The ʻAoʻū Sounds!

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Photo: J. Hauʻoli Lorenzo-Elarco

By J. Hauʻoli Lorenzo-Elarco

On naming new species of Papahānaumokuākea

New native species are continually discovered, especially within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Naming of newly identified species follows specific scientific protocols. If we, as Hawaiian people, do not engage in naming practices a time will come when native species without Hawaiian names will outnumber those that do. How, then, will we form and maintain a relationship with these species through our own language?

The Nomenclature Hui, a subcommittee of the Papahānaumokuākea Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group (CWG), articulates present-day relationships through the act and art of naming. Members represent diverse backgrounds in Hawaiian language, culture, conservation, and science. Since its inception, the hui has given 57 Hawaiian names to 23 corals, 20 seaweeds, 12 birds, a plant, and a sea pen.

Born are the seaweeds: ʻamaʻumaʻukai, ʻānunuʻuluaʻehu, ʻīliohāhā, huawēlau, laukuamoʻo, nuʻahilihili, pūnonomāewa.

Names are largely used in fieldwork, social media, public presentations, meetings, scientific laboratories, academic articles, and printed ephemera. Resources featuring images and etymologies are now available, encouraging use within Hawaiʻi communities and classrooms.

Born are the birds: ʻaoʻū, koloa pōhaka, palihoa.

Born is a plant: ahuʻawakua.

Reminders of Papahānaumokuākea’s significance, these names are also placeholders for future generations in our developing relationships to species and place.