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The six members of the First Nations’ Futures Papa Mau cohort gathered for ‘Aha Nauā Lelepā, an interactive forum at Hālau ‘Īnana during which they interacted with and learned from community leaders.

First Nationsʻ Futures Program fosters 'ōiwi leadership

Feb. 27, 2018

Contributed by Kyle Galdeira

“Leadership is everything. You have the masses on Earth, but only one in 10 million will step up and change the world. One thing we don’t have is time. Leadership is an interesting word, what do leaders do? Leadership is earned. The best leadership comes from those who don’t seek it but are asked to do something. Their community essentially is demanding it. Leadership has the most mana when it’s not about you, it’s about what you’re called upon to do.”

This mana‘o on the essence of leadership from Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson is far more than a collection of words on a page or computer screen; rather, it’s the mindset needed to uplift and build a thriving lāhui.

For the past 12 years, the First Nations’ Futures Program (FNFP) has inspired future generations of kānaka leaders by expanding their boundaries, and instilling within them a strong sense of kuleana for the natural and cultural resources in Hawai‘i and around the globe. Currently an initiative driven by the leadership of Neil Hannahs of Ho‘okele Strategies LLC and supported by Kamehameha Schools, the collective goal is to seed and sustain the program, uplift its impact in the community and encourage others to join in the cause.

FNFP was initiated in 2006 by KS, working in partnership with another first nations’ institution – Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, of Aotearoa. Today, the international alliance includes partners Sealaska/First Alaskans Institute, Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Center for Hawaiian Studies.

The six emerging ‘ōiwi leaders in the current cohort named Papa Mau are tasked with bridging modern and traditional knowledge and practices to perpetuate for generations to come. The 2017-2018 cohort of the fellowship program encompasses a diverse group of leaders within the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) as the up-and-coming navigators, captains and educators build upon the momentum established during voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a’s Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

The cohort includes: Pomai Bertelmann, an educator and member of PVS since 2000; Lehua Kamalu, an apprentice navigator with PVS; Sam Kapoi, a media specialist aboard the Hōkūle‘a; Nakua Konohia-Lind, a participant in 13 legs of the worldwide voyage as a quartermaster responsible for all food and supplies; Kalā Baybayan Tanaka, an educator and apprentice navigator; and Kaleo Wong, a Hawaiian studies and language expert who fills roles as fisherman and cultural protocol practitioner aboard Hōkūle‘a.

“Knowing that our common thread is voyaging, this process helps us combine our unique threads to form a collective fabric,” said Kamalu, a 2004 graduate of KS Kapālama. “We were so laser focused on navigation while on Hōkūle‘a, this process allows us to take a wider view of our collective goal.”

The cohort members are working towards composing a collective “values proposition,” which will be presented in June and integrate place- and community-based concepts. Participants embody the notion of hanauna: separating from the current source or state and giving breath to a new generation or direction.

“The job of a teacher (and broadly, a leader) is not to teach facts, but convey how to think, feel and search inwards,” Wong says. “People don’t remember what you say or do, but how you make them feel. It’s a process that helps us grow, and something we should do more often.”

Participants experienced the first phase of the fellowship last fall during a two-week immersion at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment. At Stanford, the group took part in the First Nations’ Futures Institute – the program’s prestigious academic component focusing on environmental sustainability.

Last week, the group gathered for the program’s second phase: ‘Aha Nauā Lelepā, an interactive forum at Hālau ‘Īnana during which members of the cohort interacted with and learned from community leaders, including Thompson, who concluded the ‘aha with his insight into the importance of carrying on the wayfinding mindset for generations to come.

“What is respected by the masses is action; you can inspire someone for a day with your words, but you can inspire someone for a lifetime by what you do,” Thompson said. “If you go from the power of vision to the management of the masses, you’re done.

“Stay together, and great things will come.”

The best leadership comes from those who don’t seek it but are asked to do something. Their community essentially is demanding it. Leadership has the most mana when it’s not about you, it’s about what you’re called upon to do.
Nainoa Thompson, Master Navigator
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