69News: Kumu Hula Hōkūlani Holt-Padilla receives honorary degree

Hokulani Holt Padilla is covered in a cascade of lei after receiving an honorary doctorate degree from The World Indigenous Nations University on Tuesday afternoon during the 2019 He Au Honua at UH-Maui College.
Maui News / Matthew Thayer photo

March 20, 2019, KAHULUI, Maui — Hokulani Holt-Padilla, kumu hula and noted educator and cultural leader, was the keynote speaker for the shared her thoughts at the He Au Honua: Indigenous Research Conference, welcoming about 500 people to the gathering of indigenous scholars.

“For me, one of the important parts of cultural knowledge and cultural transmittal and cultural grounding is place. We have to be connected to place. Without place, we do not know where we come from, we do not know who our people are, we have no anchor,” she said.

“We must come from place. We must recognize and we must honor and we must uphold, we must protect. We must do all of those wonderful words because place is who we are as kanaka, as oiwi, as indigenous people. Place is who we are,” she said.

Hōkūlani Holt, PhD is a master hula teacher who first studied with her grandmother Ida Pakulani Long, and later learned from her aunt Kahili Cummings, mother Leiana Woodside and Hoakalei Kamau‘u. Holt is also an educator, playwright, composer and director. Her bilingual hula drama about Maui’s premier chief, Kahekili, toured the U.S., Japan and Germany. In addition to leading the hālau she founded in 1976, Pā‘ū O Hi‘iaka, she directs Ka Hikina O Ka Lā, a Hawaiian student scholarship program at UH Maui College. She also works with nonprofits Kauahea Inc. and Lālākea Foundation, teaches community culture classes, and oversees cultural education centers in Waihe‘e and Wai‘ehu, Maui.