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A mahalo reception and blessing for the Akina collection was held on August 27, 2015.

Giving thanks: KS Hawai‘i ‘ohana honors philanthropist Dr. Charman Akina

Nov. 25, 2015

Noted Hawai‘i philanthropist Dr. Charman Akina has been contributing Hawaiian artifacts to the Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i campus for over 11 years. Nearly all of the Hawaiian artifacts located in the Keku‘iapoiwa Learning Center were gifted by Akina.

In May of 2005, KS Hawai‘i received an extensive donation courtesy of Akina and Don Carlsmith, in which Akina bequeathed his extensive collection of ‘umeke (calabashes), papa ku‘i ‘ai (poi-pounding boards), pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai (poi pounders) and lei hulu (feather lei). Many of the items originated on Hawai‘i island.

Last year, Akina made a second significant donation to the collection, which includes hundreds of historical books and reference materials that will help connect students back to their kūpuna and perpetuate the culture of their ancestors for generations to come.

Akina chose KS Hawai‘i as a beneficiary because he desired for young Native Hawaiians to have access to these pieces, to view, learn from and appreciate the culture of their ancestors. He also pointed out that he chose the Hawai‘i campus because he recognized a need since the Kapālama has the Bishop Museum right down the way.    

“For all of us who identify as being Hawaiian, whether by koko (blood) or not, for us to succeed in today’s world, we have to feel good about ourselves, we have to know about our own culture, the Hawaiian culture,” said Akina.

“I think that in reading these books, it serves to preserve these, but it allows our children of Hawaiian background to use them so they will know more of their own culture.

“I am so thrilled that everything is here.”  

Among the impressive collection is a book that King Kalākaua had gifted to Queen Kapi‘olani in which the king’s signature is visible. Upon seeing and learning of the piece, students let out “ooohs” and “ahhhs”, remarking about the tremendous history of the piece. There are law books that date back to Kamehameha II and a beautiful collection of kapa which includes a piece that Queen Emma had taken to England in 1865.

“We’re so blessed because of [Dr. Akina’s] kindness, generosity and his looking ahead and looking out for our Native Hawaiian children,” said Dr. Holoua Stender, KS executive vice president of education. 

At a mahalo reception earlier this year, KSH Po‘o Kula (Head of School) Kāhealani Nae‘ole-Wong reminded everyone while they have tremendous gratitude for the collection itself, it’s the legacy that Akina has left through his life’s work that serves as an example for students for which the campus is most grateful.

She recognized his important work in addressing important health issues for communities in Waimānalo, Hau‘ula and Punalu‘u, as a conservationist, leaving land in preservation for generations while helping to bring back native birds, his service on many different boards to help foster children, and preserving culture through artifacts at Bishop Museum.

“For me today, you stand as a living treasure for the work that you’ve done, serving our Native Hawaiian community,” said Nae‘ole-Wong.

“You are an inspiration. You grace and bless us with these tremendous gifts, but your life serves to us as an example of how we should be.”

Akina earned his M.D. from Stanford University in 1958. After medical school, he returned to his home in Hawai‘i to work with the Honolulu Medical Group, where he practiced for 30 years. He retired in 1993 and joined the Waimānalo Health Center, a non-profit facility that he helped build to treat Native Hawaiians living in rural O‘ahu.

The collection is available for viewing during learning center hours. Keku‘iapoiwa’s hours are 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. Monday thru Friday (except on Wednesdays when there is a faculty meeting in which it will close at 2:00 p.m.).

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