October 13, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: Two Teenagers Worth Recognizing (We couldn't pick just one)
At a time when some teenagers spend their summers playing video games, 14-year-old Native Hawaiian Hokani Maria used his summertime to build a traditional four-person, double-hulled outrigger canoe, similar to the ones seen in the movie “Moana.”
Hailing from Kapaau, Kohala on the Big Island, Maria earned a $10,000 grant in March through Running Strong’s Dreamstarter program, a nonprofit supporting young native leaders. Maria’s dream was clear: He wants to help revive the art of traditional canoe-making and involve his community in the process. From early June to mid-July, Maria worked as a team with other students, mentors and master navigators to complete the project.
On September 23, 2017, the completed canoe was launched on its maiden voyage around Pelekane Bay, near Puukohola Heiau, following a traditional ceremony. This was the first canoe built in Kohala since the 1970s.
Autumn Peltier already has years of advocacy behind her. She’s met the prime minister, she’s attended the Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly and she’s marched on the highway in the name of water protection. At just 13 years old, Peltier is now a nominee for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
The 151 nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize were recently announced and the only Canadian candidate is this Anishinaabe teen from Wikwemikong First Nation.
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Dancing to Heal
The Wales Kingikmiut Dance Festival is now in its 18th year. It was started in the 1990s, when the Native dance tradition in Wales was revived after decades of absence. This has since grown to be one of the largest Alaska Native dance festivals in the state. It’s a high-energy, late-night celebration of family, community and cultural heritage.
Anna Oxereok is president of the Native Village of Wales, which organizes the festival. Throughout the weekend, she’s running around town and the school, making sure everything goes smoothly. When she has a few moments to talk, she explains the festival is about more than dance:
“To me, it’s a healing process. If you look, they’re visiting,” Oxereok said. “They don’t get to see each other but once a year. A lot of relatives that never see each other are getting to see each other, or meeting our relatives that we didn’t know.”
Across the room, a group of women are singing songs in Inupiaq. Oxereok commented on the significance of this sort of rite of collective memory.
“Our language is so much deeper than the English,” Oxereok said. “We can’t seem to get it across with enough passion in English compared to Inupiaq.”