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Akana leaves ‘rich legacy for future generations’

By Staff | Apr 28, 2011

Musicians and dancers stepped up to the stage to celebrate the life of Anthony “Akoni” Akana at Saturday’s service, including Keali‘i Reichel, Uluwehi Guerrero, Lei‘ohu Ryder, Owana Salazar, Wilmont Kahaiali‘i, Makalapua Kanuha and Donnalei Gaison. Photo by Louise Rockett.

LAHAINA — His name was Anthony “Akoni” Fox Hulilauakea Akana.

“I am a Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and French. I was born and raised in the Territory of Hawaii in 1956 on the island of Oahu,” he once told the Lahaina News.

The son of Frances Robello and Kainoa “Skippy” Akana of Ainakoa was passionately proud of his heritage.

“I went to a private school for Hawaiian children put together by the biggest trust in the state, a trust that descended from the Kamehameha line, so it’s called Kamehameha Schools,” he explained. “I have been on Maui since 1978.”

Akana was the founder and executive director emeritus of the Friends of Moku’ula (FOM), a nonprofit established in 1995.

After a long battle against diabetes, Akana succumbed on March 25 under hospice care at home in Ainakoa, with family and friends by his side. He was 54.

On Saturday, April 23, a celebration of Akoni’s life was held at Moku’ula in Lahaina to share one last hula, mele, oli and mo’olelo. There was plenty of joy, laughter and tears.

Kahu Kalani Wong, Kamehameha Schools Maui chaplain, was a fellow Kamehameha Schools graduate in the Class of ’74.

Wong captured Akoni’s spirit with a chicken-skin story about a chance meeting with his classmate in 2003.

“We sat down and chatted, and we caught up with each other, found out what was happening, what made us into who we are this day. I learned so much about my past,” he said.

Akoni told Wong, “He’d hear this voice at night, and he’d walk through the house, ‘What that?’ And it was (his) tutu reading her scriptures in Hawaiian, in chant tone.

“When I was writing this mana’o,” Wong continued, “I realized that is what my tutu was doing to me. She was reading her scriptures in olelo, in the chant tone, and I dismissed it as this lady who didn’t want to move on to the 20th century. I realized that during my time of growing up, I had dismissed those things — those things that Akoni was bringing back to me… and I thank him for that.

FOM Cultural Consultant Hokulani Holt joined the sharing with a joyful genealogy chant.

“We know that we are because of others. We know we exist here today, because of the ancestors who came before us. If it were not for our ancestors who decided to have our ancestors for those many generations, and our grandparents and our great grandparents and our parents, we do not exist. And so we must eternally be grateful to our ancestors who come before us. So I am privileged to be able to share with you a portion Akoni’s mo’okuauhau.

Fifth District Sen. Roz Baker presented Mr. and Mrs. Akana with a certificate from the Senate of the 26th Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2011.

Baker read the proclamation: “He leaves us with a significant and rich legacy for future generations, a collection of dozens of mele in the Hawaiian language and a vision for restoration and preservation of Moku’ula in Lahaina, Maui. Along with other employees of Kaanapali Beach Hotel, he helped create the Friends of Moku’ula foundation… As the foundation’s executive director, he worked tirelessly to get community, government and financial support to contract archeologists, acquire land access and begin the process of restoration.

Mayor Alan Arakawa presented the Akana ‘Ohana with a proclamation from the County of Maui, listing in detail Akoni’s numerous talents and accomplishments.

He was a kumu hula, songwriter, chanter, actor, speaker, friend, brother, consultant, international hula judge and author.

He was a cofounder of the Hula o Na Keiki annual solo hula competition held at Kaanapali Beach Hotel.

He published articles in distinguished magazines worldwide and composed numerous meles sung by prominent local talent.

He acted in episodes of “Hawaii 5-0” and “The Young and the Restless.

However, according to the mayor, “his passion, heart and soul was dedicated to the Friends of Moku’ula.

Ke’eaumoku Kapu and Na Koa I Ka Meheu O Na Kupuna also honored the community leader.

In a pule, Kahu Wong rejoiced, “We have been blessed by having known Akoni. Mahalo Ke Akua for the way that he sought to give us hope for the future by taking us back to our roots.”