Rep. Mina Morita's Blog

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Posted in Education,Environmental Protection,Events,General,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on November 6, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of giving Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier a ride to a friend’s house for a dinner party.  Although on sabbatical this year, he is feverishly organizing to launch a volunteer drive to typescript Hawaiian -language newspapers to make the entire collection word-searchable.  No language skill is necessary and forgive me for not using okina and kahako in my blog.

I don’t have a scanner so I’m going to practice my typing and accuracy, the desired skills needed for this project, by retyping parts of the brochure describing the project:

Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Over 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed from 1834 to 1948, equaling a million or more typescript pages of text.  Perhaps the largest native-language cache in the western world, the newspapers were an intentional national repository of knowledge, opinion and historical progess as Hawaii moved through kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territory, yet only 2% of that collection has been integrated into our English-speaking world today.

75,000 of the newspaper pages have been converted to digital images.  15,000 of which have been made into searchable typescript, but 60,000 pages remain unsearchable.  For a decade we have used OCR and paid operators to make quality searchable text, educating every person connected with the process.  The 15,000 pages showed the world the importance of this resource, but funding has continually dwindled.  We face closure of the project or export of the work to Asia.  Instead, we are enlisting an army of volunteers to type those pages word-for-word and make them all searchable.  We plan to liberate knowledge from the archival dust because knowledge liberates everyone.

Volunteers Needed – Be a part of this historical Hawaiian legacy effort

No Language Skill Necessary!

Mounting a locally-based volunteer drive will be a massive effort, with thousands of volunteers and a central coordinating hub to engage volunteers and guide production for reliability and accuracy.  The cost is higher than exporting the work and the effort is daunting but this allows for community engagement, personal investment in Hawaiian knowledge and Hawaii-centered kuleana in the product, supported by hands around the world.

Ike Kuokoa launches on November 28, 2011 (La Kuokoa since 1843) and will finish 60,000 pages on/before July 31, 2012 (La Hoihoi Ea).  Up and web-searchable by La Kuokoa 2012.

For pre-registration and more information go to:

My understanding of the volunteer effort is that a volunteer will “check-out” a newspaper page.  The volunteer will then typescript each article and return the page to the archive when pau.  The articles from the page will be reviewed for accuracy and, if necessary, returned to the volunteer to make corrections.  When completed the typescripted newspaper page will be credited to the volunteer as an acknowledgement of the volunteer’s participation and the volunteer may then “check-out” another page to be typescripted.

Puakea tells me that the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Classes, hula halau from around the world are among the groups challenging each other to amass volunteers for this effort.  He estimates that at least 3,000 volunteers are needed.

Most importantly, this cache of over 100 newspaper publications helps to reveal various viewpoints of Hawaiian life during a 100 year period.  Such insight has been invaluable.  For example, of particular interest to the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) are articles touching on marine ecosystem management in Hawai‘i, traditional and introduced fishing practices, climatic conditions, and storms and other significant weather events.  Read more about this particular project here.

I excitedly signed up, hope you will too.

Pilgrimage of Compassion – 2011

Posted in Events,Kauai,Sustainability by Mina Morita on August 7, 2011

Lawai International Center

Today I participated in the eleventh annual Pilgrimage of Compassion, as I have done for the past three years at the Lawai International Center.  Many of the sentiments I shared came from others and deserve to be repeated and their wisdom remembered each year.  Many of the participants have asked that I post what I shared today, which is below, and the link to the blog I posted last year.

Ano ai me ke aloha kakou, e na hulu mamo like ole.

Greetings, with aloha, among all of us, birds of many feathers. I think this is the 3rd time I have participated in this pilgrimage and each time I have opened with this greeting, which I learned from Puanani Burgess, a community builder and poet from Waianae. She learned this formal greeting from Pilahi Paki who was instrumental in giving Lynn guidance and the foundation to restore this area.  Puanani, who is also a Buddhist priest, told me she thought that this greeting demonstrates the Hawaiian mindset perfectly. The kaona, or hidden meaning, of this formal greeting is that even though we may look different we are all the same. And, scientifically, this is true. Through the human genome project we now know that 99.9% of humans are genetically the same but unfortunately, most conflicts focus on our differences be it race, gender or religion.

Respect for nature, universal human rights and a culture of peace. These are the kind of values we share and these values can be embodied in a single word, Aloha. Aloha is what brings us together today.  Aloha guides Lynn Muramoto and is the foundation of Lawai International Center. It is Aloha that allows this puu honua, this place of refuge, to transcend through generations.

Over twenty years ago another person that helped to give Lynn guidance is Alvin Shim, a Hawaii visionary and peacemaker and who was a mentor to many of Hawaii’s leaders.  Several weeks ago I was having dinner with his son, Pono Shim.  Pono continues his father’s legacy of social justice to spread the meaning of living with Aloha.

Pono told me, “you know Mina, we don’t have cultural diversity in Hawaii, what we have is a cultural hybrid.”  Pono explained to me that he viewed cultural diversity as being together in a defined area but still identified through our differences.  To Pono, cultural hybrid was more suitable in describing what we have in Hawaii – that we strive to blend the best qualities from each culture and bind them together through our shared value of Aloha.

Pono, a practitioner who stresses the importance of native storytelling to describe Aloha, compared the concept of a cultural hybrid to lei-making.  We all know that a lei is very special.  Many times a lei is a symbol and a gift of Aloha.

Kui Lei

We are all familiar with the kui lei, the most common type of lei making where we take similar flowers and with a needle poke through the center of the flower to string the flowers together.  Pono said this describes cultural diversity.  We have lots of beautiful kui leis but it’s usually all the same kind of flowers held together on a string.

However, the more traditional lei is either wili or haku, where you weave multiple lei materials held together with a strong backing and light cordage.  Pono explained that with a haku or wili you bring together many different types of materials, flowers and foliage, to create a lei.  If the backing and binding is done right the flowers and foliage will hold together no matter how hard you shake the lei.  However, if not bound correctly and tightly, the lei falls apart.  Similarly, without the backing and binding of Aloha our communities fall apart.

Haku Lei

At the 2009 pilgrimage, I shared how Hawaii became known as the Aloha State through Reverend Abraham Akaka famous statehood sermon in 1959.  To close, I want to share an excerpt of that timeless sermon with you again.

Kahu Abraham Akaka

We do not understand the meaning of Aloha until we realize its foundation in the power of God at work in the world. Since the coming of our missionaries in 1820, the name for God to our people has been Aloha. One of the first sentences I learned from my mother in my childhood was this from Holy Scripture: “Aloha ke Akua” – in other words, “God is Aloha.” Aloha is the power of God seeking to unite what is separated in the world – the power that unites heart with heart, soul with soul, life with life, culture with culture, race with race, nation with nation. Aloha is the power that can reunite when a quarrel has brought separation; aloha is the power that reunites a man with himself when he has become separated from the image of God within.

Aloha consists of this new attitude of heart, above negativism, above legalism. It is the unconditional desire to promote the true good of other people in a friendly spirit, out of a sense of kinship. Aloha seeks to do good, with no conditions attached. We do not do good only to those who do good to us. One of the sweetest things about the love of God, about Aloha, is that it welcomes the stranger and seeks his good. A person who has the spirit of Aloha loves even when the love is not returned. And such is the love of God.

Aloha does not exploit a people or keep them in ignorance and subservience. Rather, it shares the sorrows and joys of people; it seeks to promote the true good of others.Today, one of the deepest needs of mankind is the need to feel a sense of kinship one with another. Truly all mankind belongs together from the beginning all mankind has been called into being nourished [and] watched over by the love of God. So that the real Golden Rule is Aloha. This is the way of life we shall affirm.

Let us affirm [for]ever what we really are – for Aloha is the spirit of God at work in you and in me and in the world, uniting what is separated, overcoming darkness and death, bringing new light and life to all who sit in the darkness of fear, guiding the feet of mankind into the way of peace.

Aloha ke Akua.  Mahalo for allowing me to share this message with you.

Closing One Chapter, Starting A New One

Posted in Events,General,Kauai by Mina Morita on March 20, 2011

On Wednesday, March 9, the Senate Committee on Commerce & Consumer Protection held my confirmation hearing (click here for Governor’s Message No. 523, testimony and committee report) and recommended for approval my appointment to the Public Utilities Commission.  The full Senate confirmation vote was held on Monday, March 14.  Just prior to my vote, former Kauai Senator, Gary Hooser, was also confirmed by the Senate as the Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control.  Subsequently, after the confirmation vote, I walked back to the House Chambers to meet for the last time with House colleagues and was allowed to make my last statement on the House floor.  I then resigned as the State Representative for District 14 and was sworn in as a Public Utilities Commissioner later that afternoon in the Lieutenant Governor’s conference room.  My first day on the job as the Chair of the Public Utilities Commission was the next day, Tuesday, March 15.

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Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai

Posted in Education,Events,Kauai by Mina Morita on September 19, 2010

I like it when people stop to talk story with me at the grocery store or post office.  I usually get caught up on or a new issue is brought to my attention.  Yesterday at Foodland-Princeville was no exception.  George Corrigan, the President of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, was at the entrance encouraging people to participate in Give Aloha, Foodland’s annual community matching gifts program which runs from September 1 to September 30.  For every customer’s $1.00 contributed, Foodland will match up to $249.00 to a non-profit.  The non-profit George was advocating for is Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai, which started out as a community service project of the Hanalei Rotary.  The purpose of this non-profit is to provide needed financial aid to teacher candidates who live on Kauai and aspire to become teachers in Kauai schools.

In Hawaii, and nationally, there is a severe shortage of good, qualified teachers.  In the past, the State Department of Education actively recruited teachers from the mainland paying relocation bonus resulting in few longterm benefits to our public education system. Now, through distance learning we can “grow and nurture” potential teacher candidates within our own communities and the retention and commitment to teaching within our communities is much more successful.  A critical partner in this effort is the University of Hawaii, College of Education with its Statewide Teacher Education Program, which offers distance learning on its neighbor island campuses rather than having teacher candidates relocate to the UH Manoa campus.

Growing Our Teachers On Kauai steps in, providing financial assistance, at a critical juncture for these teacher candidates:

Most local teacher candidates have to pay for their own college education.  They do it by working a full-time job or several part-time jobs.  Many candidates have families of their own or are the sole income provider for their families.  They have to balance family, work and school at the same time.  With tuition, plus books, a computer, software, supplies, and other associated expenses, the costs are approximately $5,000 per semester or $20,000 for the two-year program.

In spite of all this, there are many local teacher candidates who have the motivation and dedication to tough it through.  Until that is, their final semester.  At that time, they must quit their jobs and serve full-time in the classroom with their mentor teacher, Monday through Friday, everyday.  Teacher candidates do not get paid for student teaching and the commitment to teaching is full-time.  Many teacher candidates cannot afford to finish that last stretch to become a teacher.

I guess the first question a person would ask a Legislator like me is why don’t these teacher candidates get a stipend.  I don’t know the answer to that question except this is another expense that has to compete with all the other general fund needs of our State.

As I was going through the Foodland checkout line I spotted this Time magazine cover.  Right below the bus window it says “It Starts With The Teachers”.  Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards.  The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

There is no doubt that so much more has to be done to transform and improve public education in Hawaii and I can’t thank the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay enough and its support of Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai in helping to address one of the most fundamental challenges to our public education system, attracting and retaining skilled and qualified teachers in our rural communities.  So until September 30 double your contribution to this worthy non-profit by making a donation while checking out at Foodland.

Pilgrimage of Compassion – 2010

Posted in Events,General,Kauai,Sustainability by Mina Morita on July 12, 2010

At the foot of the path.

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving remarks at the 10th annual Pilgrimage of Compassion at the Lawai International Center.  In preparing to speak before a large group I like to put everything I say in writing and try to edit what I say as much as possible so I can be up at the mike for as short as a time possible.  I tried all week to write and the pressure was building.  I woke up yesterday morning with nothing in mind and had to leave the house in a couple of hours.  I am not a religious person, nor do I think of myself as spiritual but  my life has been enriched by people I have met like Ramsay Taum, Pono Shim, and Puanani Burgess, who all perpetuate the wisdom of kupuna and practice and share Aloha.  (click here to see a video of Ramsay sharing the meaning of Hawaii, read Pono’s statement to the State Senate and hear Kupuna Paki share the meaning of Aloha)  Suffice it to say, that once I started to focus on their stories to sharing their words for the pilgrimage  it became easier to write.

Pilgrimage of Compassion - 2010

One of 88 shrines.

Many people at the pilgrimage asked for the text of my remarks and given the wonders of WordPress, I can now retell the story here with pictures and special links below.  Also, here is a link to my 2009 remarks  which talks more about Pilahi Paki and Kahu Abraham Akaka’s famous statehood Aloha Ke Akua sermon. LawaiInternationalCenter

Kaua & the Lotus Blossom

Last week I watched my lotus plant flower for the first time.  I wasn’t familiar with the significance of the lotus blossom in Buddhism so went to look it up on the internet.

The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the flower blossoms high above the water, reaching for the sunlight. The movement of the stem and bud through the mud represents the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment. And, although there are other water plants that bloom above the water, only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, rises about a foot above the surface of the water.

Learning this reminded me of the Hawaiian creation chant, the Kumulipo where existence begins in darkness and muck.  This is how Kumu Hula, Pualani Kanahele, from Hawaii Island, describes the Kumulipo.

“The Kumulipo is a mele ko‘ihonua (genealogical chant). It is a remembrance from the lipo (dark depth) of our deep past to the lipo of our unknown future. It heralds existence from dawn to dawn or the numerous beginnings and endings. The Kumulipo acknowledges the walewale as the earthy matter from which all forms have ascended. The fundamental images, thoughts, forms and shapes from walewale evolved and increased into familial patterns. It is the organic inception of all family systems . . .

The Kumulipo is the reality of our dim past, the foundation for our present and the pathway into the future. It is a cognizant reminder of our ancestors, their intelligence, failure, defeat and conquest. This chant is a gift which encourages the warrior within us to awake to the contests and challenges, which continue to confront us today, by using ancestral intelligence and experiences with our own intelligence. It is the genealogy which connects the Native Hawaiian to land, sky and ocean.”

A very important part of our heritage that connects Hawaii’s physiological existence to our psychological being is the concept of Aloha.  And, the Lawai International Center’s foundation is embedded in the concept of Aloha.

It is unfortunate that the word Aloha is often misunderstood as only a simple greeting or as just love.  Aloha is a way of being, it is a way of life.  When the word Aloha is broken down into two parts, Alo means to be in the presence of, to join or connect with.  Ha is the breath, the spirit, the essence of one’s being.  So to say Aloha is to be in the presence of, or to join the spirit of the person you are acknowledging.  Aloha also speaks to the notion of connecting to the other life forces, however you define them – god, nature – to live in balance with those forces.  It is the concept of giving and receiving – not giving and taking.  It is the notion that the more you put in, the more you will receive.  It is the notion of leaving people and places better than you found it, leaving people whole, leaving places whole.  Aloha is the essence of our being that connects us to all life forces and humanity.

In our daily lives Aloha is the foundation of all of our actions to make our family, work, communities – local or global – sustainable.  While the western concept of sustainability is balancing people, the planet and profits, I believe the human thoughts and actions required for sustainability are what I call Hawaii’s triple bottomline.  First, Aloha – meaning compassion, respect and reverence for each other and other life forces.  Second, Malama Pono – to do what is right and just.  And, third, Kuleana – acknowledging and taking responsibility.

Like the symbolism of the lotus blossom, Aloha is the spirit of enlightenment at work in you and in me and in the world, overcoming challenges, bringing new light and life to all who sit in the darkness of fear, guiding the feet of mankind into the way of peace.

Shakuhachi Grand Master Riley Lee

Aloha is the guidance Lynn Marumoto has relied on in the establishment of the Lawai International Center.  She and members of the Lawai International Center ohana have a tremendous kuleana (responsibility) to malama (protect and perpetuate) this special puu honua (place of refuge) so that the seeds of aloha may be planted with each step along the hillside during this annual pilgrimage of compassion and to blossom and propagate aloha when we leave this special place today.

CPPW – Hanalei Relay For Life

Posted in Events,Health by Mina Morita on June 7, 2010

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, I attended a workshop in San Diego related to an initiative called Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) which I blogged about several weeks ago.  Part of my assignment at the workshop was to attend the media training sessions to be an effective spokesperson.  One of the assignments was to come up with a succinct message diamond, three sentences that capture what we are suppose to be doing:

Good health is essential to quality of life. Communities Putting Prevention to Work links and empowers communities throughout the nation with local solutions to prevent disease and illness from tobacco use and obesity. Thriving communities begin with good and affordable access to healthy foods and physical activity as part of our daily routine.

It was a great workshop and I learned lots about strategies to change social norms.  Unfortunately, as soon as I got home I reverted back to my normal couch potato routine.  So much for the spokesperson who suppose to motivate people to take control of their life for the sake of good health!  But as I was sitting on my behind staring at the computer this morning, I heard this story on NPR’s Morning Edition.  Here is a portion of the transcript and here is the link where you can listen to the story or read the entire transcript.

Prof. BAUMAN: Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for death and for illness. It contributes to about one-sixth of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, about the same for diabetes, about 12 percent per fold(ph) in the elderly, and about a 10th of all breast cancer and colon cancer are attributable to being physically inactive.

SILBERNER: Bauman says getting people up and moving is more than about just motivating individuals. He says it’s going to take a coordinated effort, like the one that’s driven down smoking rates. And he says the payoff will be on a similar scale.

The gist of the interview was 100 years ago exercise was blended in our daily lives, through physical labor, housework, farming/gardening, hunting/gathering (food preparation in general) and minimal transportation options (we walked alot).  Today, all that is being asked is to get up and move for 30 minutes a day.

Can’t wrap my head around the 30 minutes a day yet but I will commit 12 hours on Saturday, June 12, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., to do the Hanalei Relay For Life at Waioli Park.  Prior to the Relay, I will be at Hanalei Center asking for donations to win a Zip & Dip Package for two donated by Princeville Ranch Adventures to support Team Roselani, and my former Kong Lung co-workers, Jenny Conley and Vanessa Fujiyama, both breast cancer survivors.  Breast cancer is my family’s nemesis.  My mother who is now deceased had breast cancer.  Two sisters and three sister-in-laws are breast cancer survivors.

I hope you will find these two recent stories inspirational to lend your support to the Hanalei Relay For Life.  One appeared in the Kauai People and the other I found as I was logging on to WordPress to blog.  Let me know if you want to donate to the drawing ($1.00 per entry) or please make a donation to Team Roselani.

Blue Oceans Day and Papahānaumokuākea

Posted in Events,Issues,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on January 15, 2010

Thanks to many committed individuals and organizations, Blue Oceans Day at the Hawaii State Capitol was a success.  The biggest challenge of the day was the video message to President Obama and getting the group to say in sync:  A-lo-ha Pre-si-dent O-ba-ma (pause), our ocean (pause) is the blue heart (pause) of our planet (pause) please protect (pause) our ocean (pause) ma-ha-lo, then the shaka sign.

Despite challenges, like marine debris, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a prime example of a complex and robust ocean ecosystem.  Several months ago the United States announced its nomination of Papahānaumokuākea to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre for consideration for inscription on the World Heritage List.

Last year I had the opportunity to honor the joint managers of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in a ceremony conducted in the House Chambers.  Here is an excerpt of my speech:

Mr. Speaker, I have a special affinity for the National Wildlife Refuge systems and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.  First of all, I live just beyond the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.  Many of you are familiar with the Hanalei Valley scenic overlook, with its acres of kalo loi.  Each Friday when I return home and cross Hanalei bridge, I turn left into the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge to drive the last two miles home where the refuge ends 1000 feet from my home.  And, just before I was first elected to office, I was the business manager for the Kilauea Point Natural History Association, the non-profit cooperative association for the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which has some long historical ties to the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge because it is the most northern point in the main Hawaiian Islands and jumping off point to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  Needless-to-say, Mr. Speaker, the National Wildlife Refuge system has played an important role in my life.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I attended a meeting several years ago where the naming of the Marine National Monument was discussed.  That meeting truly gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  And, although these Kupuna Islands are so remote and far away from us, they ground us, in the main Hawaiian islands, in our cultural heritage.

I know I cannot give justice to the way kumu hula Pua Kanahele described the genesis of Papahānaumokuākea in her poetic way but I hope my description can help to transform how you all will view images of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the future — not as a snapshot of a specific time but a visual and vibrant continuation of an ancient Hawaiian tradition tying genealogy and the formation of the Hawaiian Islands to acknowledge the dualisms of life.

In Hawaiian mythology, Papahānaumoku is a mother figure personified by the earth and Wākea is a father figure personified in the expansive sky.  Their union resulted in the creation, or birthing, of the entire Hawaiian archipelago––therefore, the naming of the monument is to honor and preserve the role of Papa and Wakea in our collective memory, to strengthen Hawaii’s cultural foundation and to ground Hawaiians to an important part of their genealogy and history.

Taken apart, “Papa” (earth mother), “hānau” (birth), “moku” (small island or large land division), and “ākea” (wide) translates best into a fertile woman giving birth to a wide stretch of islands beneath a benevolent sky. Taken as one long name, Papahānaumokuākea can be seen as a symbol of hope and regeneration for the Kūpuna Islands and the main Hawaiian Islands. And through the mana (spiritual power) of Papahānaumokuākea’s name, it encourages abundance and acknowledges the procreative forces of earth, sea, and sky, and the hope that the cultural, spiritual and physical health of Native Hawaiians will grow as well.

Papahanaumokuakea is an important and tangible asset we share with the rest of the world to demonstrate, through responsible stewardship, what a healthy eco-system can accomplish in perpetuating not only environmental well-being but also economic and cultural prosperity.  And, I am pleased today to commemorate the initial action taken by President Roosevelt in 1909 and to honor the special stewards that actively manage the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

More On World Oceans Day at the Hawaii State Capitol

Posted in Events,Issues,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on January 10, 2010

Blue Oceans Day Press Release

World Oceans Day or Blue Oceans Day?  Same event.  Just come, wear blue and learn more about our oceans and marine life.

World Oceans Day on Wednesday, January 13

Posted in Events,Issues,Oceans/Water by Mina Morita on January 9, 2010