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Volunteers repair the rock wall of Waikalua Loko Fishpond. Courtesy Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Roots of Wisdom: Native Knowledge. Shared Science, a Smithsonian traveling exhibition that explores the ways in which traditional knowledge of indigenous communities and cutting-edge Western science are being applied will open on February 13 at Windward Community College. Part of the exhibition spotlights the Waikalua Loko fishpond restoration project in Kāneʻohe.

Roots of Wisdom explores four inspiring stories of environmental and cultural restoration from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Tulalip Tribes, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Native Hawaiians. The exhibition tells the stories of these communities, giving visitors examples of how traditional knowledge and Western science provide complementary solutions to ecological and health challenges. The stories featured in Roots of Wisdom reflect the sacred relationship that each community has with its homeland and pass along knowledge of the environment, history, social values and spiritual beliefs.

“We are thrilled to have this Smithsonian exhibit begin its tour of the country here in Hawaiʻi at Windward Community College, and we are doubly thrilled that our partnering Waikalua Loko Iʻa is featured in it,” said head librarian Sarah Gilman Sur.

Corinne Sams of the Umatilla Indian Reservation fishes on the Columbia River.

Members of the Tulalip Tribes cooking salmon traditionally on ironwood sticks over wood coals. Courtesy Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

A basket weaver from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians weaves a river cane basket.

Native Hawaiians

Today, Native Hawaiians are using traditional knowledge and Western science to restore parts of the land divisions or small communities called ahupuaʻa, which span from mountaintop to the ocean. One such restoration project is Waikalua Loko Iʻa (fishpond), one of the few remaining intact ancient Hawaiian fishponds in Kāneʻohe and the only fishpond restoration project featured in this exhibit.

Through the work of students, community groups and many others, the restoration of Waikalua Loko Iʻa serves to teach Hawaiʻi youth the ingenuity of ancient Hawaiians who engineered complex irrigation and aquaculture systems. More importantly, the collaborative efforts of this restoration project, while challenging, are significant for Hawaiian culture and potentially important for future sustainable food sources.

Native Americans

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla) are using their resources to restore waterways and native species in Eastern Oregon and the Columbia River Basin.

The Tulalip Tribes of Northwest Washington are rediscovering native foods, raising organic foods and, in the process, reconnecting to native food and traditional medicine plants. In doing so, they combine traditional knowledge and Western science for a more culturally appropriate approach to health care.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is working with scientists and regional groups to restore river cane in its homelands of Western North Carolina. They are also revitalizing cultural traditions that use the cane, such as basket making.

Event details

Roots of Wisdom exhibit

  • Date: February 13—May 5
  • Location: Hale Laʻakea, Windward CC’s Library Learning Commons
  • Hours of Operation: Monday–Thursday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. and Friday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
    Spring Break: March 28–March 31, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
    Closed on state holidays

Roots of Wisdom opening reception

  • Date: February 22, 4:00–6:00 p.m.
  • Location: Hale Laʻakea, Windward CC’s Library Learning Commons

For more information, contact Windward CC head librarian Sarah Gilman Sur at (808) 235-7435. For information about upcoming events during the exhibition, visit the Windward Roots of Wisdom website.

Visit UH News for full news release.

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