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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Five kūpuna recognized as Living Treasures of the Hawaiian people for being master practitioners and knowledge keepers

HONOLULU (Feb. 9, 2019) – Today the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and the PAʻI Foundation presented the Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People, a Native Hawaiian community-driven event that honored five master practitioners and knowledge keepers.

More than 200 people gathered at the Pōmaikaʻi Ballrooms at Dole Cannery to honor the 2019 Po‘e Hawai‘i Living Treasures:

Doreen Henderson – kumu lei hulu

Born in 1925 in her grandfather’s cabin (where now stands the Naniloa Hotel), Doreen Henderson has been interested in feather work since age seven. “I knew from the time I was little what I wanted to do,” she has said. “I would watch [my uncle] sew his feathers and he would give his lei to his friends.” She learned the art from Kumu Mary Kahihilani Duarte-Kovich, herself a student of the late Aunty Mary Lou Kekuewa, one of Hawai‘i’s most renowned lei hulu practitioners and a second cousin of Aunty Doreen. Henderson founded Lei Hulu O Hilo, and has shared her skill in both lei making and teaching for several decades. Notably, she was an integral leader in the recreation of several ali‘i gowns, now on display at ‘Iolani Palace.

Gordon “Umi” Kai – master artisan and cultural practitioner

Kai made his first weapon at the age of 19. Since that time, he has spent more than 40 years researching, practicing and refining his craft. He creates practical tools and implements for fishing, farming, making kapa and poi, and practicing hula and lua, and is especially known for his skill in making Hawaiian weapons. He has presented his work nationally and internationally, and shares his knowledge generously. It is through example that ‘Umi teaches and passes on knowledge of Hawaiian tools and implements, which further enriches the learning of his students; he also preserves cultural practices and traditions that were passed down to him, and passes them on to his students.

Florence Pauleipoina‘ole “ʻAnakē Lolena “ Nicholas – native speaker

Nicholas was born on Niʻihau. Her language has been her Ola, her life ever since. Because she is a mānaleo or native speaker, she was sought out to be the first teacher at the first “language nest” for the Pūnana Leo o Honolulu in 1985. There she nurtured generations of keiki and mākua (parents) in the Hawaiian language and Hawaiian ways of knowing and doing. She also advised on the development of curriculum as well as teacher education, especially for the start of kula kaiapuni, Hawaiian language immersion schools, throughout Hawaiʻi. ʻAnakē Lolena left Pūnana Leo in 2004 after training her successors to become the mānaleo at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Hawaiian Language department (later Kawaihuelani) where she served until her retirement in 2017.

Pualani Kanaka‘ole-Kanahele, Ph.D. – scholar, kumu hula, cultural practitioner 

Born and raised in Keaukaha, Hawai‘i, Dr. Kanahele is one of two daughters of the late hula and chant master, Edith Kanaka‘ole , and was raised in a multi-generational hula tradition. She is a past kumu hula of Halau o Kekuhi, a world-renowned Hawaiian cultural dance group known for its ‘ai ha‘a style. She has brought hula and oli and their storytelling traditions into multiple media, including theatre, film, music, and book.

Jerry Walker – lua master

Walker was key in finding Charles Kenn, who was at the time one of the last living lua masters, and training under him. He earned the title of ‘olohe from Kenn, and has been essential in continuing the resurrection of the pa lua in Hawai‘i. ‘O- lohe Walker, along with others, have taught the art of lua to thousands of Hawaiian men and women, throughout the pae ‘a-ina and the world. He has also studied several other martial arts such as karate, kempo, and several forms of kung fu. He continues to learn and share new information with others through seminars, media and social media, bring others of the same interest together to share and work together.

The five 2019 living treasures were nominated and selected by a group of cultural experts and practitioners.  Today’s event was sponsored by OHA, PA‘I Foundation, Waimea Valley, Pā Ku‘i a Lua, Native Hawaiian Education Association, ʻAha Pūnana Leo, Awaiaulu and Kauaheea.

The inaugural Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi was held in 2017 and recognized seven living treasure Patience Nāmaka Bacon – for hula; Josephine Fergerstrom – for lauhala weaving; Sam Ka‘ai – for carving; Marie McDonald – for lei making and appa making; and Nainoa Thompson – for navigating; and two awards were presented posthumously to Elizabeth Malu‘ihi Ako Lee – for lauhala weaving and Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad – for videography, documentary.


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