Why Ho’omau Foundation has Purpose
By JoNelle Sood 7/12/2021
My family and I recently took a trip to visit relatives on O’ahu and we had a fabulous time. It is important to me that my family and I learn about, appreciate, and nurture our culture. We spent time with my soon-to-be 100-year-old grandmother, my soon-to-be 80-year-old aunt, and my aunt in her late 70s. I call them the “Legends”. Our time spent with the “Legends” and my extended family was priceless and no words can describe the overwhelming feeling of joy, love, and gratitude I feel about our time together. It was so meaningful that I have decided to return in September for two special reasons. The first being to celebrate my Grandmother’s and Aunt’s birthdays. The second reason is to continue my education and give back to our island.
We got to spend time learning and caring for the piko (center) of the island, a Wahi Kapu (Sacred Place), Kukaniloko, which is one of the most important sites of our people. The site is located in Wahiawa, and visits are only allowed through arrangements with the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawa (www.kukaniloko.org). Upon arrival, we participated in a formal protocol where we were welcomed and greeted by ‘āina (family) of this Wahi Kapu Uncle Tom Lenchanko and Noelani DeVincent. We learned about this Wahi Kapu, its significance, and the history of our ancestors shared through mo’olelo (stories) in their Piko Listening Journey. After the Piko Listening Journey, we all got to Malama ‘āina (take care of the land).
This trip solidified for me the purpose and mission of the Ho'omau Foundation. It is our kuleana (responsibility) to care for the ‘āina (land), learn traditional practices, share those practices, and continue to perpetuate our culture. It’s important for Pacific Islanders to know our own history and story. It’s also important for Native Hawaiians to know where we are from. As well, to acknowledge that we are brilliant navigators, farmers, astronomers, mathematicians, healers etc. We need to share our knowledge with others we come into contact with, whether that be our classmates, customers, colleagues, or friends. Dr. Kahakalau, (better known as Aunty Kū) is a Hawaiian educator, an expert in Hawaiian language and culture, and CEO of Kū-A-Kanaka LLC. Kū-A-Kanaka LLC is the fiscal sponsor of EA Ecoversity, a culture-based higher education and career training program that Dr. Kahakalau launched in October 2020. Its purpose is to allow young Hawaiians, ages 15-30 to earn micro-credentials and digital badges in: Hawaiian Language and Culture Foundations, Career Exploration and Training, Aloha ʻĀina and Healthy Living and Life Skills. It also provides the opportunity to earn an EA Ecoversity Diploma, certifying graduates as educated 21st century Hawaiians.
Kū-A-Kanakaʻs motto is ‘When Natives Thrive, Everyone Benefits”. I truly believe in this motto. The more Native Hawaiians reconnect to our traditional values and cultural practices the more we heal from the historic trauma inflicted upon us over the past two centuries. As we empower ourselves with help from supporters who share our values, we will again become assets instead of liabilities in our homeland and contribute to a thriving Hawaiʻi. This will benefit all who call Hawaiʻi their home.
While in O’ahu, we also went on a paddling/sailing adventure which was exhilarating and further tied me to the importance of learning more about our beautiful environment and culture. Our ancestors were skilled navigators and being out there learning how to work with the tide and wind was breathtaking. Our guides also taught us about the current land ownership and preservation efforts taking place today.
I believe the Ho’omau Foundation has an important place in this vast world and we have a lot of work to do to reach Pacific Islanders. We have an interest in seeing Pacific Islanders go into the world embracing their culture and staying connected. All while getting a higher education and creating opportunities to bring wealth, happiness, and wellbeing to their lives while they grow and build confidence in their culture.