News Briefs | June 2024


OHA Trustees Visit Molokaʻi Last Month

Photo: BOT Molokaʻi Members
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees traveled to Molokaʻi for OHA’s annual Molokaʻi Community Meeting and on-island Board of Trustees Meeting last month. While there, they visited Hoʻakā Mana, a Native Hawaiian organization in Kaunakakai dedicated to creating healthier families by establishing foundations of Indigneous identity. Afterwards, they visited the Molokaʻi History Project, which just opened last October, and were able to view its current exhibit that honors generations of Molokaʻi paniolo and paniolo cuture. Following a tour by Judy Mertens, a History Project founder, OHA trustees and staff gathered with museum staff and kūpuna from Alu Like in the garden behind the museum for a short presentation, talk story, and an impromptu kani ka pila. Pictured (l-r) are trustees Keoni Souza, Brickwood Galuteria, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey and Luana Alapa, CEO Stacy Kealohalani Ferreira, and Trustee Dan Ahuna. – Photo: Lehua Itokazu

Napoleon Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo: Nanette Napoleon
Nanette Napoleon – Courtesy Photo

The Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) recently announced that it has awarded the Harriette Merrifield Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award to Nanette Napoleon, an ʻŌiwi researcher and writer from Kailua, Oʻahu.

For almost four decades, Napoleon has led the effort to preserve Hawaiʻi’s historic burial grounds. With a focus on education, Napoleon has written extensively on this subject, conducted walking tours at Mauna ʻAla, and helped local families locate and preserve grave sites of their ancestors. She is the author of Oʻahu Cemetery: Burial Ground & Historic Site.

Napoleon, who specializes in Hawaiian history, has been nicknamed “Hawaiʻi’s Cemetery Lady.” The body of work she has produced over nearly 40 years are lasting contributions to the field of gravestone study and preservation.

The Forbes Award is presented annually by the AGS Board of Trustees to honor an individual, institution, or organization to recognize exceptional service to the field of gravestone studies. AGS was impressed with her work which includes print, photography and other media, oral histories and various outreach activities and noted that her work spans the islands and has helped to preserve cultural heritage of all Hawaiʻi’s people – both Indigenous and non-native.

The award will be presented to Napoleon at the AGS Award Banquet on June 22, 2024 at Emory University in Atlanta.

Methodist Church to Apologize for Overthrow

In April, the United Methodist Church (UMC) General Conference approved a formal apology petition for the denomination’s role in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It is a decision celebrated by UMC members in Hawaiʻi.

The petition calls for the California-Pacific Conference Hawaiʻi Acts of Repentance Task Force to work with the UMC Commission on Religion and Race on an official apology. Conference delegates acknowledged a “history of racism and imposed colonial rule” that continues to hold back Native Hawaiians.

The apology petition was initiated by UMC members in Hawaiʻi after Joyce Warner, the late historian of First United Methodist Church of Honolulu, discovered that one of its early pastors, the Rev. Harcourt W. Peck, played a significant role in the overthrow.

Peck served as a sharpshooter and aide to the commander of the overthrow. A year later, he became pastor of First Methodist Episcopal Church in Honolulu, rejoining a sharpshooter company and serving as chaplain to the new “Republic of Hawaiʻi.”

The California-Pacific Conference of the UMC presented the petition to the General Conference. It calls upon the church to engage with and listen to Native Hawaiians.

The Hawaiʻi District of the UMC created a video regarding the church’s role in the overthrow and the need for atonement:

Coast Guard Ship Honors Melvin K. Bell

Photo: Melvin Bell
Melvin Kealoha Bell. – Photo courtesy of Robert Bell

At a historic commissioning ceremony in late March, a U.S. military vessel was named for a Native Hawaiian. The newly inaugurated U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Melvin Bell was named for Melvin Kealoha Bell who was born and raised in Hilo and is a descendant of the Piʻilani line of Maui’s ruling chiefs.

It is the first time a U.S. military vessel has been named after a person of color.

Bell joined the Coast Guard in 1938 at the age of 18 and, with his formidable skills in electronics, was able to become a “radioman” during a time when the U.S. military routinely denied minorities technical positions.

Bell was assigned to the Primary Radio Station Diamond Head and is credited with triggering the first radio alarms when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 and was involved in deciphering Japanese military codes that helped to secure America’s victory at the Battle of Midway in 1942.

In 1958, Bell was promoted to the rank of master chief; the first person of color to do so.

The following year, Bell accepted a civil service position with the Coast Guard of Honolulu. After a distinguished career, he retired in 2004 – in all a remarkable 65 years of service with the federal government.

Bell passed away on Sept. 9, 2018, at the age of 98. More than 80 members of the Bell ʻohana attended the commissioning ceremony on March 28, 2024, in New London, Conn.

Housing Advocates Oppose DHHL Purchase of Waipouli

In May, residents of Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments, located in Kapaʻa, Kauaʻi, testified in opposition to the proposed acquisition of the property by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) and the Hawaiʻi Housing Financing and Development Corporation’s (HHFDC) funding of the project.

In a press statement, housing advocacy nonprofit Kū Pono ka Leo o ka ʻĀina said that “residents are concerned that the acquisition could have far-reaching consequences for the community, including displacement, loss of affordable housing options, and disruption of community cohesion.”

They go on to say that residents are “raising questions about the project’s public purpose” since there is no relocation plan for the current residents – many of whom are also Native Hawaiian, but with less than 50% Hawaiian ancestry.

Residents are calling on DHHL and HHFDC to engage in meaningful dialogue with the community and consider alternatives. They have been organizing to form Kauaʻi’s first local workforce housing cooperative to address the island’s housing crisis. Many residents of Waipouli work in the service industry.

“The formation of Kauaʻi’s first local workforce housing cooperative represents a ray of hope for our community,” said Chasetyn Hasegawa who is Kanaka ʻŌiwi but will not qualify to remain at Waipouli should the aquisition by DHHL be finalized.

Residents are organizing to approach the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to file a complaint with HUD’s Region IX Regional Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in San Francisco, Calif., against DHHL’s proposed acquisition of Waipouli.

Lunn Named Retailer of the Year

Photo: Danene Lunn
Danene Manuheali’i Lum – Courtesy Photo

Danene Manuhealiʻi Lunn, founder and president of the popular Hawaiian clothing line, Manuhealiʻi, was named 2024 Retailer of the Year at the Retail Merchants of Hawaiʻi (RMH) annual Hoʻokela Awards luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikīkī Beach Resort in April.

Lunn has been dressing Hawaiʻi for more than 30 years. This award celebrates her significant contributions to the retail industry and underscores her pivotal role in reshaping the landscape of Hawaiian fashion, setting new standards for local designers and retailers alike. Her innovative ideas, collaborative leadership style, and unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction have solidified her reputation as a trailblazer in the retail sector.

Tina Yamaki, RMH president, commended Lunn, saying, “Danene is, and will continue to be, someone who moves the retail needle forward. Her dedication is evident in her innovative ideas, collaborative management style, deep understanding of customer needs, and support of local community organizations. Danene continues to be a true trailblazer in retail and continues to attract all generations.”

The Retailer of the Year award is presented annually at the statewide RMH conference and awards luncheon to recognize outstanding achievements in Hawaiʻi’s retail sector. Award recipients are selected based on nominations from the community, industry leaders, and peers, with a focus on exceptional service both on the job and in the community.

Hufford Featured in NEA Film Series

Photo: Roen Hufford
Roen Kahalewai McDonald Hufford. – Photo: Lynn Martin Graton

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has premiered a series of films celebrating the lives and work of the nine 2023 NEA National Heritage Fellowship (NHF) recipients – one of whom is renowned Waimea-based kapa-maker Roen Kahalewai McDonald Hufford.

Produced by Hypothetical Films, the vignettes feature the lives and communities of these artists and provide a glimpse into the history of their respective art forms and how each contributes to the continuation of long-held traditions.

“Our nation is strengthened through the meaningful practices and expressions of traditional artistry,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, Ph.D. “These tribute videos help to share their stories with audiences around the country and the world. Each fellow embodies a spirit of dedication and generosity that contributes to our nation’s living cultural heritage and gives hope to future generations in ways that only the arts can.”

Hufford’s work and stunningly beautiful designs have helped reclaim this art form. Although kapa-making was a fixture of life throughout the Pacific, in Hawaiʻi it reached levels of sophistication and refinement not seen elsewhere.

National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Since 1982, the NEA has awarded nearly 500 National Heritage Fellowships. Hufford’s mother, celebrated kapa maker Marie Leilehua McDonald, was a 1990 National Heritage Fellow. The films are available for viewing on NEA’s website and YouTube channel. Visit for more information.

New Moananuiākea Voyage Sail Plan

Out of respect for our Maui ʻohana after the devastating wildfires last August, Hōkūleʻa and her crew returned to Hawaiʻi last December – executing an unplanned pause of its Moananuiākea Voyage. Since then, the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) has been developing a new sail plan to resume the voyage.

After consulting with science and weather experts, community partners and voyaging leadership, PVS has decided to keep the canoes in Hawaiian waters until next year when severe El Niño weather conditions should abate.

Circumnavigation of the Pacific will resume in March 2025 when Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia will depart Hawaiʻi and sail to the major island groups of Polynesia.

PVS CEO and Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson said that based on his nearly five decades of experience, “we’re in a changing ocean and we need to pay attention.”

While PVS waits for more favorable weather conditions before continuing its Moananuiākea Voyage, its crews will focus on training, statewide engagements, educational outreach and a series of initiatives. These initiatives include two deep-sea training voyages to the Intertropical Convergence Zone (more commonly known as the “doldrums”) in early summer; a pae ʻāina (island-wide) sail once the 2024-25 school year begins to connect with schools and communities across Hawaiʻi; and, more imminently, PVS and its crewmembers will participate in the Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC), convening with other voyaging societies and leaders from around the Pacific who are expected to journey to Hawaiʻi to attend the world’s largest celebration of Oceania.

Hawaiʻi Art Summit to Coincide with FestPac

Photo: Manulani Aluli Meyer
Art Summit keynote speaker Manulani Aluli Meyer. – Courtesy Photo

More than 30 artists, curators, and thinkers will gather for Art Summit 2024, June 13–15, a free three-day event presented by Hawaiʻi Contemporary. The summit will focus on “Aloha Nō,” the theme for the upcoming Hawaiʻi Triennial 2025 (HT25) and offer opportunities to consider ideas of “Aloha Nō” through a series of conversations, artist spotlights, film screenings, and artist-led workshops. The keynote speaker will be Kanaka ʻŌiwi philosopher Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer.

The multi-site event will coincide with the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC), the largest celebration of the cultures of Indigenous Pacific Islanders. Through its line-up of local-global voices, the symposium-style program will add viewpoints from the contemporary visual arts sphere to FestPAC’s celebration of traditional Indigenous practices, while situating Hawaiʻi at the center of local-global discourses around contemporary art and ideas.

“The occasion to gather in person is an invaluable opportunity that we do not take for granted,” said HT25 curators Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Binna Choi, and Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu in a joint statement. “We envision a shared time for mutual learning, reflection, and togetherness that evolves our understanding of Aloha Nō. It will not only expand our curatorial thinking but also galvanize HT25 to be a collective endeavor.” The summit will be hosted at Hawaiʻi Convention Center on June 13, at Honolulu Museum of Art on June 14, and at Capitol Modern (formerly Hawaiʻi State Art Museum) on June 15. Register to attend at:

Davis Represents Hawaiʻi at the UN

Photo: Kahu Wendell Davis
Kahu Wendell Davis. – Photo Courtesy AHEC

Kahu Wendell Davis, senior pastor at Kāneʻohe Congregational Church, represented Hawaiʻi at the 23rd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held as part of the World Council of Churches’ activities in April. Davis was there on behalf of the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches (AHEC) and the United Church of Christ (UCC).

Davis joined other Indigenous spiritual leaders from around the globe. The session was marked by shared spirituality and profound collective experiences. Discussions during the forum focused on topics such as empowering Indigenous youth, advocating for self-determination, and promoting continuity among Indigenous peoples. Unity, climate change action, language preservation, land rights, and other critical issues were addressed, setting the stage for ongoing dialogue and action.

Davis delivered both scripture readings and a sermon message at the forum. Representing AHEC’s youth, Davis’ daughter, Puakailima Davis, also attended, contributing to the gathering by sharing a hula and a scripture reading in Hawaiian.

AHEC said in a press release that “this event marks a significant step forward in our continued commitment to enhancing the voice and impact of indigenous communities globally. It is both a foundation for future engagements and a beacon of hope for Indigenous peoples worldwide.”

KS Maui Student wins MLK Peace Poetry Award

Photo: Moss Limuakamokukealoha Kuon with Carmen Hulu Lindsey
Eighth grader Moss Limuakamokukealoha Kuon, a student at Kamehameha Schools Maui, was the statewide Hawaiian Language Grand Prize winner for his poem, “Te Maluhia i ke Aloha,” at the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Poetry competition on May 18. OHA BOT Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey presented Kuon with the grand prize – a baritone ‘ukulele donated by Kala ‘Ukulele. Nearly 300 people attended the award ceremony at Carden Academy on Maui. The annual statewide competition, sponsored by the Maui-based International Peace Poem Project, honors King, the civil rights leader who promoted nonviolent means to achieve social justice and equality. Other winners in various categories received a limited-edition commemorative poster featuring Hokuleʻa sailing past the Washington Monument during her Moananuiākea Voyage donated by photographer Naʻalehu Anthony. – Photo: Gary Kubota