Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the core of an ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) class at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Kumu (teachers) scrambled to figure out how to get students who enrolled in an off-island summer course, off-island without leaving Oʻahu.
Twenty-two haumāna (students) registered for courses offered under the Mauiakama program, a collaboration between UH Mānoa Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language Professor Kapā Oliveira, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and UH Maui College Hawaiian Studies Professors Kaleikoa Kaʻeo and Kahele Dukelow.
Mauiakama is a two-week Hawaiian immersion course that consists of haumāna from both campuses camping on Maui with cultural practitioners who manage wahi pana or historical sites. The goal is to help practitioners maintain sites. Prior to the pandemic, students would help to rebuild traditional fishponds, restore loʻi (taro patches) and maintain ancient irrigation ditches. This year, these classes were offered online and taught by Kawaihuelani instructor Ali Rozet.
“He ʻoiaʻiʻo nō ko mākou kānalua i ka noho kaʻawale ʻana ma muli o ka hoʻomalu maʻi. Ua ʻaelike pū nā haumāna, ʻo ko mākou makemake ʻo ia ke kipa maoli ʻana i ia ʻāina no laila, e makana ʻia he mau mea waiwai i kēlā me kēia kaiāulu i hoʻokipa mai iā mākou i loko naʻe o ka hiki ʻole ke hele kino i laila. (We had real doubts about how we would be able to truly be of service despite the quarantine. We all agreed that our preference would be to be there in person but that due to the quarantine, we would do our best to make their time worthwhile by putting together a body of research that was substantial),” Kumu Rozet said.
Rozet’s husband, Niegel, works for a grassroots-network of mālama ʻāina based stewards Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo. The couple conjured up the idea of taking haumāna on virtual field trips through video conferencing application, Zoom. Students traveled to wahi pana on four islands which included; ancient Hawaiian fishpond Koʻieʻie in Kīhei, Maui; loʻi cultivation site Kaʻala Farms in Waiʻanae; ʻopelu fishing community in Hoʻokena, Hawaiʻi and Kamiloloa, Molokaʻi, to learn about limu restoration. Caretakers at each spot shared information about the area’s history and strategies they incorporate into their work.
UH Mānoa junior Mau Samuseva said although he would have preferred actually visiting these wahi pana, he left the program inspired. “Ua hoihoi nō ʻo Mauiakama no ka mea, ua ʻike i ke kākoʻo o nā poʻe o ka pae ʻāina e noʻonoʻo pū ana me ka manaʻo hoʻokahi e hoʻōla hou ʻia ai ka ʻike Hawaiʻi a me ka waiwai o ka mālama ʻana i ka ʻāina. Nui koʻu mahalo i ka hoʻomau ʻana o Mauiakama i kēia wā ʻē. Nui nā mea i aʻo ʻia. Ua loli koʻu ʻano, ua naʻauao maila, ua kāʻeo ka ʻumeke. (This experience was stimulating because I was able to see the similarities that each island had when it came to the common goal of trying to revive the culture and educate people about the importance of caring for our ʻāina. I’m grateful that this program continued and I gained an immense amount of knowledge regardless. I can proudly say that I will walk away from Mauiakama changed.),” Samuseva explained.
Because Samuseva and his classmates could not physically help the caretakers they contributed in other ways. Some students created websites and device-friendly applications about the various wahi pana. Others composed mele (songs) and also provided extensive research about the site and the people who work there.
—By Moanikeʻala Nabarro