This school year, Papa wa'a (via Kumu Anu), won a $15,000 scholarship with a student travel company called Smithsonian Student Travel. This company runs educational tours across the continent, and the scholarship paid for airfare, lodgings, ground transportation, meals, and admissions prices to anywhere the company travels. Kumu Anu decided to go to the farthest place they travel, which is Washington DC and New York City. Students from papa wa'a could apply for this amazing opportunity if: 1) they had a 3.0 or higher GPA, 2) they had never been assigned malama kuleana or suspension, and 3) they could write an essay describing why they should be chosen to go on the trip. The names on each essay were deleted and the essays were given to two Halau Ku Mana staff and two external readers. AFter much deliberation, four students were chosen: Leiana-Marie Alejado, Malie Cabinatan, Tehani Hekekia-Mossman, and Kamali'i McShane-Padilla.
As part of our experience in Washington DC, we visited the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. As you enter the building, two things stand out. Firstly, the look of the museum is a beautiful representation of native cultural values. Each element of the design represents meaningful beliefs and practices of many different native peoples. Secondly, the first exhibit you encounter as you enter the museum...a wa'a! The single-hulled koa canoe was built by the friends of Hokule'a and Hawai'i Loa.
In Papa Wa'a we are always taught, WA'A ARE NOT BOATS! BOATS DON'T HAVE MO'OKU'AUHAU! Clearly, this wa'a is a descendant in the growing genealogy born from Hokule'a. We felt it appropriate to bring some of Hawai'i to her, in the form of oli. We set aside any hilahila from the potential staring that might occur and lined up in front her, ihu to ihu..."Moko moko! Pa!" Our voices reverberated through the open air museum, bringing onlookers from every floor to see what was happening. As we chanted, emotions flooded our bodies and an occasional cracking in someones voice indicated the holding back of tears. After Hokule'a, Makali'i, and Kanehunamoku were called forth in our oli, we presented a lei la'i to this Washington DC wa'a.
Some onlookers stopped to ask us about our protocol, so we were able to share knowledge with people who had never before heard of these things that we think of as basic knowledge. But more importantly, we brought a little bit of Hawai'i to our DC sister wa'a.
For our first day in Washington D.C. we went to the National Mall. Our first visit was to the National Museum of American History. We began our visit to this museum with an exhibit called "Changing America" that highlighted the African-American struggle for freedom and equality in America. Half of the exhibit focused on the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the other half on the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington in 1963.
When we walked into the exhibit I was reminded of everything I learned about in 8th grade and all the activities we did around the Civil War. It was unbelievable to actually see replicas of the whips and chains that were used on the slaves and read about what it was like to live that way. We got to look at a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and read the words of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, declaring that all enslaved individuals "henceforward shall be free". However, I also learned at this exhibit that the ongoing battle for equal right among races didn't end when the Civil War ended, but that it still goes on to this day.
The second half of the exhibit looked more closely at the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King made his famous "I have a dream" speech. We saw pictures of the hundreds of thousands of people that gathered to speak up for equal rights on this day. Later we got to visit the place where Dr. King actually stood when he made that speech (see Lincoln Memorial Blog).
At the end of this section it showed other movements for equal rights that followed the Civil Rights Movement. This was my favorite part of the exhibit. It was amazing how the Civil Rights Movement empowered other groups to stand up and fight for what they believed in. Although they didn't have any thing displayed our kumu talked about how the Civil Rights Movement also gave way to Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970ʻs out of which Hōkūle'a was born. Like the March on Washington, Hōkūlea was a way to send a powerful message. For generations, the Hawaiian people were disconnected, with little sense of cultural identity or pride. Hokule'a was part of a turning point that unified and empowered our people to once again be proud of our culture, and send that message around the world.