two people holding up a certificate
Patrick V. Kirch receives the Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi award from Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaiʻi Bishop Eric Matsumoto.

Patrick V. Kirch, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa anthropology professor in the College of Social Sciences, will be one of three individuals honored at the 47th annual Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi virtual event on May 22. The award recognizes Kirch for his significant contributions to the field of Polynesian archaeology and its positive impact on the quality of life in the local community.

“Among the awards that I have received over the course of my career, being named a ‘Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi’ is especially meaningful to me because it comes from the community here in Hawaiʻi where I was born and grew up,” Kirch said. “I have always tried to share the results of my research with the people of Hawaiʻi, and this recognition tells me that I have been at least partly successful in those efforts. I would like to extend my own mahalo nui loa to all those who over the years have shared their manaʻo and who have in countless ways aided and assisted me in my work. Without them, whatever I have achieved would not have been possible.”

Being named a ‘Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi’ is especially meaningful to me because it comes from the community here in Hawaiʻi where I was born and grew up.
—Kirch

Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi was established in 1976 by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaiʻi. It honors those unique to the islands who demonstrate excellent and high standards of achievement in their particular fields and continue to make significant contributions toward enriching our society. Initially established to honor those involved in the perpetuation of the island’s distinctive cultural and artistic heritage, the recognition has since been expanded to include contributions by individuals in all areas of endeavor.

In addition to Kirch, 2022 honorees include taiko artist Kenny Endo and Kealiʻi Reichel, kumu hula, musician and recording artist. The May 22 event will be broadcast at 6 p.m. on KHNL and livestreamed on the Hawaiʻi News Now Facebook page. It will also air at 7 p.m. on May 26 on KFVE.

More about Kirch

World-renowned in the field of Polynesian archaeology, Kirch was born and raised in Mānoa Valley, educated at Yale University and taught for three decades at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2019, he returned to the islands to share his rich knowledge of Polynesian archaeology with future generations of students at UH Mānoa.

“As an archaeologist, I work collaboratively with colleagues in the fields of historical linguistics, human genetic studies, ethnology, archival historical research, and even soil science, to gain a fuller picture of ancient civilizations than any discipline alone could do,” Kirch said. “The lessons learned are particularly relevant now as we look to build a more sustainable future, not only in our islands, but the entire Pacific region.”

This belief is something he endeavors to impart on his students as he builds programs that create rich learning opportunities for them, and works with communities to preserve archaeological sites and promote cultural heritage.

Kirch’s current research focuses on the origins and settlement histories of Pacific peoples, the dynamic interactions between island populations and their ecosystems, the development of complex societies in island settings, and Pacific Island agro-ecosystems. He has published 34 books and monographs, and more than 300 articles and chapters on the results of his research in the Pacific.

Kirch is a member of the International Center for Archaeological Research on Polynesia at the University of French Polynesia. He is also a member of the highly regarded National Academy of Sciences (1990), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1992) and the American Philosophical Society (1998).

Kirch’s work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.