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Hauʻula youth build community and connections to ʻāina through culture

Hawaiʻi Land Trust
Youth and community members from Hauʻula gathered earlier this month to bless a traditional Hawaiian hale that they built at the Maunawila Heiau Complex.

Eighteen high school and college students from Hauʻula on Oʻahu recently finished building a hale at the Maunawila Heiau Complex. It is considered the first traditional Hawaiian hale built in the community in at least 100 years.

The youth were part of the nonprofit Hawaiʻi Land Trust’s Maunawila ʻŌpio Mālama ʻĀina summer program. The trust seeks to protect and connect people to lands throughout the state, and owns and stewards the 9-acre Maunawila Heiau Complex.

The five-week paid internship, which begins in June, seeks to uplift and empower youth from the rural community and show them that there are career opportunities in Ko’olauloa, said Hawaiʻi Land Trust president and CEO Laura Kaakua. Students learn about archaeology, cultural resource management, agriculture and more.

Kaakua said this summer’s theme was kūkulu hale. Kūkulu means to build and raise up. The idea to build a traditional Hawaiian hale came about many years ago, but Kaakua said it took time to gather the resources and people to make it happen.

“The concept of kūkulu hale is really about building a community. And you canʻt build the hale without many partners, many hands, a lot of aloha going into it,” she said. “While our theme was kūkulu hale, it also encompasses kūkulu kaiāulu, or building community, kūkulu pilina, building that relationship between all of the students together ... and building that pilina also not just with each other and the bigger Hauʻula community, but also with ʻāina.”

Kaakua said the hale, which was completed earlier this month, now serves as a gathering place to host school field trip orientations, community workdays and cultural workshops. They also plan to build more hale in the area.

Kaakua said thanks to master builders, including Francis Palani Sinenci, traditional Hawaiian hale building is coming back. She said she hopes other communities start talking about building their own hale.

Jayna Omaye is the culture and arts reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at
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