Hawai'i State News

Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters awarded to Native Hawaiian leaders

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From left: Edith Kanakaʻole, Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, Jerald Kimo Alama Keaulana. Photo Courtesy: University of Hawai‘i

Edith Kekuhikuhipuʻuoneonāaliʻiōkohala Kenao Kanakaʻole, Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett and Jerald Kimo Alama Keaulana have each been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the April 20 meeting of the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents.

The three Native Hawaiian luminaries are beign recognized for their contributions toward the preservation and revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture.

Legendary kumu hula and composer Edith Kanakaʻole (1913–79) worked as a teacher at Hawaiʻi Community College from 1971 to 1974 and at the University of Hawai‘i Hilo from 1974 to 1979. At both schools, she created courses and seminars on subjects including Hawaiian language, ethnobotany, Polynesian history, genealogy and Hawaiian chant and mythology.


The recommendation letter stated: “Aunty Edith was a kumu hula, a master instructor for hula and an academic researcher developing her own chants for cultural preservation and academic work. Her contributions extend to the work of environmental scientists and Hawaiian universities that teach her philosophies and scientific methods and position Hawaiʻi, and the United States, in the global conversation on climate resilience.”

In March 2023, a commemorative quarter honoring Kanakaʻole was released into circulation by the U.S. Mint. She is one of five American women to be minted on new quarters as part of the 2023 honorees for the American Women Quarters Program.

An accomplished kumu hula, award-winning composer and singer, Frank Hewett is an advocate for the culture and arts of Hawaiʻi as well as an author, researcher and practitioner of Hawaiian medicine. While Hewett shares his wealth of knowledge with students as a Hawaiian studies lecturer at Windward Community College, the recognition was proposed based on his numerous lifetime achievements.


As a member of the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts, Hewett has won numerous Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards as a composer and performer. He started his hālau in 1978 and continues to teach hula to students from around the world. Hewett is currently directing a project to document the learning experiences, teaching methods and upbringing of kumu hula who are considered kūpuna to preserve that knowledge for future generations.

Jerald Keaulana has numerous accomplishments as a historian, musician, composer, kumu hula, educator, author, researcher, advisor, community leader and advocate. The Bishop Museum Kimo Alama Keaulana Mele Collection was named after him when he committed more than 1,000 mele to their archives.

One of the letters of support stated: “Uncle Kimo continues to encourage others around him to realize their own potential and ability to promote the Hawaiian culture with integrity. He inspires countless people of all ages as a role model, choosing to remain in alignment with our Kūpuna in caring for their knowledge and using it to reach our cultural understanding.”

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