoʽoponopono to engage younger Native Hawaiian men, select candidates to mentor and pass knowledge to, and document the core elements of hoʽoponopono to share with future generations.

Hoʽoponopono directly translates to, “To put right; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, make orderly or neat.” The practice of hoʽoponopono refers to “Mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.” While hoʽoponopono can be used to settle disputes between groups or among community members, it is appropriate that Native Hawaiian men generally use the practice to resolve issues in family relationships just as a father might in any family. The maintenance and expansion of hoʽoponopono as a practice will benefit Native Hawaiian communities overall and not just the elders and young men who take part in this intergenerational exchange.

So this Father’s Day I encourage you to give thanks for the father figure and other positive male role models in your life. May their presence always serve as a reminder that you have someone in your corner to support and guide you throughout your journey.