Ka Wai Ola

Aloha mai kākou,

When we focus too much on our few differences, we risk losing sight of the many things that bind us.

April is a month to come together in celebration of one of the many things that unite our people: our culture and arts, starting with the Merrie Monarch Festival. Few of our traditional arts are as widely known, and widely practiced, as hula – across the pae ‘āina and beyond. From April 1 to 7, Merrie Monarch will showcase hula in its highest form.

Later in the month, on April 21, some of the best slack key and Hawaiian musicians will have a day-long jam session at Waimānalo Beach Park at a kanikapila organized by late Gabby Pahinui’s ‘ohana. This year, as last, Waimānalo Kanikapila will honor musical icons we have lost, but whose legacies endure.

On the same day, but different island, Hāna hosts the 26th Annual East Maui Taro Festival. Visitors traverse the winding road to Hāna to experience all things kalo, a plant that connects us to our ancestors, as well as a traditional staple. The festival features hands-on ku‘i ‘ai demonstrations, where keiki (and adults) form lines, waiting for a board and stone to open up so they can take a turn pounding poi. Kalo is available to buy fresh for planting, and served up as taro burgers, taro seafood chowder and taro pastele.

2018 has already given us occasion to cheer for ‘ōpi‘o who are living our culture and heritage. Keiki, preschool age and up, represented a new generation of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i speakers – and perhaps the next generation of kanaka leaders – at two Hawaiian language competitions, ‘Aha Aloha ‘ōlelo and Lā Kūkahekahe, held in January and February respectively.

Last month, Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i students wowed us with their annual hō‘ike, “Kū I Ka Mana,” a rock opera based on historical events surrounding the 1874 election between King David Kalākaua and Queen Emma Rooke. Meanwhile Kamehameha Schools Kapālama maintained time-honored tradition in the mele and hula at the 98th annual song contest.

This year’s song contest theme was “I Ho‘okahi Ka Mana‘o, 100 Years of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.” This year marks the centennial of the first Hawaiian Civic Club, founded by Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole on Dec. 7, 1918. Today there are 58 Hawaiian Civic Clubs, located in Hawai‘i and the continent – established to follow Prince Kūhiō’s vision in advocating for Native Hawaiians in the areas of culture, health, economic development, education, social welfare and nationhood. These grassroots clubs bring Hawaiians together to work toward their own solutions on matters of common interest. Also the driving force behind the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, Prince Kūhiō was honored March 24, as Hawaiian civic clubs and Hawaiian homestead associations paraded through Waikīkī to commemorate the prince’s birthday.

We’ve also seen Hawaiians in the state Legislature come out for our people, joining in commemorative events in the Capitol rotunda on the 125th anniversary of the overthrow. Weeks later, members of the Legislature’s Hawaiian caucus were present when the governor proclaimed 2018 the Year of the Hawaiian, which had been proposed by OHA and endorsed by the Legislature in a concurrent resolution.

OHA will recognize the Year of the Hawaiian by inviting the community to take part in events celebrating our history and culture. We hope you’ll join us.