For those who are unaware, a non-profit organization called Nā Pua Noʻeau will be reduced 70% of their funding by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) if not otherwise wooed to change their minds. As a former student and teacher helper, this is my testimony that will be sent to an OHA representative and hopefully make a difference.
To Whom it may concern,
My ʻohana emerges from the veins of the waimea, the Pipturus albidus, native to the soils in Waimea on Kauaʻi island. We have cared for the fish from Kekaha’s pepper-black sand shores and the maile from Kokeʻe’s serene forests. We have tended to ālialia in the maroon dirt of Hanapepe, danced hula atop boats cruising up and down the famous river, and cultivated kalo in our loʻi at Wainiha. We have worked for both the state and federal governments, served time in the US military, and played music amongst the company of friends and family under the stars at the old house in Hāʻena.
Ten years ago, I had no clue as to who the word family actually encompassed, nor the stories of those people who lived generations ago, and thus, I had no identity. I had no connection to the native Hawaiian blood in me as well as no understanding of what that meant and its importance along side my other ethnicities. Nā Pua Noʻeau became a facilitator of my search for genealogical history and self, providing me with opportunities to be curious, intelligent and most importantly, me.
I have been a student of NPN for six years, and an alakaʻi, for one. To have begun that journey by attending the one-day family activities, going through summer institutes and year long programs on and off island, and taking the kuleana to become an alakaʻi after I graduated from high school, has quite literally been a full-circle blessing. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the knowledge I have now, about my ʻohana, who I come from, what makes me me, is in essence all because of those programs. And that knowledge is vital in my motivation to do my very best in everything I do. Nā Pua Noʻeau makes it clear to us students and faculty, that the Hawaiian culture of old needs to coexist with the Western culture of today, and when we find that balance in wherever our interests lie, we will thrive as a people. They have succeeded at this: exposing the culture and language and providing us keiki and youth with hands-on opportunities that do not force us to be immersed, but instead simply spark curiosity. I am a direct witness and testimony of that fulfilled and continued curiosity.
Today, as a result of NPN and their strong push for higher education, I am a sophomore at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo as a Hawaiian Studies major with a particular interest in Sustainable Agriculture. And it is no surprise that my experiences in their programs are reflected in my career goal: using my degree to create a 501c3 non-profit organization, providing cultivation and healing opportunities in all types of cultural aspects, to Hawaiʻi’s communities.
It is my understanding that now, like before, such vital funding entities to the programs and privileges provided by NPN, are under reduction. One thing I’ve learned about Hawaiian people, and indigenous people alike, is that we make do with what we have. But we are not lazy, and if we need something, we work hard until we get it. Once we do acquire it, we take care of it. We are a simple people not needing much, however, Nā Pua Noʻeau is one of those few essential things not for us, but for the next generations.
My words written here do not stand alone, but are in fact part of the resounding voice of the people who know that without NPN, we would not be who we are or where we are, today, and the generations to come are deserving of that enrichment. This leka is my work and responsibility, and I do hope, in its small maybe insignificant size, it will make a difference. My hope, as product of this extraordinary organization, is to see NPN’s success in the lives of native Hawaiian youth continue on into the far future. My hope is to one day be able to send my own keiki into the loving and intelligent hands of this ʻohana, that they have very much become to me. My hope is that their needs are met in every way possible, with the only intention in mind being to educate Hawaiʻi’s children about the things they will not learn in school, but can be applied there too, which we know is very important. My hope is that NPN can continue to empower our youth by sparking their curiosity to know more about their history and thus more about themselves. Thank you for your time and consideration.
“If I have courage, it is because I have faith in the teachings of my ancestors.”
Amber M. Au