[Story and photo by Mike Foley, originally published in Kaleo, September 10, 1998]
The BYU-Hawaii kupuna conference begins with hula
The BYUH Center for Hawaiian Language and Cultural Studies — more commonly called the Hawaiian Studies program — sponsored back-to-back conferences on two weekends in August to seek input and suggestions from kupuna and educators for the new program.
The first conference, held Aug. 15th on the BYUH-Campus and themed Nana i ke kumu — Look to the Source, brought together Hawaiian and other kanaka maoli kupuna mainly from Ko’olauloa to share their mana’o or thoughts, experiences and recommendations.
In kicking off the conference, BYU Hawaii President Eric Shumway told of recently accompanying a film crew to Tonga to film the king’s 80th birthday celebrations and watching entire villages of hundreds of people perform lakalaka dances for His Highness.
“The thing that I’ll never forget is there are no age limits,” Shumway said of the lakalaka. “There are women in their 80s and children 7 dancing in the same line. That is symbolic of what we’re doing here,” he continued. “We’re connecting generations. We’re connecting the lives of our kupuna with our children.”
William Kauaiwiulaokalani Wallace III, Associate Professor and Director of the BYUH?Hawaiian Studies program, greeted the kupuna, of course, with hula and chants — assisted by Cy Bridges and Terry Naauao Pane’e.
He thanked the W.K. Kellogg Foundation which has generously funded the program, and others who have helped, including the following kupuna, each of whom introduced themselves:
Luana Cummings, Martha Kalama, Annie Tau’a, Victoria Kekuaokalani, Ahi Logan, Miki andKealoha Kuhia, B.J. Lee, Eloise?Kekona, Mileka Pukahi, Ipo Thompson, William Wallace — the director’s father from Molokai, Emil Wolfgramm, Ululani Beirne, Reuben Pukahi, Boyd and Faye Campbell, Matio Tarawa, Cleve Barlow, Vanda Hanakahi, Arlene Tahere, Dawn and Hank Wasson, Adela Johnson, Malia Craver, Isabella Kekauoha and Bella LinKee.
The kupuna introduced themselves, told stories from their youth and shared some valuable suggestions. Some of those comments follow:
“I came here to talk about fishing,” said Reuben Pukahi, a noted fisherman. “Malama i ke kai, ke kahakai. Take care of the ocean.”
Aunty Malia Craver, who works for the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center, told of how years ago they wanted they to do a ho’oponopono but “no one knew how to do it.” They hired the late Hawaiian cultural expert Mary Kawena Puku’i to help them. Puku’i later told her, “Everything you have learned from the kupuna, I want you to keep for the future, because in the future they’ll have to pay to learn it.
“I don’t know everything,” Craver said, “but whatever I know, I’m happy to help.”
Wolfgramm, a Tongan storyteller, recommended that oratory in Hawaii be revitalized. “I believe if you allow those visions to die, you lose the culture,” he said.
“To teach values, we must live aloha,” offered Tahere, who lives in Honolulu but worked for years at Kahuku Hospital.
Martha Kalama, a kupuna at Laie Elementary School, told how she loves here classes. “Children can feel the aloha, and I teach them values,” she said.
Following the conference, which was videotaped by Spencer Kamauoha of Network Video, Wallace described the input as falling into three categories: 1) The mental and rational; 2) the spiritual and emotional; and 3) the physical and material.
Some of the points the kupuna felt could help achieve these objectives include:
• A strong language program: “In order for us to do so, we must remember that Hawaiian is a language of the heart and of the spirit,” Wallace said.
• Culture: “We must be well grounded in the culture of our people and we must be pono within ourselves,”?Wallace continued. “We must not only teach culture and cultural values, but we must live them. We must also include our kupuna in our classes and have them associate with our students and share their knowledge.”
• Holistic teaching: “In teaching our students, they must learn about concepts which will help them become not just good Hawaiians but good human beings,” Wallace said.
• Courses and programs which focus on malama ka aina — caring for the land; malama ke kai — caring for the sea; and malama kou kino — caring for our health.
• Leaving a legacy: “We must control the ‘software’ of our people and we must protect the intellectual property rights of everything we do,” Wallace said. “This ‘software’ includes our poetry, music, dance, art forms, writings, genealogies and all other pieces of information which carry the blueprint of our people.”
• Teaching in the proper framework: “First and foremost, we honor Akua, the Almighty God; second, we pay tribute to our kupuna; third, we must honor and thank Mother Earth for her nurturing of life; fourth, we must honor our people and remember the role of our makua, our opio and our keiki,” Wallace said. “We must all strive to attain pono.”
• “Finally, and probably the most significant, we must remember our ancestors who have passed on and must include our mo’okuauhao or our genealogies,” Wallace said. “We are considered to be a very spiritual people. Our spirituality goes beyond this life; it extends into the next dimension.”
Kanaka Maoli Educators Conference
The second conference convened a gathering of scholars, educators and sacred keepers of Kanaka Maoli knowledge on campus Aug. 21–22 to help further develop a curriculum for the university’s Hawaiian Studies program. Kanaka maoli are descendants of the first peoples of the Polynesian islands.
A sampling of the proceeds, which were also videotaped, follows:
• Daviana McGregor from the UH/Manoa Hawaiian Studies program told how their courses usually consist of two lectures weekly and a lab where more interaction occurs. The program also stresses hands-on learning and giving back to the community. “Until they live it and experience it, it’s just a lesson,” she said.
McGregor related how some people say Hawaiian culture stopped with the abolition of the kapu system in 1819, but she says while that might be true of many chiefly customs, “culture continues today and a lot of it centers on the family. There’s a lot of cultural knowledge in the day-to-day life.”
• A Pacific Northwest Native American, Dr. Michael Paval, PhD., from Washington State University, presented gifts of a warrior’s club and strips of died cedar bark used to make long-lasting baskets to Wallace. “This is curriculum,” he said of the club, pointing out that the image of a female salmon on one side and a male salmon on the other “represent the family of knowledge.
Of the cedar bark strips he said “there are only two people who know how to die this bark black. That’s the sad part.”
Pavel stressed the importance of teaching all of these things to young people. This will not only help them learn lessons in school, but lessons in life, he explained: “It’s our sacred responsibility to do whatever we can to save the lives of our children.”
• Dr. Unasa L.F. Va’a, PhD., from the National University of Samoa, described the history of Samoan Studies in Samoa and explained some of the political and interdepartmental difficulties they have had keeping the program alive.
“Samoan Studies does not belong to any single discipline,” he said. “At the same time, the focus should be on language and culture. Changes in the curriculum of Samoan or Hawaiian Studies should be regarded as normal.”
• Dr. Norman Kaluhiokalani recited his Hawaiian genealogy and told of how he only recently got a grasp of “who I am.”
Using a bottle of sea water as an aid, he told the conference the Hawaiian Studies program should focus on the sea and life-giving elements.
Using a naupaka plant leaf, he suggested the curriculum should focus on “life and the healing power of this land that our fathers knew about.” He added the leaf also represented the “legends of the land.” And using a bottle of soil, he said the program should focus on the aina — the land and its fruits.
Other participants in the conference included Dr. Haunani Bernardino from the UH?Hilo Hawaiian Studies program; Hirini Syd Melbourne from the University of Waikato, New Zealand; Vernice Wineera, BYUH?Institute for Polynesian Studies; PCC kumu hula Cy Bridges; Debbie Hippolite-Wright, BYUH Social Sciences lecturer working on the Pacific Island Women’s project; Dr. Robert Kiste, PhD., UH/Manoa; Kumu hula Ellen Gay Dela Rosa from PCC; Kamoa’e Walk, BYUH Hawaiian Studies lecturer; and Dr. Cleve Barlow, PhD., Auckland University.
In conclusion, at the beginning of the conference Wallace recited a saying he heard in Pineridge, South Dakota, from Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux chief: “The hearts of little children are pure, and therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.
“Our most precious treasures are our haumana, our students,” Wallace said. “Their minds are pure, open and ready to receive what we have to offer them. We must be prepared to give them the very best which we have. We who are here at the Center for Hawaiian Language Culture, and Values are committed to giving our students the best we have to offer and we are willing and eager to learn more and to share more.”