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Nine KS Maui haumāna participated in the Papa Hoʻokele program during winter break to learn about voyaging.

Waʻa Wednesday: Papa Hoʻokele takes KSM haumāna on voyage to Makahiki

Apr. 12, 2017

Kamehameha Schools sees Hawaiian culture-based education as vital to providing Native Hawaiian haumāna a world-class education at its campuses. Through opportunities like those offered through  the Papa Hoʻokele program, haumāna gain a strong Native Hawaiian identity that instills confidence for continued academic success.

A group of nine Kamehameha Schools Maui haumāna were selected to participate in the first Papa Hoʻokele program, a collaboration between KS Maui and Hui o Waʻa Kaulua, to help perpetuate Hawaiian waʻa building, wayfinding and voyaging.

The students gave up much of their winter break, taking classes from December 21-January 6, on campus and at Maʻalaea, with apprentice navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka as the lead kumu. The classes covered the history of voyaging, preparing for voyaging, canoe parts and accessories, seamanship skills, navigating and reference course line, protocol on the canoe and in communities, and how to sail.

“When I heard about Papa Hoʻokele, I was super excited,” senior Kaulana Chang said. “The reason I wanted to be in this class was that it was a great connection back to my culture and I was going to be able to know something not everyone gets a chance to learn. It made me feel very connected to who I am as a Hawaiian.”

The culmination of the class came in late January as the students sailed their waʻa, Moʻokiha, to Molokaʻi for the annual Kā Molokaʻi Makahiki. The waʻa left Maui at 8 a.m. before docking in Kaunakakai just before 2 p.m.

“One of the really cool things was when we got into the harbor on Molokaʻi,” said sophomore Ikaika Mendez. “There was a guy with his two little girls cheering us on. When we docked, Aunty Penny, who was one of the original Hōkūleʻa crew members, was there to meet us and took some time to talk to us about voyaging. She told us that we are the next people to carry this on.”

“By sailing over to Makahiki, I felt like we were stepping in the footsteps of our kupuna while also making more for future keiki,” added fellow sophomore Kaiulani Kaniaupio. “I can say I wasn’t as interested in the Mālama Honua voyage before Papa Hoʻokele as I am now.  I’m always thinking about it now, every night, looking at the stars. I still have so many questions, but it is cool how when I look at the Hōkūleʻa, it kind of looks that same as our waʻa. I can picture us being there.”

The students saw this program as way to not only expand their ʻike, but also as an opportunity to help sharing Hawaiian culture to a wider audience and pass it along to the next generation.

“Part of the program was that you have to go into the community and share what you are doing and why you are there when you dock at your destination,” Mendez said. “That’s how Hawaiian culture works. You learn new things and then you stretch it to others.”

Along with Mendez, Chang and Kaniaupio, the other KS Maui haumāna who participated in the program were Kaukahi Adolpho, Keala Cabanilla, Kapua Albiar, Kukui Gavagan, Mālie Nahoʻolewa and Makaio Lorenzo.

“In the protocol we learned there was a lot of give-and-take,” Chang added. “We received a lot, but we also had to give back. I think that is the only way we can see our culture grow, by teaching others and helping others learn and grow. That is one thing that they do a lot with the Hōkūleʻa. They teach you not only to learn yourselves, but also to pass it on and teach others.”


SP2020 is a five-year strategic plan that will guide Kamehameha Schools from 2015 to 2020. The plan marks a starting point toward KS’ Vision 2040, which envisions success for all Native Hawaiian learners.

This aligns with Goal 3 of SP2020 as KS aims to cultivate a strong Native Hawaiian identity. It also aligns with Action 5 of Kamehameha Schools’ Ten Actions for fiscal year 2016-17, calling for the integration of cultural principles.

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