Photo: Sam Ka‘ai with OHA Trustees
Sam Ka‘ai, center, was honored as a master carver, as well as teacher, mentor, historian and spiritual leader. - Photos: Blaine Fergerstrom

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) celebrated Kamehameha Day with its inaugural Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People, a Native Hawaiian community-driven event that honored seven master practitioners and knowledge keepers.

The event was a collaboration between OHA and the PAʻI Foundation and was held at Dole Cannery, with about 200 people in attendance.

The Living Treasures awardees are:

  • Patience Nāmaka Bacon of Oʻahu for hula
  • Josephine Fergerstrom of Hawai‘i Island for lauhala weaving
  • Sam Kaʻai of Maui for carving
  • Marie McDonald of Hawaiʻi Island for lei making and kapa making
  • Nainoa Thompson of Oʻahu for navigating

This inaugural cohort of awardees also includes two posthumous recognitions:

  • Elizabeth Maluʻihi Ako Lee of Hawaiʻi Island for lauhala weaving
  • Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad of Hawaiʻi Island for videography and documentary filmmaking.

These kūpuna are not just keepers of the flame, they are the connection and bridge to our past.Kamana‘opono Crabbe, OHA Ka Pouhana (CEO)

These treasures were nominated and selected by a group of nine cultural experts and practitioners. While other organizations honor living treasures, Native Hawaiian organizations have not had their own program to honor our kūpuna and esteemed elders, said OHA Ka Pouhana (CEO) Kamanaʻopono Crabbe. “These kūpuna are not just keepers of the flame, they are the connection and bridge to our past,” he said. “The more we learn from our kūpuna and apply what we learn from them, the more we maintain that bond with our ancestors, our homeland, and our identity as Kanaka ʻŌiwi.”

PAʻI Foundation Executive Director Victoria Holt Takamine said, “The PAʻI Foundation is pleased to provide partnership support to this important event, which aligns well with the PAʻI Foundation mission of preserving and protecting Native Hawaiian culture and arts for future generations.”