VIDEO: UH Hilo student Celeste Haʻo talks about her personal journey into the fields of astronomy and canoe voyaging

In the seventh grade, “Cesi” Haʻo came to the realization that she could be both a scientist and a pono Hawaiian.

By Susan Enright.

Celeste Hao speaking with microphone
Cesi Hao gives a talk entitled “Manu ʻImiloa: Modern and Ancient Ways of Navigating our Universe.” Click on photo above to view video of hour-long presentation.
Celeste Ha‘o navigating the Hōkūle‘a. Yellow jacket, cap, ocean in background.
UH Hilo student Celeste Manuia “Cesi” Ha‘o searches the horizon for directional clues from her environment while navigating the Hōkūle‘a voyaging canoe Aug.12, 2014. Photo by Kamakanioka’āina Paikai.

Celeste “Cesi” Manuia Haʻo, education programs assistant and outreach coordinator at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaiʻi, and undergraduate at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, recently delivered an hour-long talk about her personal journey into the fields of astronomy and canoe voyaging entitled, “Manu ʻImiloa: Modern and Ancient Ways of Navigating our Universe.” The presentation was part of Keck Observatory‘s Astronomy Talk series and held at the Kahilu Theater in Waimea on Aug 28.

Haʻo is a Hilo native born in Keaukaha and raised in Panaʻewa. In the 1990s, when the clash of culture and science surrounding astronomy atop Maunakea began to take rise, her fifth grade desire to be an astronomer caused a deep internal conflict—either choose to become a world-class scientist or choose to be a pono Hawaiian. It was in the seventh grade that she came to the realization that she could be both. Since then she has set out to be a bridge-builder that connects these two communities.


Haʻo is currently a student at UH Hilo set to graduate this fall with a degree in culture-based astronomy education, a baccalaureate program she designed with the guidance of mentor Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. The degree is designed to enhance her life and occupational passion and mission of promoting place-based teaching and learning of astronomy and science through a cultural perspective. The education she’s receiving is already enhancing her passion for teaching and learning astronomy and science through a cultural perspective.

Apprentice navigator

In  her talk, Haʻo recounts her personal story of how her determination to find balance and harmony amidst contentious circumstances ultimately set her on a journey that would teach her how to navigate the ocean using both modern and ancient ways of knowing.

One of the many things that makes Haʻo so unique and her presentation so compelling is that she is also a member of the ʻOhana Waʻa, a group of crew members for Hawaiʻi’s famed voyaging canoe the Hōkūleʻa and the Mālama Honua World Wide Voyage. Haʻo is an apprentice navigator who recently co-navigated the Hōkūleʻa as part of the World Wide Voyage to the island of Sāmoa where her family village of Faleapuna is located.

To learn more about “Cesi,” her family, her navigation of the Hōkūleʻa, and her scholarly work, see UH Hilo Stories, Oct. 23, 2014: Celeste Manuia Ha‘o: A rising star.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.