Kuleana: We All Have a Responsibility
The Hawaiian word for having a personal sense of responsibility is “kuleana.” Our Native Hawaiian staff at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are dedicated to the work they do to protect the exceptional array of natural and cultural resources in the largest contiguous, fully protected conservation area in the United States. Here they each share their kuleana for Papahānaumokuākea.
My kuleana to my family, to my place, to my people, and to my culture has always been to learn from them, grow from them, always lend a hand when you can, make them proud, and then when your time pau (finished), make sure that you’ve had a hand in readying the future generation to stand in your place. Iʻve been blessed with the opportunity to live and breathe my kuleana through Papahānaumokuākea.
Malia Kapuaonālani Evans
Educator and Native Hawaiian Outreach Associate
Deeply embedded within the Hawaiian worldview are generational values that uphold the familial relationships we maintain to the land, the ocean, the atmosphere, and the organisms around us. The value of mālama (to care for, protect, preserve) reinforces the kuleana I have to these elder family members that have continued to feed and sustain our lāhui (nation, people). Hawaiian knowledge systems endure, and are valuable, applicable, and guide the rewarding work I do on behalf of Papahānaumokuākea.
I knew that it was my kuleana to protect Papahānaumokuākea for future generations. In every facet of my work, I am able to create designs through a cultural lens by incorporating Hawaiian motifs and sensibilities.
Within Papahānaumokuākea, I think of my place with an attitude of kōkua, how can I help someone? I invite new employees to meet with me to learn our oli and mele (chants and songs) that are used at meetings and community events. Helping people learn ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) ensures that our staff are comfortable with annunciation of these Hawaiian words. This gives them confidence and connection to my home, my Hawai’i.
Keolohilani H. Lopes Jr.
JIMAR/PMNM Field Logistics Technician
When I travel into Papahānaumokuākea, I take along my entire family and all of the people not able to make these journeys. I do my best to observe nature and absorb the power of the place, while walking with a light foot. This job takes me into what is arguably the most sacred place to Native Hawaiians, Papahānaumokuākea.
Connection to place and knowing where you come from will guide you to where you're headed. In 2002, I felt this connection on a physical, spiritual, and cultural level while visiting all 10 islands and atolls of our kūpuna (elder) islands—a truly life changing experience. Since then, it has been 19 years that I have had the privilege of serving our lāhui (Native Hawaiian race) and protecting one of our most sacred wahi pana (legendary place), Papahānaumokuākea. I have the opportunity to work across many in the Native Hawaiian community to bring people to place.
Native Hawaiian Program Specialist
I believe that part of my kuleana is to make sure our management is always seeking to be pono or appropriate, correct, and deemed necessary by traditional standards in the Hawaiian culture for Native Hawaiians and all others. I also believe my kuleana is to make sure we are always looking back to look forward as the navigators did.