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Free conference to recognize women who have kept Hawaiian culture alive

By Staff | Mar 5, 2020

Alice Kaehukai Shaw Ka‘ae served as the guardian for Moku'ula and Mokuhinia.

LAHAINA – March is Women’s History Month, and a local nonprofit – the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN) – will co-host a celebratory free conference here in Lahaina with Waiola Church.

The conference will run Wednesday through Friday, March 25-27, in the Waiola Church hall. Meals will be available for sale.

There will also be a fundraiser on Saturday, March 28, at The Loft. Admission is $30.

Dr. Apela Colorado, Ph.D, is WISN’s founder and director. The event will focus on two concerns of WISN: restoring awareness and appreciation of women who have kept Hawaiian culture alive, and honoring the ancient sacred sites of the West Side for which they cared.

On Wednesday, March 25, the group will visit the graves of Alice Kaehukai Shaw Ka’ae, Inez Ashdown and Martha Beckwith. At 7 p.m., the unveiling of art honoring Ka’ae, the last kahu of Moku’ula and Mokuhinia, will be held at Village Galleries in Lahaina.

On Thursday, March 26, at Waiola Church, an open exhibit of banners by Lydia Ruyle will be on display in “Spirit Banners of the Divine Feminine.”

After the opening ceremony and introductions at 9 a.m., Colorado, Maile Shaw Radovich and Kathy Corcoran will discuss women who preserved history, West Maui sacred sites, research on Ka’ae’s life, the Kamehameha Day Parade, history of Waiola Church and other topics at 9:30 a.m.

At 10:30 a.m., Katie Hofner, Ruyle’s niece, will present “Spirit Banners, the Feminine Face of God.” This will be followed by “Wahi Pana – Storied Places of West Maui” by Michelle Anderson.

Other activities slated for Thursday include Dreamwork (come prepared to share a dream), lomi-lomi massage by Jeana Naluai of Ho’omana Spa, and visiting Ka’ae’s memorial, former house location and Mokuhinia. The day will close with a ceremony at Ka’ae’s monument at 4 p.m.

On Friday, March 27, after the opening ceremony at 9 a.m., Dreamwork with Dr. Colorado starts at 9:15 a.m.

Friday’s lineup also includes an “Inner Journey through Art” by Maui artist Nisla from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., a tour of West Maui sacred sites at 2 p.m. and closing ceremony in Kaanapali at 4 p.m.

The benefit on Saturday, March 28, at The Loft (736 Front St.) at 5 p.m. will feature pupus, drinks and a silent auction; presentation by Dr. Colorado; dance performance by Jeana Naluai; and honoring Anderson, author of “Storied Places of West Maui.”

Admission is a $30 donation at door. Attendees are asked to wear colors of the moon: blue, lavender, white and silver.

All proceeds will go to the WISN Hawaii Fund to support improvement and restoration of ancient (pre-contact) sacred sites in West Maui.

For information, or to donate products and services for the silent auction, contact Samantha Carder at Samantha@wisn.org or (314) 808-5923.

After moving here in the 1980s and marrying Keola Levan Sequeira, Apela met a Shaw descendant, who explained that the Moku’ula/Mokuhinia area in Lahaina near Keola’s house had once been a site that reverenced family and fresh water.

The pond, Mokuhinia, comes from a stream that flows down the mountain and empties out into the sea by 505 Front Street. A sacred mo’o (lizard), symbolizing clean water, lived in it, and Ka’ae, a cultural practitioner descended from ali’i on Hawaii Island, served as the guardian for the site.

In accordance with her own American Indian heritage, Apela wanted to honor her new home and Ka’ae’s memory. She and Keola spent many years searching for her grave.

Finally, with the prayers of Rev. Earl Kukahiko and Grale Chong, they located the grave in Waiola Church’s graveyard. Next, they contacted members of the Shaw family, and they all worked to arrange for a monument for the grave that was installed in January 2018.

Subsequently, Apela came to realize that although there exist many monuments and tours related to post-contact sites in West Maui, many pre-contact sites have no markers or markers with incomplete information.

Apela wants to honor women who have, usually unheralded, preserved Hawaiian culture.