Public Presentations

Public Webinar Descriptions:

At this time our presentations are limited to online webinars due to the pandemic. The descriptions of the various presentations are below. To register for one of them, go to the Program Calendar page. We ask for a nominal donation of $20 to support our programming. See our Program Calendar for dates and times, and to register.



Hawaiian Culture:

The Hawaiians

This program provides an introduction to aspects of Hawaiian culture, briefly covering many of the topics presented in the other webinars listed below. It is specifically designed for new teachers and others new to the islands who have very little background on Hawaiian culture and practices. The topics includ the origins of the Hawaiian people (touching briefly on navigation and landfinding), the later arrival of Tahitians, Hawaiian environments as resource zones, the “canoe plants” brought by the Polynesian settlers, aspects of the spiritual worldview, the moku-ahupua‘a system, taro production, and the system of checks and balances that promoted a productive society. This talk points out the richness and complexity of Hawaiian culture and society, and the many arts and sciences they mastered.
Check program calendar for days and times.

Introduction to Hawaiian Language and Place Names

Confused by Hawaiian terms? Baffled by Hawaiian place names? Embarrassed when you mispronounce Hawaiian words? This simple introduction to Hawaiian language and place names will give you tools and insights to improve your pronunciation and enhance your appreciation of the language of these islands. You will learn basic sentence structure and word order that will help you break down longer words. The focus on place names will give you an overview of common place-based terms and how place names are constructed. This is a valuable introductory lesson for those new to the islands, or who have never had the opportunity to learn.
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The settling of the Island Pacific over 1000 years ago is one of the greatest adventures of human history. Using double-hulled voyaging canoes built with stone-age tools, and navigating by stars and swells, Pacific Islanders journeyed as far as 2500 miles to find tiny dots of land in the middle of an ocean covering one third the surface of the planet. Then they traveled back, and forth, and back, and forth to settle those islands. With no maps, instruments or written texts, how did they do it? Until the 1976 voyage of the Hōkūle‘a, scholars did not believe that such intentional navigation and landfinding had been possible. In this engaging presentation, Doug Herman reveals the intricate arts of Oceanic navigation and landfinding that enabled this amazing feat.
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Oceanic Canoe Building

A thousand years ago or more, peoples living on small islands in the Pacific Ocean were able to build large voyaging canoes that could travel over 2000 miles and back between remote islands.  This talk explores the art and engineering involved in building a large canoe in traditional times, from the making of the stone tools to the weaving of the sails and the lashing and gluing of the parts. It demonstrates the ingenuity of Pacific Islanders, living on volcanic islands with no usable metals, in determining the best materials and methods for using only what they had at hand to make these amazing vessels. 
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Pele, Kilauea and Rocks as People

When Kilauea threatened the town of Pahoa in 2014, Hawaiians and newcomers had very different reactions.  Newcomers viewed this as a natural hazard threatening their homes and that needed to be dealt with, while Hawaiians saw it as a manifestation of Pele, an ancestral being, acting in her own home.  Because for Hawaiians, the islands are family, and rocks—broken-off pieces of the bodies of the islands—are therefore also part of the family. This relationship is recognized in various ways from ancient times to today. And with that kinship relationship comes responsibilities. This presentation draws on myth, ritual, sacred places, and historical and contemporary experiences to elucidate this kinship bond between Hawaiian society, the mineral world, and the spiritual world. It explores the various roles that rocks play in Hawaiian culture, both materially and spiritually, and beckons us all to view the mineral world as animate.
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Living Ahupua‘a: Managing our Resources, Yesterday and Today

From the 14th to the 18th centuries, the Hawaiian islands experienced a land-and-sea management system based on land divisions (ahupua‘a) running from the mountains to the sea.  These were grouped into larger, semi-self-sustaining groups called moku. The moku-ahupua‘a system was implemented to ensure access to necessary resources and fruitful production of agriculture and fisheries.  The land divisions cut through all the major climatic-resource areas produced by altitudinal zonation.  In each ahupua‘a, resources were carefully managed by an overseer. While this system fell slowly into disrepair during the 19th century and was largely replaced by U.S. land laws after 1900, there is now a slow resurgence of reclaiming traditional practices.  The use of traditional knowledge is being merged with contemporary science, while retaining the critical Hawaiian value of “malama ‘aina”—take care of the land.  This presentation will explain the traditional system, and examine two contemporary case studies where conservation and traditional food production are being brought back: Hā‘ena ahupua‘a on Kaua‘i, and He‘eia ahupua‘a on O‘ahu.
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Storied Places: Appreciating Hawaiian Cultural Landscapes

Cultural Landscape is a holistic way of viewing a culture’s relationship—physical, emotional and spiritual—with the land. To elucidate this principle, this presentation uses the example of Nu‘uanu, the valley uphill from downtown Honolulu.  Underneath the physical transformation by Western urbanization lies a storied landscape rich in places, myths, legends, and historical events.  Based on research conducted for the Pacific Worlds Nu‘uanu community profile, you will be walked through layers of history, culture and meaning, from the mythic past to the present.  By this you may come to look differently at your own place, and begin to explore your local cultural landscape.
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Ho‘oponopono: Hawaiian approaches to Conflict Resolution

The traditional Hawaiian approach to resolving conflicts is rooted in a deep understanding of balance and harmony in the universe and in society.  Dis-ease arises when things get out of balance, and so traditional healing is also linked to the resolution of conflicts among members of the community. This presentation will give a brief overview of the structure and principles of traditional Hawaiian society.  It will then examine two approaches.  Both are called ho`oponopono—“the act of setting things right.”  The first is the traditional method, involving several members of the community and a facilitator to elicit the root of the problem and to develop a solution that is agreeable to all.  The second is a modern revelation by the late kahuna la‘au lapa‘au (healing kahuna) Morrnah Simeona, that takes the traditional process to an internal level for self-healing.  Both reflect broader understandings of how humans should act in the world, the taking of responsibility for the effects of our actions, and the permanent rectification of conflicts without lingering animosity.
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Understanding Hawaiian Sovereignty

For most of the 19th century, the Hawaiian Kingdom was a sovereign and independent country on the world stage. Recognized through treaties and brandishing all the traditional symbols of a sovereign nation, the Kingdom had 25 consulates in countries around the world. How did this group of traditional chiefdoms become a modern country, and why is it not still independent? Based on the Smithsonian exhibition “E Mau Ke Ea: The Sovereign Hawaiian Nation,” this presentation will walk you through the unification of the islands under Kamehameha I, the formation of a constitutional monarchy, international recognition, the impact of Western businesses, and the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. From there it explores the impact of Americanization through the Territorial Period, Pearl Harbor and post Statehood, leading up to the Hawaiian Renaissance and the growth of the sovereignty movement. Various approaches to sovereignty are explained.

This is essential history for anyone visiting or residing in these islands.
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Hawai‘i’s Unique Physical Environments

Volcanism and the formation of the Islands

Hawai‘i’s volcanos are not of the type most people are familiar with.  Mid-oceanic volcanos rise from a thin spot in the Earth’s mantle and build gradually, without the explosive eruptions that characterize other volcanos.  Consequently, they do not grow into steep conical shapes like Mt. Fuji, but rather in broad, gentle rises that are much, much larger, often pocked with small cones.  In this presentation, you will be walked through the stages in the life cycle of Hawaiian volcanos and how these result in the formation of each island.
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Shaping the Islands: Erosion and Reefs

As soon as a Hawaiian volcano breaches the surface of the ocean, wind, rain, surf and other erosional forces begin acting upon it.  These forces act differently in different places due to weather patterns, altitude, rainshadow effect, and other mitigating factors.  From the smooth dome of Kilauea to the amphitheater valleys of Kaua‘i, erosion carved each island into its unique shape. Meanwhile, reefs take shape around the islands, and experience their own life cycles.
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Climate and Water

Yes, the climate is “tropical,” but what does that mean exactly, and how does it manifest in different locations around the islands?  This presentation explains the rainfall pattern across the islands, and the different types of weather we receive here.  Once the rain falls, where does the water go?  Water is our most valuable resource, and you will learn about how it is regenerated, where it is stored, and how we access it.
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Ecosystems, Plants and Animals

Because Hawai‘i is the most remote group of islands on the planet, it was very difficult for plants and animals to arrive here.  Once they did, many of them evolved into entirely new species to take advantage of the different environments.  As a result, over 95% of Hawai‘i’s native plant species and 80% of the native birds were found nowhere else on earth.  Because of climatic variations, these—as well as newer, introduced species—are unevenly distributed around the islands.  Many native species are already extinct, and more are threatened or endangered.
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Natural Hazards and Safety

The Hawaiian Islands are subject to all the major types of natural disaster: droughts, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and more!  In addition, there are many potential hazards for the unwary traveler.  We will explain the circumstances of each major natural disaster and how to mitigate their effects, and also highlight some key points for personal safety.
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Island by Island Overview

Each Island in this archipelago is unique.   This presentation gives you a guided tour to understand each island’s physical landscapes, weather patterns, and ecosystems.  This will enable you to understand and appreciate why certain human activities take place in certain locations.
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