Master navigator Thompson among ‘Living Treasures’ honored by OHA


The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) honored seven people during its inaugural Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People.

The event was held Monday as a collaboration between OHA and the PAʻI Foundation.

Seven people were chosen as living treasures for their depth of knowledge in Native Hawaiian culture and practices.

The Living Treasures awardees are:

  • Patience Nāmaka Bacon of O‘ahu – for hula
  • Josephine Fergerstrom of Hawai‘i Island – for lauhala weaving
  • Sam Ka‘ai of Maui – for carving
  • Marie McDonald of Hawai‘i Island – for lei making and kapa making
  • Nainoa Thompson of O‘ahu – for navigating

Thompson accepted the award on behalf of Hōkūle‘a and all who sailed upon her.

“This is not my award. It can’t be my award,” Thompson said. “This voyage is Hawai‘i’s voyage, and we thank all of Hawai‘i, but the movement of all Native Hawaiians and those who support Native Hawaiians recognize it’s just not for Hawai‘i. It’s for every indigenous culture trying to find a place in the 21st century.

“I’ve been around the world, and to be singled out to be one of seven amongst the thousands of Hawaiians and those who aren’t Hawaiian who are protecting our culture with dignity and strength, and I’ll say this with all humility and no offense to anyone, there is no place in the world that I know of where its indigenous native culture is strengthening at a pace that no one else is.”

This inaugural cohort of awardees also includes two posthumous recognitions:

  • Elizabeth Malu‘ihi Ako Lee of Hawai‘i Island – for lauhala weaving
  • Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad of Hawai‘i Island – for videography, documentary

While other organizations honor living treasures, Native Hawaiian organizations have not had their own program until now, said OHA Ka Pouhana (Chief Executive Officer) Kamana‘opono Crabbe.

“These kūpuna are not just keepers of the flame, they are the connection and bridge to our past,” Crabbe said. “The more we learn from our kūpuna and apply what we learn from them, the more we maintain that bond with our ancestors, our homeland, and our identity as Kanaka ‘Ōiwi.”

KHON2 will be airing Hōkūle‘a’s homecoming live on Saturday, June 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on our sister station, Hawaii’s CW. It will also be live-streamed on

You can also watch a rebroadcast that night on KHON2 at 6:30 p.m.Click here for more information.Join the conversation on our Facebook event page here.

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