Awaiaulu Advances its Mission


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By Lehua Ah Sam, Project Director, Kīpapa Educator Resources and Nā Hunahuna ʻIke

Last November, an intimate group of Hawaiian scholars, storytellers, and educators gathered in a small town of Hāwī, Kohala. It was a retreat for this group to dive deeper into the important work of Awaiaulu. What is this work? It is the seeking of knowledge within the repositories that our kūpuna generated in the many collections around the world. Why do we do this work? To grow the nation’s understanding through the publications of our history, the curating of our resources, and by uplifting the skills of researchers to become keepers of Hawaiian knowledge.

This small gathering commemorated the simultaneous launch of two projects: Kīpapa Educator Resources and Nā Hunahuna ʻIke. Kīpapa project was piloted in late 2020 in response to the overwhelming shift of education to a primarily digital platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple of years ago, Awaiaulu staff took a sweep of the current standards and content of Hawaiian history in Hawaiʻi’s education system and realized there are glaring gaps of knowledge. Content covered a surface level of culture up to the death of Kamehameha I and then jumped jarringly to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom! It seemed as if a whole kingdom was intentionally omitted from Hawaiʻi’s current education system. How can our story be taught without this knowledge?

The Māhuahua project was Awaiaulu’s first attempt to fill in this content gap. Fourteen translators worked closely with Kumu Puakea Nogelmeier and Kauʻi Sai-Dudoit to research Hawaiian language resources for 16 topics. These topics became mini ʻOhina, collections of resources. Kīpapa is the next evolution of uncovering this ʻike moʻolelo Hawaiʻi by training our translation team to expand their skill sets as researchers, and generators of resources through the digital curation of these ʻohina. The resources are collected from different repositories like Hawaiʻi State Archives, Bishop Museum and others, Hawaiian and English newspapers, and books. After these resources are identified and collected, they are curated into collections filled with different sources. This project focuses on the development and support of participants’ skills in research while also honing their skills of curriculum development for lessons through this project’s online platform for Hawaiian knowledge.

Over 800 Hawaiʻi educators accessed the first two ʻohina during the pilot period of November and December 2020. These ʻohina celebrated Lā Kūʻokoʻa and Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea and included lessons related to the topic, access to a digital repository of Hawaiian and English language resources, and interactive games, online games, and mele Hawaiʻi.

In September 2021, Awaiaulu was awarded a grant by the Native Hawaiian Education (NHE) program of the U.S. Department of Education, as part of an award totaling $748,934 with 19% financed with non-governmental sources. Other support for Kīpapa comes from the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association and the Cooke Foundation. This funding is allowing Awaiaulu to expand the Kīpapa project and provide valuable “plug and play” lessons free of charge to Hawaiʻi’s community near and far. Kīpapa will continue to provide paving stones of reliable ʻike moʻolelo Hawaiʻi for our community to enrich themselves with, thereby enriching our lāhui. Register at to begin your path through the Kīpapa resources.

Awaiaulu is perhaps best known for translation and publication work on some of Hawaiʻi’s most famous tomes. Nā Hunahuna ʻIke project continues this legacy by sharpening the skills of 12 scholars of ʻike moʻolelo Hawaiʻi in the processes of researching, editing, and refining works of historic Hawaiian scholars. In particular, Nā Hunahuna ʻIke project participants will focus on the writings of John Papa ʻĪʻī that were published over 100 years ago in Hawaiian language newspapers. Project participants will string the hunahuna (fragments) of ʻĪʻī’s writings together, creating the first comprehensive publication of ʻĪʻī’s work in our time. The project will refine each participant’s skills like a finely honed needle able to pierce through the obscurity of time. Nā Hunahuna ʻIke Project is supported by the Administration for Native Americans under the Department of Health and Human Services. $248,000 has been awarded to support for the first year of the project. This project is also supported by the Ceres Foundation.

Both projects will run for three years. In addition to the publication of ʻĪʻī’s work, there will be the digital publication of over 16 Kīpapa resource ʻohina, a series of workshops, and other exciting new content.

Join us for some of these workshops such as, “Awaiaulu: Unpacking the Repositories” on Feb. 21, 2022, at 4 pm. Register at Don’t forget to also follow our social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram and check out our website to learn more about the work of Awaiaulu. May our native language and knowledge thrive!