The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Lyon Arboretum fulfills its mission of inspiring and cultivating the conservation of tropical plant biodiversity, and connecting it to the culture of Hawaiʻi to residents and visitors alike. On November 16, 2021, the arboretum hosted a group of high school students from Angoon, Alaska, providing education and research on koa trees, which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.
The students are from a small rural village and are members of the Tlingit tribe. The tribe previously gifted trees to the Polynesian Voyaging Society to make the Hawaiʻiloa waʻa (canoe). The students came to Hawaiʻi to learn about how Tlingit canoes are similar and different from other canoes, discover what mathematical knowledge and technological devices Indigenous navigators rely on, and explore building and strengthening relationships between Indigenous, oceanic communities.
Lyon Arboretum Facilities Manager Clancy Ako welcomed the students with an oli (chant) and presented them with a mini hand carved koa canoe paddle, before they toured the arboretum with Education Manager Raedelle Van Fossen and Education Associate Jenna Watling, focusing on the koa trees, which are traditionally used to construct Hawaiian canoes.
Jesse Adams from the Grounds and Collections Department talked to the students about the restoration efforts at the Hawaiian section of the arboretum, and Horticulture Manager Tim Kroessig gave them a tour of the greenhouse. The students also visited the Micropropagation Lab to learn about the conservation efforts being made at Lyon through the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program.
“The Lyon Arboretum was a great way to ground students in the Tlingit value of ‘hold each other up’ and the Hawaiian kuleana of ‘mālama.’ Learning about the restoration of koa forests, critical for past and future canoe building, made a great impression on the students,” said Kate Cruz, a UH Mānoa alumna, who teaches ethnomathematics to the Angoon High School students. “That night, we asked the group what evidence they observed in living those values and they were quick to comment about how amazed they were as to the efforts people are making to protect endangered plants. They recognized and appreciated the care for the ʻāina (land), or as they say in Tlingit, ‘aaní.’ Our time in Lyon also gave us a great story to tell about the power of tropical rainforests upon our return to the temperate rainforests of Southeast Alaska.”
In addition to visiting the Lyon Arboretum, students exchanged weaving concepts (cedar and lauhala) with high school students from Hālau Kū Māna, volunteered with Mālama Honua 8th graders at the nonprofit organization Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi, met Nainoa Thompson and the Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia and Hawaiʻiloa, toured Bishop Museum and delivered their hand crafted lesson on Tlingit canoe culture, design and mathematics to 4th grade students at Kaneʻohe Elementary School. They finished the week at UH Mānoa’s Ka Papa Loʻi O Kānewai, tying every experience back to the importance of healthy waters.
Lyon Arboretum updated schedule
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lyon Arboretum has modified its policies and hours. All visitors are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of visiting. Masks are required in public areas, gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed and social distancing must be practiced. For more information, visit the Lyon Arboretum website.
This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF) and Enhancing Student Success (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.
—By Marc Arakaki