Book explores history of Hawaiian cultural practices

A recently published book written by three University of Hawaii at Manoa professors highlights 14 different Native Hawaiian cultural practices from the perspectives of esteemed experts.

The book, titled “Ka Mano Wai: The Source of Life,” examines the history and significance of the Native Hawaiian practices, many of which were forced underground after the colonization of Hawaii, said one of the book’s authors, Noreen Mokuau.


“Native Hawaiians and other people in Hawaii still continue to have an array of issues, social justice and health issues that can benefit from the practices of the past,” Mokuau said. “The kumu of today who are now in their mostly 70s and 80s, they feel an urgency to teach and to share their knowledge and practices before they can no longer do so.”

Professors Mokuau, Kukunaokala Yoshimoto and Kathryn Braun have worked together the past seven years instructing the Ke A ‘o Mau program at UH Manoa. The program teaches students about Native Hawaiian ancestral practices and how they can tie into social justice and public health.

Throughout the first few years of their involvement in the program, the three teachers would often call upon various cultural practitioners to share their knowledge in person in their classrooms, Mokuau said. However, they struggled to find written materials that supported the subject matter. This gave them the idea to create a book of their own using input from experts they worked with each year.

“We identified 13 knowledge keepers in Hawaiian culture, or kumu loea, and we asked if, with their permission and participation, could we write the book,” Mokuau said. “When you lose an elder, you lose a library. … So there’s an eagerness to want to learn from them.”

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