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UH Hilo history students on steps of doctor’s house. (Photo credit: Kerri Inglis)

Fourteen University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo public history students were invited to participate in a preservation workshop from this past semester to help clean and maintain every known grave marker in Kalaupapa, Molokaʻi.

The workshop gave the students the opportunity to receive a one-of-a-kind history lesson and deepen their connection to Hawaiʻi as they worked in partnership with HOPE (Hands-On Preservation Experience), the National Parks Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

student beside grave marker
Student CJ Sweezey after cleaning the grave of Hawaiian songwriter Bernard Punikala.

“Gaining inspiration from their kūpuna (ancestors, elders), our students learned from the history of the leprosy settlement; the community of Kalaupapa; their instructors from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the National Park Service, HOPE and others; and from one another,” explained Professor Kerri Inglis. “With an emphasis on learning about the ancestors they were caring for and the cultural significance of place, students were immersed in the history not only of Kalaupapa, but of Hawaiʻi itself.”

Inglis said it was in the actual doing of the work in March that students and instructors learned the most, not only about the techniques and importance of preservation, but about working together and belonging to a community.

“This trip was very life changing for me,” said one student. “It gave me a whole new outlook on life and all the possibilities that life holds. Poina ʻole ia. I will never forget this huakaʻi (journey) and the pilina (connection) I and the rest of the hui (group) built and experienced. I have gained a new sense of belonging, sense of place, and sense of aloha.”

Read the full story at UH Hilo Stories.

—By Susan Enright

students overlooking land
Students get a lecture about invasive plants from NPS botanist.
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