Ka Huli Ao Center Receives International Award

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Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law was given an international award for Punawaiola, a digital archives project dedicated to the collection and dissemination of digitized Hawaiian Kingdom historical and legal materials.

Avis Poai, standing third from left, with other awardees and dignitaries at the ATALM ceremony. PC: UHM

Established in 2007 by the International Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM), the Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards Program recognizes organizations and individuals who are outstanding examples of how indigenous archives, libraries and museums contribute to the vitality and cultural sovereignty of native nations.

Avis Kuuipoleialoha Poai (ʻ04), Director of Legal History, Archives and Student Outreach, accepted the award at the 11th International ATALM Conference held recently at Prior Lake, Minnesota. Punawaiola is the first bilingual website at the UH Law School and features many Hawaiian language contributions coming from students. Under Poai’s leadership, the archive has gone from 20,000 images from four legal archival collections when it was founded in 2008 to 10 times than many images today, 10 years later. The images come from more than 36 legal archival collections and include early government records, often in delicate condition. The “blawg” is a new component of the site that highlights images from the past to shed light on Hawaiʻi’s unique legal history and Hawaiian language materials.

“Hawaiian kingdom-era government and legal records are considered to be one of the most valuable and expansive written sources of Hawaiian,” noted the awards ceremony program. “These materials, housed at the Hawai‘i State Archives, are difficult to find, fragile in condition, and cost-prohibitive to copy, but therein are the words and records of Native Hawaiian royalty, statesmen, jurists, attorneys and everyday people.”


Poai (‘04) and Ka Huli Ao, at the William S. Richardson School of Law, worked with the Hawaiʻi State Archives, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Law Library Microform Consortium, in digitizing the delicate documents. Ka Huli Ao wishes to acknowledge the following people for their contributions to this project: Melody MacKenzie (ʻ76) (for her continued leadership and support), Leinaʻala Seeger, Jerry Dupont, Kale Hannahs at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and all of the archivists at the Hawaiʻi State Archives, including Adam Jansen, Susan Shaner and Luella Kurkjian.

Raymond Wang, Keith Johnston (ʻ08), Il Ung-Jeong, Kumu Lalepa Koga, Kumu Kapali Lyon, Iokana Aronowicz, Kamakakaulani Gramberg (ʻ18), Kamalolo Koanui-Kong (ʻ17), Leimomi Morgan (ʻ17), Liʻi Nahiwa (ʻ21), Kaleio Cromwell (ʻ20), Rachel Figueroa (ʻ16), Kealiʻi MacKenzie, Brittanie Nery, Mason Yano and Zeslie Zablan also played a part in the award.

At ATALM’s conference, renowned attorney, author, and scholar Walter Echo-Hawk summarized the calling for all guardians of heritage: “As indigenous people, we alone are responsible for ensuring the future of our cultures. In this high calling, we are aided by indigenous institutions that pass our heritage from one generation to another. Let us resolve to do the best we can.”



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