Report Back: On Native Voices Reading & Lecture Series

According to the Fall 2010 demographics at UH Mānoa, nearly 3,500 students identify as native, with 3,328 Pacific Islanders and 89 American Indians and Alaska Natives.

When Brandy Nalani McDougall and I joined the faculty at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa (UHM) last fall, we knew we wanted to create and foster a space for native voices, since there are so few spaces for us in this world. We wanted to create a space for all peoples to respectfully listen to our voices.

Indigenous peoples are silenced and marginalized in our own homelands. Recovering from and continuing to fight a legacy of land dispossession, poverty, and cultural losses, native peoples have critical perspectives to share.

Thus, we began the Native Voices Reading and Lecture Series to create a space for native writers, orators, performers, artists, intellectuals, educators, and community activists from our campus, Hawai’i, the Pacific, and across the U.S.

At this point, we have held five Native Voices events, featuring indigenous peoples of Hawaiian, Samoan, Fijian, Chamorro, and Ma’ohi descent. We want to thank everyone who has attended the series, we’ve had a great turnout–around 70-100 people at each event. Also, We want to thank the English Department, American Studies, Center for Pacific Islands Studies, Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, and the Pacific Writers’ Connection for sponsoring our events. Most of all, we want to thank all of those who have shared their native voices with our audiences.

Our most recent event was last week, and our next one is happening next week (2/16/12). Here is the flier for our next event, which will feature Monica A. “Ka’imipono” Kaiwi, the Department Head of English at the Kamehameha Schools–Kapalama. She will talk about her school’s effort to integrate Native Hawaiian literature into their curriculum. Please share with anyone who might be interested.

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Last week’s event was our first in 2012. It was very special for a number of reasons. Three of my undergraduate students from my Lit of the Pacific course last semester performed: Lauren Malialani Cabaniss, Joleen Salas, and Leilani Johnson-Hagmoc. I was very impressed with (and proud of) their poems and performances–I have no doubt that if they continue their craft they will all publish books someday.

Michael Puleloa earned his PHD in English with a creative writing emphasis at UHM. I’ve heard his fiction manuscript is incredible–so it was a pleasure to finally hear him read his work. No doubt his first book of fiction will be published soon.

As if that wasn’t enough, we were all honored and humbled to hear established writers Caroline Sinavaiana (“Sina”) and Flora Devatine! Sina is a faculty member in the UHM English Department and a very important and generous mentor (aka auntie) to me. Flora is a well-known Ma’ohi writer who was visiting from Tahiti. I will never forget listening to her read–amazing. Thanks to Titaua Porcher for facilitating Flora’s visit.

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Brief History:

Our first event featured Samoan writer Sia Figiel. She read alongside three of our very talented Pacific graduate students: Marie Alohalani Brown, Tagi Qolouvaki, and No’u Revilla. The reading took place at Revolution Books (special thanks to Carolyn Hadfield):

Our second event featured Dan Taulapapa McMullin. He read with graduate students David Keali’i and Kai Gaspar. The reading took place in the English Department lecture room:

Our third event featured a roundtable on demilitarization in Guahan and Hawai’i. This event was timed to coincide with the Moana Nui conference and the anti-APEC protests. The roundtable featured Julian Aguon, Lisa Natividad, Ty Kawika Tengan, Terri Keko’olani, and Kaleikoa Ka’eo. And yes, we did somehow fit 70 people in a circle. This was our first event in the Halau o Haumea, at the Center for Hawaiian Studies.

Our last event of last semester featured Imaikalani Kalahele and visiting writer Terisa Siagatonu. They read alongside graduate student Donovan Kuhio Colleps, and undergraduate writers Uluwehi Cashman & Paul Robins. Once again, the reading was held at the beautiful halau:

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p.s. we enjoy making cool posters for the series (all the posters feature native artists):

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4 thoughts on “Report Back: On Native Voices Reading & Lecture Series

  1. Hey Craig, I think you and Brandy are doing fabulous and necessary work. Before you created this series, was there no other consistent space for indigenous folks to share their work? Or is it that there has not been such a space at the university? I also believe it’s very important for such a space to be curated/helmed by indigenous people, that leadership, visibility, and of course, shared experience.

  2. thanks for your kind words, barbara! I def agree that it’s important for such spaces to be directed by indigenous people. there are def other spaces on campus that highlight Pacific & Hawaiian issues, and of course spaces that highlight the mixed and multi- issues, so we see our series as complementary to everything that is going on. xo, c

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