UH Hilo presents 24-part podcast on traditional districts of Hawai‘i Island

Listeners will join a huaka‘i or journey clockwise around the island, starting in Hilo and moving to Puna, Ka‘ū, Kona, Kohala, and Hāmākua for a total of 24 episodes.

By Susan Enright

Bruce Fisher and Hualani Loo smile, beneath the Ka Leo O Ka Uluau logo

A graduate student in the Hawaiian language and literature program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is leading the production of a podcast series launched this week about the traditional moku or districts of Hawai‘i Island.

“I am so fortunate to work with a talented team in the recording studio that shares a love for this place we call Hawai‘i,” says Bruce Torres Fischer, an alumnus of both Hawai‘i Community College and UH Hilo. “Working with them and hearing the reactions of listeners has shown me the great value of this project.”

Fischer graduated from UH Hilo with honors in spring 2020, earning a bachelor of arts in Hawaiian studies and a bachelor of arts in linguistics. He is originally from Belize in Central America and now calls Hawaiʻi Island home after moving here with his family many years ago. He began studying in the natural science program at Hawai‘i CC in 2015, transferring to UH Hilo in 2017. “The integration of Hawaiian culture and how it permeates throughout the college and the campus is something tangible and something that has captured my interest,” Fischer says.

Hualani Loo, associate director of UH Hilo Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, works with Fischer on production of the podcast series.

The podcast name, Ka Leo o ka Uluau, honors a Hawaiian makani or wind of Hilo and the conveyance of voices and thought. To ho‘okama‘āina or acquaint listeners to the moku of Hawai‘i Island, listeners will join a huaka‘i or journey clockwise around the island, starting in Hilo and moving to Puna, Ka‘ū, Kona, Kohala, and Hāmākua for a total of 24 episodes.

Each podcast installment lasts about 30 minutes and will feature storied places, histories, people, traditions and lessons through mo‘olelo or stories told by community members with connections to those places. The first podcast of the series is now live on the project’s blog, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. Next episodes will be published twice monthly to podcast platforms on the 1st and 15th of each month. Additional resources such as images, maps, and storyteller bios are also available on the podcast blog.

Drew Kapp
Drew Kapp
Leilani DeMello
Leilani DeMello

The podcast series is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center and hosted by Leilani DeMello, a Hawaiian studies alumna of UH Hilo (2020) now working for a Native Hawaiian social enterprise in Hilo, and Drew Kapp, a geography instructor at Hawai‘i Community College. The first episode sets the stage and begins exploration in Hilo.

The first guest will be Kumu Hula Mānaiakalani Kalua, who will talk story in the second episode available Jan. 15.

Gail Makuakāne-Lundin
Gail Makuakāne-Lundin

Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, director of Kīpuka, explains the project was conceived through the work of a group of faculty, staff, students, and community members. The Importance of Place Committee, based out of the Office of the Chancellor, focuses on strengthening island culture and geographical impacts on teaching, research, student retention, professional development, economics, and community engagement at UH Hilo.

Loo, associate director of Kīpuka and a member of the committee, which is closely affiliated with development of the university’s new strategic plan, brought the podcast idea to Makuakāne-Lundin, asking if Kīpuka would be able to provide financial support along with the Office of the Chancellor. Fischer drew up the budget.

The project is another creative way for the university to deliver educational programs despite the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Kīpuka created Hoʻokamaʻāina (to become acquainted with) orientation for new faculty and staff in collaboration with the Hanakahi Council about 10 years ago that included a huakaʻi to wahipana (storied places) around Hilo. The program is considered extremely important for an indigenous-serving university such as UH Hilo.

Makuakāne-Lundin also serves as the UH System director of the Office of Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao, an indigenous education initiative of the entire 10-campus system. “Because of COVID we have had to think about other ways to orient faculty, staff, and students to wahipana, hence the virtual kīpaepae that has been developed and a plan to do a wahipana video, ” she says. “The Importance of Place Committee also identified hoʻokamaʻaina as an important activity that they wanted to undertake and came up with the podcast idea which extends what we had planned to do.”

Fischer says about the podcast, “Even if a handful of people experience a spark of interest that grows into a deeper connection to the land and Hawaiian culture, I will be very happy.”


Story by Susan Enright, 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.