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Lauhala hat
Lauhala (pandanus) hats woven by Hawaiʻinuākea faculty are featured in the auction

This fall, more than 260 undergraduate and graduate haumāna (students) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawaiʻinuākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge are working towards degrees and a majority rely on some form of financial aid or scholarships. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the need for many to seek more funding to keep up with tuition, housing and more. For more than a decade, Hawaiʻinuākea has maintained a student emergency aid fund, however the pandemic has contributed to its depletion.

“Statistically, college students living away from home with few safety nets as they pursue their education, are piling up personal debt and wondering how much longer they can continue to enroll,” said Hawaiʻinuākea Dean Jon Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio. “We are at the mid-term of the fourth semester since Hawaiʻi was seized by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have all seen our public and private schools grapple with rules, logistics, unfamiliar technologies, worried parents and teachers, and a shortage of resources to try and meet our responsibilities to educate our people. While it has not been easy for anyone, I am especially concerned with how our haumāna have fared.”

Jon Osorio and his kids
Osorio ʻohana

To help raise funds for haumāna in need, Hawaiʻinuākea will launch its very first online auction. Bidding for the virtual silent auction, Ka ea o nā iʻa he wai, opens on November 24 at 8 a.m. until December 1, 11:59 p.m. HST. Some of the featured items include one-of-a-kind experiences, such as a cultural practitioner led pāhoa aʻu (marlin dagger) workshop, mahiʻai kalo (taro farmer) starter kit filled with 10 kalo varieties, and a one-hour music performance by Osorio and ʻohana.

A preview of some of the items up for auction will continue to be posted ahead of the event.

“We need your support,” exclaimed Malia Nobrega, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Hawaiʻinuākea. “This is an exciting and fun way to help our students, and at the same time have a chance to win creative, fun and unique items and experiences from community practitioners and friends!”

The department hopes to raise $20,000 for its haumāna emergency fund. Through the years, deans have organized annual fundraisers and maintained a fund to help students who faced unanticipated situations that could impact their education, housing, medical care and other aspects of their welfare.

The auction’s name, Ka ea o nā iʻa he wai (the ea of fish is water), traces back to an infamous speech given in Mānoa in 1871 to commemorate Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea (Sovereignty Restoration Day). In it, speaker David Kahalemaile stresses ea (source of life) as a vital factor to the survival of kānaka ʻōiwi (Native Hawaiians).

Donations to the student aid fund can be made on the UH Foundation website.

This event is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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