Discovering Papakilo

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Photo: Kawaikapu Hewett
Kawaikapuokalani Hewett – Photo: Courtesy

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, esteemed kupuna, haku mele and loea hula, by OHA Digital Archive Specialist Kale Hannahs.

OHA: Tell me about yourself and how you came across the Papakilo Database.

KH: I am Kawaikapuokalani K. Hewett. My father is Alexander Kapilialoha Hewett and my mother is Alice Pualeilani Kanaʻe Hewett. We lived for many many years in Heʻeia, within the home of our grandparents – the parents of my mother – Eva Wahinealiʻi Rowen Kanaʻe, and of course my grandfather, Frank Kaʻaialiʻioliloa Kanaʻe. From that time, until their passing, they spoke to me, they took care of me, they taught me about the language, the geneaology, the stories and the hula. And now I see that in the Papakilo Database!

I was on Kauaʻi for a hula event with my haumāna. In the evenings, we would do research and I was researching the moʻokūʻauhau of my family – the relation between this name and that name, and all that. Information about the names of the kūpuna, and the stories from them at that time, moʻokūʻauhau, [I found] all of it inside Papakilo – and pictures of our kūpuna as well. When we have family reunions, 5,000 people show up and we can show the names of our kūpuna, the genealogy, and the stories of our kūpuna.

OHA: You’ve shared with me that it’s very easy to use, but at the same time, it can be very daunting. Do you have any recommendations for the first-time user?

KH: For the first-time user, you just have to try! Navigate! Learn to navigate. When you attempt to search for the information inside Papakilo, don’t be makaʻu (afraid).

OHA: Just try?

KH: Yes, just go! Search little by little. Small things first. Enter the name of one kupuna and many are going to come up – but you have to read through it all – sometimes many people have the same name. You have to research. Where did they live? What is the name of their kane? Their wahine? You have to match everything together. You know, ma ka hana ka ʻike, the more you do, the more you learn! A hana mau nō, ʻike mau nō. And then when you reach my age, a ua hana ʻia, ua ʻike ʻia. You did it, you got it!

OHA: Any last thoughts?

KH: Papakilo is such a valuable resource for us today. I hope it will be here for my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren. If I had not chanced upon Papakilo when I did, I would have not been able to gain the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the moʻokūʻauhau, moʻolelo, and inoa that today I have knowledge of. Thank you to you and OHA, for this Papakilo Database. It is a valuable resource to our lāhui now, and for the future and the past. The continuation of Papakilo is vital. I’m very very grateful…mahalo nui! A hui hou kākou me ke aloha!


Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett is kumu hula of Kūhai Hālau O Kawaikapuolani Pā ʻŌlapa Kahiko, a cultural practitioner, and renowned composer.