University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple received a traditional Hawaiian welcome during his first visit to the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. It started with a series of oli or traditional chants from members of the faculty.

“It’s their way of saying aloha and welcome,” said Hawaiʻinuiākea Dean Maenette Benham.

A procession led by Benham and Apple then wound its way through the Hawaiʻinuiākea grounds which included a stop at the kūpuna papa, where the iwi or bones of Hawaiian ancestors repatriated to the area are buried.

“We take them to the iwi so that they understand how important our ancestors are,” said Benham.

Along the way, representatives from the different colleges and schools of UH Mānoa welcomed Apple. The group eventually made its way to the hale pili or house at the Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai for a traditional awa ceremony. Representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state legislature, Kamehameha Schools, the Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust, the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation and Board of Regents also participated in the ceremony.

“Important, essential, key Hawaiian people who represent key units of our community and of our campus,” Benham said.

Before drinking the ʻawa one at a time, each representative spoke about what it means to work together and push forward the mission of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Then it was Apple’s turn to drink the awa.

“Well it was very moving,” said Apple. “It was really a welcoming to the ʻohana and making me realize the connections that I have now to the community and the responsibilities to the kuleana.”

“Very moving ceremony and hearing and listening to the wishes of others and the expectations they have for me was really a moving experience and actually really fires me up to move the university forward as a community.”

“He has this opportunity to really contribute to a people who are committed to his success,” said Benham. “I think he feels that. We hope we captured his heart and that he will always love us and Hawaiʻi.”

Apple says the ceremony only reaffirmed his commitment to the Native Hawaiian culture, UH’s role in preserving the culture and to recruiting more Native Hawaiians to the faculty and student body.

“What I heard was a connection deep and through the ancestors and that really grounds us and we have so much to learn from our host culture,” said Apple. “I’m really committed and really excited about moving Mānoa forward.”