Community invited to celebrate the life and legacy of Edith Kanaka‘ole, May 6, UH Hilo campus

Public is invited to come celebrate Aunty Edith’s life and legacy: Saturday, May 6, 2023, 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. at the Performing Arts Center, and then 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall, UH Hilo campus.  

At left is Aunty Edith sitting with pahu. At right are her two daughters Pua and Nalani dancing. They are at Halemaumau crater in the background.
Edith Kanakaʻole at left with her daughters Pua and Nalani. (Courtesy photo/UH System News)

The community is invited to celebrate the life and legacy of legendary educator and cultural icon Edith Kanaka‘ole on Saturday, May 6, 2023 at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Kanaka‘ole worked as a teacher at Hawai‘i Community College from 1971 to 1974 and at UH Hilo from 1974 to 1979. At both schools, she created courses and seminars on subjects including Hawaiian language, ethnobotany, Polynesian history, genealogy and Hawaiian chant and mythology.

Huihui Kanahele-Mossman pictured
Huihui Kanahele-Mossman

“It was famously said of my grandmother that she never turned down anyone who asked her to teach,” says Huihui Kanahele-Mossman, kuleana and community curriculum developer at UH Hilo’s Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center and executive director of the Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation. “She always said, ‘yes’ not only out of the goodness of her heart but because she felt an urgency to pass down this information and these traditions before they fade away and are forgotten.”

On March 27, the United States Mint released into circulation a coin from the American Women Quarters™ series honoring Kanaka‘ole, an award-winning composer. She is one of five American women being honored in new quarters in 2023 as part of the American Women Quarters™ Program.

Attendees at the May 6 event be able to receive an Edith Kanaka‘ole quarter.

Event: He Ka‘ao No Aunty Edith Kanaka‘ole

The public is invited to attend the Saturday, May 6 celebration, “He Ka‘ao No Aunty Edith Kanaka‘ole.” The program starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Performing Arts Center for kīpaepae (welcoming ceremony) and ho‘okupu (ceremonial presentation of gifts and tributes).

At 11:30 a.m., the event moves to Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall for various activities including:

      • Edith’s voice: video loop of Aunty Edith
      • Mint educational resources and coin board distribution
      • Sharing of stories of Aunty Edith’s impact on the world and Indigenous cultures
      • Sharing of stories among Hawai‘i Community College ‘ohana
      • Sharing of stories among UH Hilo ‘ohana
      • Sharing of stories among Kanaka‘ole ‘ohana
      • Educational crafts and activities

In addition, a ho‘olaule‘a (celebration) featuring various musicians and performers will be held fronting the parking lot. A livestream of the event will be available.

Edith Kanaka‘ole pictured in lei.
Edith Kekuhikuhipu‘uoneonāali‘iōkohala Kenao Kanaka‘ole (UH System News)
A long cement building with lots of windows and a red roof. Palms lining the side, expansive lawn on the side.
Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall (Cooper Lund/UH Hilo Stories)

The Edith Kanakaʻole Quarter

Coin with Edith Kanaka'ole's likenessThe coin features a depiction of Edith Kanaka‘ole, with her hair and lei po‘o (head lei) morphing into the elements of a Hawaiian landscape, symbolizing Kanaka‘ole’s life’s work of preserving the natural land and traditional Hawaiian culture. The commemorative quarter also bears an inscription in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language), “e hō mai ka ‘ike” or “granting the wisdom.” The phrase comes from a well-known oli (chant) Kanaka‘ole composed that asks for knowledge to be bestowed upon the chanter.

Kanaka‘ole joins four other honorees in 2023 quarters including the first African American and first Native American woman licensed pilot Bessie Coleman; civil rights leader, reformer, former first lady and author Eleanor Roosevelt; Mexican American activist, journalist, and educator Jovita Idar; and America’s first prima ballerina who broke barriers as a Native American Maria Tallchief.

“It is an honor to celebrate the life and legacy of Edith Kanaka‘ole at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo,” says Kristie McNally, deputy director of the United States Mint. “Edith Kanaka‘ole—the first Indigenous Hawaiian woman to be featured on a United States quarter—worked diligently to preserve Native Hawaiian culture, teach environmental conservation, and serve the Hawaiian community at large. We are proud to recognize her accomplishments through the American Women Quarters™ Program.”

The American Women Quarters™ is a four-year program (2022–25) to honor the accomplishments and contributions made by women who have shaped our Nation’s history and helped pave the way for generations to follow. Each year, the secretary of the treasury selects the honorees following consultation with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, the National Women’s History Museum and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus. In 2021, the public was invited to submit recommendations for potential honorees through a web portal established by the National Women’s History Museum.

-Read more at UH System News

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