The Royal Order of Kamehameha I presented Luana Kawelu the Mämalahoa Award at last month’s Kamehameha Festival at Mokuola, in Hilo Bay.
The award is the highest and most distinguished award bestowed by the Order of Kamehameha and is presented to individuals who exemplify the mission of the Order, which is “to protect, preserve, and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture, advocate for Hawaiian rights and benefits, and uplift the Hawaiian People.”
Aunty Luana is best known for her work with the Merrie Monarch Festival. She continues the legacy of her mother Dottie Thompson who ran the Festival as a volunteer since 1968. Aunty Luana assumed the reigns of the festival with the passing of her mother in 2010. Today the festival is the most prestigious hula competition in Hawai‘i and the world.
In addition to her volunteer work on the festival, she has worked with youth for years at the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center in Keaukaha.