Each year Hawaiʻinuiākea holds the I Ulu I Ke Kumu awards ceremony and dinner to generate scholarship funds for Hawaiʻinuiākea students. The small, elegant gathering at Hālau o Haumea at the the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies celebrates extraordinary commitment and excellence in Native Hawaiian education.
This year five prominent individuals were honored: Senator Daniel Akaka, Richard Kekuni Blaisdell, Eddie & Myrna Kamae, and Marvlee Naukana-Gilding. “The honorees have made contributions to education in diverse ways, and have often done so in a humble, behind-the-scenes way,” according to Dean Benham, “from advocacy for Native Hawaiian health and leadership for generations of young Hawaiians to the preservation and perpetuation of traditional Hawaiian music and cultural practices.”
The first U.S. Senator of Native Hawaiian descent, Daniel Kahikina Akaka’s distinguished career began in 1976 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for seven consecutive terms until appointed to the Senate in 1990 where he represented Hawaiʻi for 23 years until his retirement on January 3rd, 2013. While the Senator also championed many causes that stem from his military service and early work as an educator, he is most recognized for his passion for Native Hawaiian issues and for bringing true aloha to Capitol Hill.
Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell is recognized as a pillar of the medical profession in Hawaiʻi. Groundbreaking research in Hawaiian healing traditions, the founding of the U.H. Native Hawaiian School of Medicine, and his encouragement of students to become physicians are a few of his many contributions that have strengthened the tradition of medicine in Hawaiʻi and propelled it into the future by incorporating the best of western medical practices.
Hawaiian musician, composer, and documentary director Eddie Kamae has, together with wife and producer Myrna Kamae, devoted more than fifty years to preserving authentic Hawaiian culture, history and music. From Waiʻanae to Washington, D.C., ten award-winning documentaries in the Hawaiian Legacy Series have reached more than 6 million through nationwide primetime television, film festivals, and community events. More than 500,000 students have participated in their presentations and classroom discussions.
Marvlee Naukana-Gilding served the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa since 1982. Former director Carlos Andrade remarked, “She is the living repository of what has transpired since the Kaʻū Report catalyzed the creation of Hawaiian Studies as a formally recognized discipline within the Academy, probably the first of its kind in the world.” Beginning as a secretary and continuing throughout the terms of several directors, she earned a Bachelor’s degree and later a Master’s degree in Library Science. Considered irreplaceable, she worked part-time for the Center and its library from her retirement up to very the day of her sudden, unexpected passing in July, 2013.
Of funds raised from the 2013 I Ulu I Ke Kumu event, $15,000 were allocated to the Student Emergency Fund, an innovative financial assistance tool that helps students who experience unexpected events continue their enrollment uninterrupted. The balance of $5,000 was committed to the Dean’s Student Advisory Circle, a group of undergraduate and graduate students, to host scholarly brown bags, provide mentoring sessions, and support student conference attendance and presentations.
The I Ulu I Ke Kumu award reflects the wisdom of the Hawaiian proverb, I ulu nō ka lālā i ke kumu, the branches grow from the trunk. The proverb is a reminder that without ancestors, the current generation would not exist.
Previous honorees include Haunani Apoliona, Michael J. Chun, Nanette Judd, Lynette & Richard Paglinawan, Alan Murakami and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Oswald Stender, Haunani-Kay Trask, Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa, Hoʻokahe Wai Hoʻoulu ʻĀina, Manu Kaʻiama, Kū Kahakalau, Naomi Losch, Florence Lolena Nicholas, Kimo Alama Keaulana, and William J. Aila, Jr.