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.