The Heritage Center will be an active educational facility that will foster pride and perpetuate the diverse heritage of Hamakua and North Hawai‘i while providing the community with a foundation to thrive in the future.
MEDIA RELEASE– After several days of rain, the skies cleared up with perfect timing for the November 16 blessing and grand opening of the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center’s (NHERC) Heritage Center in Honoka‘a.
As an outreach center of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (UHH), NHERC has continuously expanded since first opening in 2006. The NHERC Heritage Center represents the latest phase of expansion and has a vision of being an active educational facility that will foster pride and perpetuate the diverse heritage of Hamakua and North Hawai‘i while providing the community with a foundation to thrive in the future.
A crowd of over 100 individuals gathered for the community celebration. The Honoka‘a senior citizens set the tone with their beautiful songs and Lanakila Mangauil officially opened the program with traditional oli.
Distinguished guests graced the community with their presence or remarks. Delbert Nishimoto presented a message from U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye in which Senator Inouye shared, “History is the greatest teacher. The preservation of the age old traditions of indigenous cultures is of paramount importance as we guide our children and grandchildren. The resources provided at the NHERC Heritage Center will teach all who walk through your doors about the significance of the past and its impact on their future path.”
In a written message, Senator Daniel Akaka commented “A traditional saying of the Native Hawaiian people, ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho‘okahi, tells us not all knowledge is gained from a single source. The education our students gain in classroom is supplemented and enriched by their families, communities, and environment around them. This Heritage Center will serve as a source of bolstered knowledge, not only for those in academia, but for our entire community.”
Representative Mark Nakashima spoke about a community having vision and being able to match community needs with University resources through the NHERC Heritage Center. Vice Chancellor Simmons further expressed the University’s commitment to providing educational opportunities for North Hawai‘i communities and beyond.
Ahualoa resident and past Peace Corp member, Romel Dela Cruz, shared his thoughts from a community perspective about what the Heritage Center will provide for preservation and dissemination of culture through sharing of stories and experiences in the format of displays and exhibits.
Heritage Center Coordinator, Dr. Momi Naughton, shared how a Heritage Center advisory board was formed to help provide feedback, guidance and direction for the development of the Heritage Center. Naughton spoke about the diversity of the Heritage Center advisory board and how she sees her role as a facilitator for helping the community celebrate their history and heritage. She also acknowledged Dr. Quentin Tomich for his role in the preservation and historic documentation of the Hamakua area.
Kukuihaele resident, ‘I‘ini Kahakalau shared about how knowing one’s past, to understand one’s present, is key for ensuring hope for the future. Kahakalau is a current UHH student majoring in Hawaiian Studies and is a recipient of the prestigious UHH Chancellor’s Scholarship.
Farrah-Marie Gomes, NHERC Director and Interim Dean for the College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS), rounded out the program remarks. In the spirit of weaving together the Hawaiian culture, ranching and farming lifestyle and the plantation era, Gomes used lyrics from a country music song and personal experiences to ensure the community of the University’s commitment while challenging the community to take advantage of the opportunities that the Heritage Center is making possible.
Reverend Marcia Hartsock of the United Methodist Church in Honoka‘a performed the blessing of the NHERC Heritage which was followed by the untying of the maile lei.
All three rooms of the Heritage Center were then opened for public viewing. The Archives is intended to meet the needs of North Hawai‘i by keeping local cultural resources in our area so that it is easily accessible to the community. The Museum is yet to be developed with permanent exhibits – a planning grant has already been submitted for this purpose. The Gallery will provide changing exhibits.
The inaugural exhibit celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in honor of those who helped with the training program in Waipi‘o Valley and those in our community who served in the Peace Corps. That exhibit was unveiled at the grand opening and will remain on display through the remainder of this year.
The NHERC Heritage Center will be open Monday through Fridays from 7:45am to 4:30pm, excluding state holidays. Student and volunteer opportunities are available. Please call Momi Naughton at NHERC for more information.