ʻIke Kūpuna is a Mea Hoʻōla

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Photo: Dr. Kū Hinahinakūikahakai Kahakalau
Dr. Kū Hinahinakūikahakai Kahakalau – Photo: Courtesy

The following is an edited excerpt from an interview with Dr. Kū Hinahinakūikahakai Kahakalau by OHA Digital Archive Specialist Kale Hannahs.

KK: Aloha mai kākou, ʻo wau ʻo Kū Hinahinakūikahakai Kahakalau. I’m an educator, a researcher, a learner of Hawaiian language and culture for many many decades and I love what I’m doing. I’m also a social entrepreneur as of the last 10 years, and the CEO of Kū-A-Kanaka, the fiscal sponsor for EA Ecoversity which stands for Education with Aloha. We are a culture-based, Hawaiian-focused, higher education career training program, certifying educated 21st century Hawaiians. Our kūpuna said “lehulehu a manomano ka ʻikena a ka Hawaiʻi,” our knowledge is great and numerous and we’re trying to pass that knowledge on and share it.

OHA: There’s definitely a kuleana that is passed down for all of us. I wanted to ask you if you remember how you came across the Papakilo Database, and since then, what type of research have you used it for?

KK: I heard about it from my good friend, Kamoa Quiteves. Since then, I’ve been using it primarily for research. For example, this past semester, I helped a private school, Hoʻomana Hou on Molokaʻi, to create a fishpond curriculum, “Kuapā o ʻUalapuʻe,” and we looked into finding information about Molokaʻi, about fishponds and those kinds of things. I’ve certainly also used newspapers and genealogical indexes to find out more about my own moʻokūʻauhau. I type in the name of my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my great-grandmother – whoever I know – and just see what comes up. Those are all things I would never have access to if it wasn’t for Papakilo.

OHA: Mahalo nui for sharing that. It sounds like you are one of our “super users.” I know some people find it daunting because there’s a lot of information to go through. Papakilo is not the end-all, be-all of resources, but hopefully, it gets you started on the right foot. Before we end, did you want to share any last thoughts?

KK: Mahalo, Kale. Kū-A-Kanaka means to stand as a Hawaiian, to live like a Hawaiian, or just to be Hawaiian. And in order to do that, we need to know about our ʻike kūpuna. The more we learn, the more empowering this ʻike is going to be to us individually, but also collectively as a lāhui. I think it’s really important, in particular, for those who don’t reside on Oʻahu to have access to information, such as the Papakilo Database, because we wouldn’t know how else to get that information. And to me, this ʻike kūpuna is a mea hoʻōla. It heals us from our historical trauma, it heals us from these concepts of we are less than, that we are no good, that we are lazy. I think it’s really important that we access the ʻike of our kūpuna and we let that ʻike enliven us, empower us, inspire us. Mahalo nui!