Voices of Wisdom: Hawaiian Elders Speak
by MJ Harden, photography by Steve Brinkman

barbara helynn's recommendation

Voices of Wisdom, first published in 1999, contains magazine length articles based on interviews with  24 Hawaiian elders, complete with marvelous photos.  Many of these elders have now "walked the rainbow".  They are all people who acted on the concept that "one person can start a positive epidemic". They were all important players in the Hawaiian cultural renewal that continues today.   We all follow in their footsteps.

Voices of Wisdom


One of my favorite stories in Wisdom of the Elders is Nainoa Thompson’s story of guiding a canoe using traditional navigation skills, by observing patterns of nature and tapping into intuition.  Nainoa speaks of his experience guiding the canoe through the doldrums - a  wall of heavy clouds, solid rain, and no wind located just north of the equator.  He says,

“You have to be alert without being too intense, because to be able to endure, you’ve gotta relax, and that’s hard out there.  If you get intense and you don’t relax, you get fatigued and you can’t endure.  You get too tired to think.”….”Don’t look with your eyes.  Let that go.  Look inside for the answers”……”I knew, but I didn’t know how I knew.  We kept sailing and sailing and I could track the moon in my mind.”

Perhaps this advise applies not only to sailing a canoe in the doldrums, but to our own personal journey of navigating through life today.

These elders included in this book include:

  • NATURE
  • Mary Kaauamo, taro farmer
  • Isabella Abbott, Ph.D.  professor of ethnobotony, seaweek expert
  • Eddie Pu, park ranger
  • SPIRITUALITY & HEALING
  • Margaret Machado, lomilomi massage master
  • Lanakila Brandt, priest of Lono
  • Kawika Ka'alakea, minitster, herbal medicine practitioner
  • PRESERVATION & HISTORY
  • Lydia Namahana Mai'oho,  kahu of Royal Mausoleum
  • Charley Keau, archaelologist
  • ACTIVISM
  • Winona Beamer, Hawaiian Studies teacher, hula master
  • Kekuni Blaisdell, MD,  physician, sovereignty advocate
  • Kepeka Chandler, community organizer
  • Elaine Kaopuiki,  communicty activist, hula master
  • DANCE, CHANT, GEANEALOGY, MUSIC
  • George Na'ope,  hula master
  • John Lake  chanter, hula master, Hawaiian Studies teacher
  • Edith McKinzie,  genealogy expert, professor of Hawaiian studies.
  • Kindy Sproat, falsetto singer
  • ARTS & CRAFTS
  • Puanana Van Dorpe, master kapa cloth maker
  • Marie McDonald, lei making expert, author
  • Elizabeth Lee, maser lau hala weaver
  • CANOE
  • Jo-Anne Kahanamoku Sterling, crew member of Hokule'a, feather artist
  • Leon Paoa Sterling, captain of Hokule'a, man of the sea
  • Herb Kane, artist, historian
  • NEXT GENERATION
  • Nainoa Thompson, navigator
  • Keola Sequeira, wood carver, canoe maker


Copyrighted 2012 Barbara Helynn Heard

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