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In the Hawaiian language, one of the most common questions asked upon meeting a new acquaintance is “no hea mai ʻoe?” or “Where are you from?” This emphasis on place as an important aspect of one’s identity is the focus of professor Katrina-Ann Kapā Oliveira’s new book Ancestral Places: Understanding Kanaka Geographies. Oliveira, a Hawaiian language professor with the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, looks into ancestral places and the relationships native Hawaiians share with their environment.

“The main point that I hope readers walk away with is that Kānaka shared and continue to share a very intimate familial relationship with the ʻāina as evidenced by our poetry, place names, historical accounts, and proverbs,” said Oliveira. “As a result of this relationship, we have a fiduciary kuleana to our ancestors as well as our descendants to be excellent stewards of the ʻāina and all of its resources.”

Book description

Ancestral Places explores the deep connections that ancestral Kānaka (Native Hawaiians) enjoyed with their environment. It honors the moʻolelo (historical accounts) of the ancestral places of their kūpuna (ancestors), and reveals how these moʻolelo and their relationships with the ʻāina (land) inform a Kanaka sense of place.

The book elucidates a Kanaka geography and provides contemporary scholars with insights regarding traditional culture—including the ways in which Kānaka utilize cartographic performances to map their ancestral places and retain their moʻolelo, such as reciting creation accounts, utilizing nuances embedded in language, and dancing hula.

Ancestral Places book launch

The public is invited to join the author for the Ancestral Places: Understanding Kanaka Geographies book launch on Sunday, January 25 at Native Books in Ward Warehouse from 2 to 4 p.m. Event goers will have a chance to meet Oliveira and enjoy live readings, refreshments, and music. For more information on the book launch, contact Native books at (808) 596-8885.

To purchase Ancestral Places: Understanding Kanaka Geographies online, visit the book’s webpage on the Oregon State University Press website.

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Katrina-Ann R. Kapāʻanaokalāokeola Nākoa Oliveira was born on Oʻahu and raised on the islands of Maui and Oʻahu. She attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she earned a dual bachelor of arts degree in Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies as well as a master’s degree and a PhD in geography. Her research includes Kanaka geographies, epistemologies, language acquisition methodologies and place-based experiential learning curriculum development.

—By Kapiʻolani Ching

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