Ulukau Expands Its Hawaiian Place Names Collection


By Dr. Bob Stauffer and Dr. Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa

Ulukau, our own prized ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi internet library (ulukau.org), is now 16 years old. It is the home of the online Hawaiian dictionary and includes a range of Hawaiian books, a curriculum database, the Kaniʻäina Native Hawaiian speech repository, the Hawaiian Bible and much more.

Ulukau library remains the most popular indigenous-language website in the country, and one of the top ones in the world. Ulukau has exceeded well over 180 million clicks across its many sections and collections since its launch in 2004.

Amid quite a number of Ulukau upgrades and additions, Kanaeokana (the Kula Hawaiʻi Network) has supported the recently upgraded Inoa ʻĀina Hawaiʻi (ʻHawaiian Place Names’) collection of Lloyd Soehren. The upgrade includes virtual global maps of many of its 22,000+ place names.

Lloyd Soehren was an anthropologist at Bishop Museum’s anthropology department from the 1950s until his retirement 30 years later as the department’s deputy director. His name shows up in all kinds of museum and anthropology worksite and cultural studies from all around the islands.

Upon his retirement Lloyd embarked on a volunteer job that filled the rest of his life: creating an accessible list of place names from often obscure sources. Lloyd’s daughter Merriette Carlson said that she recalled driving him along the coast of Maui when she stopped he got out and disappeared off into the brush. Lloyd continued to refine his list of names, she said, and he was searching out a new site whose name he had unearthed. He wanted to stand there, look around, and feel the place.

A favorite tool of the website, particularly for teachers using the place-based method of learning, is to pick an ahupuaʻa that a school or something is based in, and then look up the place names in it. One teacher commented that she had spent years assembling a list of places near her school to take students to, but she was able to double that list in just minutes on the website. Inoa ʻĀina Hawaiʻi also contains Lloyd’s highly recommended “Catalog of Hawaiian Place Names,” an extended essay that gives an excellent introduction to the topic of place names and to the website.

As always with Ulukau, access is completely free, made available as an educational and community service by Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, the College of Hawaiian Language at the UH Hilo. Ulukau has been supported over the years by dozens of individuals and organizations who have contributed materials, collections and funding to the growth of Ulukau.

Bob Stauffer and Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa are two of the founders of Ulukau. They continue to oversee the growth and advancement of the online internet Hawaiian library until today.

Kamalani Johnson is the Hawaiian Language and Curriculum Specialist for the Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center and a Hawaiian Language and Literature lecturer for Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College at UH Hilo.