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In commemoration of Founder’s Day 2019, Nā Kula Kamaliʻi students from Kamehameha Schools Heʻeia Preschool hold roses to honor Princess Pauahi at Mauna ʻAla – her final resting place. This year, KS’ annual tradition of thanking Pauahi on Founder’s Day will take place via livestream at, on Friday, Dec. 18, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Preschool kumu Pūnua reflects on visits to Mauna  'Ala for Founderʻs Day

Dec. 16, 2020

Contributed by Hoʻokahua Cultural Vibrancy Group

This mo‘olelo is part of Kūkahekahe – Cultural Conversations – featuring personal experiences and insights from faculty and staff about compelling cultural happenings within the KS organization, throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and across the larger Pacific and global communities.

It’s easy to drive past the low walls and black iron-wrought gates surrounding a small plot of land on Nuʻuanu Avenue in Honolulu without seeing Mauna ʻAla. Yet in the week before Founder’s Day each year, various groups of students, teachers and staff have traditionally made their way to the Royal Mausoleum.

This year, KS’ annual tradition of honoring Ke Ali‘i Pauahi on Founder’s Day will take place via livestream on Dec. 18. This prompted KS He‘eia Preschool Kumu Anuenue Pūnua KSK’94 to reflect on her cherished visits to Mauna ‘Ala.

Pūnua remembers visiting Mauna ʻAla on Founder’s Day as a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama student. But it wasn’t until she went to Mauna ʻAla with her daughters who attended Pūnana Leo o Kawaiahaʻo that Pūnua decided to take her preschool class. What’s more, is that she extended the invitation to her students’ ʻohana.

“It was born out of the feeling, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ Parents don’t usually get the opportunity to go to Mauna ʻAla, and they don’t have that same chance to mahalo our ali‘i,” Pūnua said. “Founder’s Day is so special. That Mauna ʻAla is the resting place of Pauahi and our aliʻi has a big impact, and it’s important for families to experience.”

The preschool visits have been so successful that fellow kumu Matthew Holt KSK’79 has brought his haumāna on the annual huakaʻi as well.

Preparations for the visit have a special quality and meaning themselves. Haumāna learn Pauahi’s moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) to Kamehameha as part of their kuleana (responsibility) and visit neighboring Hui Kū Maoli Ola to ʻohi ʻōpala, to collect materials, to make a lei.

Other haumāna and parents make lei lāʻī (tī leaf lei) to give as an entire class or bring hoʻokupu (gift, offering) from their own ʻāina. While at Mauna ʻAla, haumāna and their families sing mele for Pauahi and their school and place their hoʻokupu on the Kamehameha crypt. Fittingly, kumu encourage students and their ʻohana to show appreciation through mālama, taking time during their visits to care for and tidy up the area.

“That first year we went was really special. At the time, Bill Kaiheʻekai Maioho was the caretaker. I had called him and asked him to ask the groundskeepers if they could not sweep up all the leaves so the haumāna could mālama by picking up some of the ʻōpala (rubbish). Uncle Kai said the groundskeepers were really on it so he wasn’t sure if there would be leaves,” laughs Pūnua. “I remember thinking, ‘Hopefully it’s a windy day!’”

As a kumu, Pūnua believes that part of her kuleana is to help her students and their families to think of Pauahi as not just a princess or an aliʻi, but as a kanaka – a Hawaiian.

“That day, we had just started to sing, and the wind came and the rain came right on cue. I told the haumāna, ‘the aliʻi would be so proud and happy with you.’ You can feel it at Mauna ʻAla, how much our aliʻi loved keiki.”

These same lessons of mahalo, mālama, and kuleana taught by our Nā Kula Kamaliʻi kumu to our youngest haumāna are ingrained in celebrations of Founder’s Day across the pae ʻāina. They will also be a part of our virtual gathering this year, if we keep these lessons of aloha close to our hearts.

“For me, it comes down to understanding Pauahi’s ʻōpū aliʻi (chiefly heart) and her decisions to help others. Pauahi was an amazing woman, but at Mauna ʻAla we can also recognize that she was one of many; all of our aliʻi worked to serve,” Pūnua reflects. “As kānaka, our kuleana is to learn how we can do the same.”

Kamehameha Schools Heʻeia Preschool kumu Matthew Holt helps prepares keiki to honor Pauahi at the Kamehameha crypt during their 2019 visit to Mauna ‘Ala.

Kamehameha Schools Heʻeia preschoolers at the Kamehameha crypt in 2019, after presenting their ho‘okupu (honored gifts) and tidying up the surrounding grounds.

Lei and flowers from the Preschool haumāna and ʻohana adorn Pauahi’s grave in honor of Founder’s Day, 2019.

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