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‘O Hawai‘i Ku‘u Kulāiwi: Songs Of My Beloved Homeland

E Hawaiʻi e kuʻu one hānau ē
Kuʻu home kulāiwi nei

O Hawaiʻi, O sands of my birth
My native home 

Kulāiwi literally means “plain of bones.” This single word clearly illuminates our people’s perception of our native land, this place we call home. In the mind and heart of the Hawaiian, Hawai‘i is not just where we were born and raised. Nor is it simply a place of residence. When we understand Hawai‘i as our kulāiwi, it becomes so much more than that. It is the land in which our ancestors have been buried, and where our iwi may one day return to join theirs in the earth that sustains future generations. Therefore, to love our land is to love our ancestors.

This inseverable relationship between land and people—aloha ‘āina—is at the core of the Hawaiian worldview. Aloha ‘āina is an ancestral fact; a fact that has been recorded in our genealogies and histories for centuries. It is both birthright and burden, inherited from those very kūpuna who make up our kulāiwi. And it is a relationship that needs to be nurtured and fed constantly. 

ʻOli nō au i nā pono lani ou
E Hawaiʻi aloha ē 

I will sing of thy heavenly righteousness
Hawaiʻi beloved

Because we love our kulāiwi in such a deeply personal way, we are driven to express that aloha through various actions. Some people express their love by composing and performing mele that extoll the beauty of their homeland. Some are inspired to delve into cultural arts and practices as masters of their craft. For others, intense love for their place activates political or civic engagement, leading them to become voices for their communities. Others still may find their passion in resource management, land stewardship, or even food sustainability. However this aloha manifests, its force is undeniable and inspires actions that result in real change.

Currently, Kamehameha Schools is laying the foundation for a new Hawaiian Culture-Based Education Framework, one of the cornerstones of which has been named “ ‘O Hawai‘i Ku‘u Kulāiwi” in acknowledgement of the importance of aloha ‘āina. When implemented, this framework will act as a cultural compass to guide all educational endeavors at Kamehameha. It is our belief that this shift will help us better prepare the next generation of Hawaiian leaders for their role in the future of Hawai‘i and the world. 

E hauʻoli e nā ʻōpio o Hawaiʻi nei
ʻOli ē, ʻoli ē 

Be joyful, youth of Hawaiʻi 
Sing forth joyfully

Tonight, our students will use mele as a powerful expression of aloha ‘āina, of devotion to their kulāiwi. Mele have always been tools of great power and influence. They have the ability to transport and transform the listener. Entire communities can be inspired to unite in an effort to alter environments and even change the course of events. We hope that the mele our students present tonight will reignite in each one of us that ancestral connection to our land, and that we will continually rally together to care for this place we call home.  

Mai nā aheahe makani e pā mai nei
Mau ke aloha no Hawaiʻi 

From the gentle breezes blow
Hawaiʻi's aloha forever