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Jun 04, 2015

To Aotearoa With Aloha

Through Queen Lili‘uokalani’s gift of foresight and aloha (love, affection) for the ‘ōpio (youth) of Hawai‘i, eighteen of her beneficiaries from Kona, along with five staff members and two community volunteers, had the honor of traveling to Aotearoa, New Zealand in April 2015 in an exchange and sharing of culture, history, and mo‘ōlelo (story) with their Maori cousins.  Native Hawaiians and the Maori of New Zealand bear similarities in both ancestry and in history of contact with the West, and the Maoris trace their lineage back to Hawai‘i.

The beneficiaries’ journey began in 2013 when they committed to learning and living by hoʻokūpono values (to behave properly), taught through cultural practices that include hula, oli (chant), and mo‘olelo.  The artistry of Hawaiian hula is but one of the many traditions practiced today.  The revival of Hawaiian voyaging traditions and non-instrument navigation is being led by the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Thus, it was with humble honor that our beneficiaries were able to participate in the Hōkūle‘a’s (Hawaiian voyaging canoe) departure from Aotearoa to Australia, which took place at Aurere Bay.  It was as significant an event for the Hōkūle‘a as it was for our two cultures.  This was the first time in history that our Hawaiian and Maori ‘ōpio danced a hula together in a show of solidarity, mutual respect, and aloha for one another.  “It was such an honor to share the stage with our Maori cousins,” one ‘ōpio stated.  Nainoa Thompson and the crew, with tears in their eyes, were moved by the performance and the efforts made to see them off to their next journey.  

The Queen’s beneficiaries, so eager to learn, returned to Hawai‘i full of aloha and with a new perspective of culture, connection, ancestry, and language. Their participation in traditional Maori powhiri (protocol), hearing stories of the Marae, and learning the history of the Maori people and land was inspirational.

Our beneficiaries were honored to have the opportunity to participate in a significant life-changing experience that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

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