canada africa partner reservation DLNR breaks tradition in the curatorial selection process for the Mauna ‘Ala Royal Mausoleum

DLNR breaks tradition in the curatorial selection process for the Mauna ‘Ala Royal Mausoleum


Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Dawn Chang is meeting today with leaders from several Hawaiian organizations about concerns about the curatorial role at the Mauna ‘Ala Royal Mausoleum in Nu’uanu.

The resting place of Hawaiian royalty has had fifteen curators since the mid-19th century, and the majority of them are descendants of families who have served Ali’i for generations.

For more than a hundred years, the lineal descendants of High Chief Ho’olulu, a trusted advisor to Kamehameha I, served as caretakers, or kahu, for the Mauna’Ala Royal Mausoleum.

This family tradition began when Kamehameha entrusted Ho’olulu with his remains, Kimo Alama Keaulana said.

“So Ho’olulu was assigned to carry the bones. And it was Hoapili and Keōpuōlani who brought Ho’olulu to the place where Kamehameha’s bones would rest,” Keaulana explained.

Keaulana said his kupuna, Kūkanaloa, joined this effort at Ho’olulu in 1819.

“My kupuna was the one designated and chosen by Kamehameha, the first to secure the cave in which he would be buried,” Keaulana said. “And so he found that cave and cleared it physically and spiritually. He put Kamehameha’s personal belongings in the cave, including his canoe. And he prepared it for Ho’olulu.”

Mauna ‘Ala Royal Mausoleum

When Mauna ‘Ala was established 46 years later, the ali’i of the Kamehameha lineage entrusted the descendants of Ho’olulu and Hoapili to serve as kahu of the Royal Mausoleum.

The Mauna ‘Ala Royal Mausoleum has been the resting place of the Hawaiian ali’i since 1865. This 8-acre site in Nuʻuanu, adjacent to the Oʻahu Cemetery, is home to more than 50 aliʻi and trusted advisors from the Kamehameha and Kalākaua lineages.

At the time, the idea of ​​disclosing the location of one’s remains was a fairly new practice, especially for Native Hawaiians. Traditionally, Hawaiians would secretly lay their kupuna to rest as it was believed that the iwi, or bones, contained the spirit of their kupuna and needed to be protected.

A majority of the fifteen trustees who served at Mauna ‘Ala are descendants of Ho’olulu and Hoapili. This includes generations of the Beckley Kahea, Taylor and Maioho families.

Keaulana said these Kahu did more than just maintain facilities.

“They knew all the chants that tell them that we are serving them and to give them the feeling that someone is really taking care of you, not just the physical space, but the spiritual space,” Keaulana said. “That’s what makes a Kahu. You can take care of the physical and the spiritual.”

DLNR selects new curator for Mauna ʻAla

DLNR announced earlier this week that it was breaking with tradition and selecting a curator for Mauna ‘Ala who was not a direct descendant of these families and who had not trained under previous Kahu.

The Royal Mausoleum State Monument is the burial place of the Hawaiian royal family.

Courtesy of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources

The Royal Mausoleum State Monument is the burial place of the Hawaiian royal family.

This prompted leaders of the royal societies and Hawaiian civic clubs to call for a meeting with DLNR President Dawn Chang to discuss the kahu selection process for Mauna ‘Ala.

These Hawaiian organizations share in the maintenance of their ali’i’s respective crypts or vaults. For example, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs cares for the crypt of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana’ole.

During the kahu selection process, these organizations contacted the Governor’s Office to provide cultural and historical insight into the role of kahu in Mauna ‘Ala. But they say they were left out of the process. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs was also not consulted.

When asked what the selection process for the trustee position was like, DLNR said in an emailed statement that the process was exactly the same as the process used for hiring all state employees, according to normal practices and regulations.

Finalists for curator include cultural and direct descendants

Keaulana was one of four finalists for the position, along with Kumu Hula Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett and James Maioho, whose family has held the kahu role since 1966.

Keaulana trained under the Beckley Kahea and Maioho ‘ohana, and served Princess Abigail Kawānanākoa until her death. He was initially surprised by the choice, but Keaulana said it’s a difficult position to fill, especially if you don’t understand all the history.

‘I don’t think they understand. In my interview I even told them things about Mauna ‘Ala that they didn’t even know. But I don’t think they understand what the characteristics and qualities of a kahu are,” Keaulana said.

“And I think those are pretty tough things to put in a job description. I mean, you can’t say, ‘Kahu has to know this required oli,’ ‘Kahu has to work morning, noon and evening,’ ‘Kahu has to know the proper prayers in English and Hawaiian.’

DLNR selected Doni Leinā’ala Hanuna Pahukoa Chong as the next curator for Mauna ‘Ala. Chairman Chang said in a press release earlier this week: “It was Doni’s balance of experiences, perspectives and cultural connections to Mauna ‘Ala, as well as her keen understanding of the unique and varied role of the curatorial position that set her apart. ”

Chong previously worked at Hawaiian Electric Company and Keiki O Ka’Āina. She is also a member of the Ka’ahumanu Society.

DLNR initially scheduled media availability with Chong for May 15, but postponed it at the last minute to meet with Native Hawaiian leaders.