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Kumu hula Edith Kanakaʻole to appear on US quarter next year

Edith Kanakaʻole
Courtesy Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation and the Kanakaʻole Family
Edith Kanakaʻole

Renowned kumu hula, composer and chanter Edith Kanaka’ole was a key figure in the Hawaiian Renaissance movement of the 1970s.

Kanaka’ole is now among five women who will be individually featured on U.S. quarters next year as part of a program that depicts trailblazing women on the coins, the U.S. Mint announced Wednesday.

Edith and Luka Kanakaʻole
Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation/Kanaka‘ole Family
Edith and Luka Kanakaʻole

“Her moʻolelo, or stories, served to rescue aspects of Hawaiian history, customs and traditions that were disappearing due to the cultural bigotry of the time,” it said in a news release.

The Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation in Hilo, which was established in 1990 to perpetuate her and her husband Luka Kanaka’ole's teachings, said she has been recognized as “the preeminent practitioner of modern Hawaiian culture and language.”

Kanakaʻole's grandson Kūhaʻo Zane said the honor is a testament to his grandmotherʻs determination to showcase the intellect embedded in ancestral knowledge.

"Not much people know that but she was definitely a catalyst. She was a pusher for the culture, especially within the ʻohana. So I think that in this day and age, she's still pushing us forward. I think it’s a huge statement on her behalf and it just goes to really cement the legacy that she has set for herself, as well as for our ‘ohana," Zane told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

The U.S. Mint said the other four women to appear on the coin next year are Bessie Coleman, the first African American and first Native American woman pilot; Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady and author; Jovita Idár, the Mexican American journalist and activist; and Maria Tallchief, who was America’s first prima ballerina.

This year, the program is issuing coins featuring five other women, including poet Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride.

The U.S. Mint said the other side of each quarter will show George Washington.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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