Dalya’s Other Country / 4.1 Miles


In Dalya’s Other Country, follow a family displaced by the Syrian conflict, walking the line between their Muslim values and the new world they inhabit. Afterward, the short film 4.1 Miles features a Greek Coast Guard captain caught in the middle of the biggest refugee crisis since WWII.


4.1 Miles




Ever the Land


This film explores the sublime bond between people and their land. For the past 150 years, the relationship between the Tūhoe Maori tribe and the New Zealand government has been defined by longstanding grievances over severe colonization experiences. The film captures a period of change in 2014, when the Tūhoe’s ancestral homelands were returned, the New Zealand government issued an official apology, and the Tūhoe built the first-ever “Living Building” in New Zealand as a testament to their values and vision of self-governance.


On March 8, Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of Hawai‘i net sales to PBS Hawai‘i

PBS Hawaii

For questions regarding this press release, contact:
Liberty Peralta


Download this Press Release


Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo are among those from the 90 public, private and charter schools across the Islands in HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i’s flagship digital learning initiative, which will benefit from Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Day.HONOLULU – Whole Foods Market Hawai‘i has selected PBS Hawai‘i as its statewide nonprofit partner for its upcoming Community Giving Day on Wednesday, March 8.


Pictured: Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo are among those from the 90 public, private and charter schools across the Islands in HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i’s flagship digital learning initiative, which will benefit from Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Day.


That day, five percent of net sales from all three Whole Foods Market locations in Hawai‘i – Kahala and Kailua on O‘ahu, and Kahului on Maui – will go toward supporting PBS Hawai‘i’s mission of advancing learning and discovery through its video programming.


Whole Foods Market hosts Community Giving Days twice a year to benefit local nonprofits. These initiatives are part of the company’s core values and commitment to serving and supporting local and global communities.


“We are thrilled to partner with PBS Hawai‘i, as we have a shared interest in providing the highest quality products,” says Annalee England, Whole Foods Market Kahului Store Team Leader. “Whole Foods Market does so through our selection of the best natural, organic and locally sourced foods, and PBS Hawai‘i through their incomparable programming for the whole family.”


PBS Hawai‘i’s statewide digital learning initiative, HIKI NŌ, will benefit from the Community Giving Day. Through this program, PBS Hawai‘i offers free digital storytelling training for the program’s 90 participating public, private and charter schools across the Islands. The student video stories that result from this training are showcased online at, and on Thursday nights at 7:30 on PBS Hawai‘i.


Since its launch in 2011, HIKI NŌ has served more than 4,800 students. More than half of HIKI NŌ schools are Title I, the federal designation of schools with at least 40 percent of students coming from low-income families.


“With HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i is bridging serious educational and socioeconomic gaps,” says Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO. “This partnership with Whole Foods Market will help us with this important work in our island communities – some as near as those in PBS Hawai‘i’s own neighborhood of Kalihi, and as far and remote as South Point on Hawai‘i Island.”


Other programs produced locally by PBS Hawai‘i include the live, weekly community affairs program Insights on PBS Hawai‘i, the half-hour interview program Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox and the Hawaiian music series Na Mele.


As the Islands’ only member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service, PBS Hawai‘i carries flagship PBS programs, including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Independent Lens, NOVA, Frontline and educational children’s programming on PBS KIDS.


PBS Hawai‘i is also one of a handful of PBS stations in the country to carry a live feed of English-language international news coverage from Japanese public broadcaster NHK World.


PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. | | @pbshawaii


Strategy from a Swordfighter

Musashi Miyamoto, right, as depicted by artist Yoshitaki Tsunejiro


Musashi Minamoto, right, as depicted by artist Yoshitake Tsunejiro.


Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS HawaiiOne of the greatest swordfighters in history comes to mind as PBS Hawai‘i sets out to draft a new strategic plan to guide us in a rapidly changing media environment.


“Do nothing which is of no use,” wrote samurai Musashi Miyamoto, when he wasn’t roaming Japan wielding two swords, facing enemies in the Edo period.


Yes, Miyamoto-San, we must decide what skills and habits of mind we need to take with us into the future, in order to serve up great content on the many viewing screens in people’s lives. Folks might want to lean back for an hour-long documentary on a big wall monitor; catch a one-minute clip on their smartphone; or participate in a globally interactive discussion on their tablet. In fact, it’s already become common for people to use two digital devices at the same time to access content.


“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” So true, Minamoto-San, as we clear the bias of the present moment and attempt to see with clarity how we and fellow Islanders will want to use media and storytelling in the years ahead. Our organization used to peer ahead five years; now, even trying to pin down the next three years in this industry seems foolhardy.


In meetings held so far, our Board of Directors, Staff and stakeholders agree that PBS Hawai‘i must create a far-reaching system of touch points for people to encounter our programming. We’ll go where people are, rather than wait for them on a television monitor. We’ll continue to broadcast. However, many more people will want to engage in content online, selecting what they want to see when they want to see it. We want that, too.


First and foremost, we’re storytellers. We can and will adapt, to meet the need for quality stories and interactivity in different ways on different digital devices.


“Fixation is the way to death. Fluidity is the way to life,” wrote Miyamoto, who was known for anticipating an opponent’s moves and unleashing unexpected moves to bring victory.


However, the future isn’t all about fluidity and change. Like many of our viewers, we intend to hold onto our mindsets of curiosity, discovery, resilience, fairness; our belief in exposure to diverse viewpoints and civil discourse; and the value of universal access to education and reliable information.


When our Board of Directors adopts a new strategic plan at mid-year, we’ll share the plan with you and count on your feedback as we evolve. As Miyamoto-San said, “It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”


At least we don’t run the risk of sword injuries! We do stand a fighting chance of creating richer and more versatile viewing experiences for you.


Aloha a hui hou,
Leslie signature


Biography Hawaii: Maiki Aiu Lake

PBS HAWAII PRESENTS - Biography Hawaii: Maiki Aiu Lake


Maiki Aiu Lake was one of the most widely recognized kumu hula of the 20th century. She was passionately devoted to learning about Hawaiian culture at a time when such interests were often discouraged. Maiki helped preserve and pass on crucial components of Hawaiian knowledge and tradition through difficult times. In her school she trained many of the most respected kumu hula who teach and practice today. This documentary combines interviews with her students, family and friends with photographs and moving images of one of the major contributors to the 1970’s cultural reawakening that has come to be called the Hawaiian Renaissance.


Hawaiian Values Compilation


This episode is a compilation of stories that express the six Hawaiian values featured in the first round of the 2015-16 season. Here are the Hawaiian values featured and the stories that represent them:


Ho’omau (to persevere, perpetuate or continue) is represented by a story from Maui High School, which follows former UH Wahine Volleyball star Cecilia Fernandez as she battles Adenocarcinoma, a rare form of lung cancer. As a former athlete, Cecilia is used to battling opponents by following a carefully devised game-plan. But because so little is known about this disease, Cecilia must persevere against an enemy she is not familiar with – uncertainty.


Kuleana (responsibility) is represented by a story from Waianae High School in West Oahu. Waianae High School graduate and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter Max Holloway feels it is his kuleana to represent the Waianae community in the most positive way possible when he competes. Max also takes his responsibilities to his wife and young son very seriously. Having been severely neglected by his own parents, Max wants to make sure his son does not have to suffer the same sort of childhood that he had.


Ha’aha’a (humbleness and humility) is represented by a story from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauai. Kauai resident Moses Hamilton learned humbleness and humility when he had to start all over again after a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. While undergoing rehab, Moses took up mouth painting (painting by holding and manipulating the paint brush in one’s mouth), and is a now a successful artist who sells his paintings in Hanalei.


‘Imi na’auao (enlightenment and wisdom) is represented by a story from Moanalua High School in the Salt Lake District of Oahu. Lars Mitsuda, Moanalua’s culinary arts teacher, who combines his passions for food and education by enlightening students on the many life-lessons cooking can teach. From multi-tasking to management skills, to business planning, to working with people – learning the culinary arts fosters a wisdom that students can use for the rest of their lives.


‘Ike Pono (to know what is right) is represented by a story from Maui Waena Intermediate School about Christopher Malik Cousins, owner of the Farmacy Health Bar in Wailuku, Maui. Cousins had been a troubled youth, often on the wrong side the law and even living on the streets. Being fed at Saint Theresa’s Church in Kihei eventually inspired him to do the right thing and open his own health food restaurant. He encourages his customers to “pay-it-forward” by contributing to a program that helps to feed the hungry with healthy foods.


Mālama (to care for, protect and maintain) is represented by a story from Aliamanu Middle School on Oahu, about the efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its community of volunteers to mālama the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Mālama is also represented by a video primer from Kauai High School on how to “take care” in the event of a hurricane.


This episode is hosted by HIKI NŌ alum (and current Political Science/ Communications double-major at UH Manoa) Shisa Kahaunaele.


This program encores Saturday, Jan. 7 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Jan. 8 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website,


Sabra Kauka


Sabra Kauka strives to honor the place Hawaiian values have in our modern world. As a cultural practitioner and teacher on Kauai, she helps sustain and perpetuate Native Hawaiian traditions by sharing her knowledge with future generations.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Aug. 21 at 4:00 pm.


Sabra Kauka Audio


Download the Transcript




My cousin had a science project, and he collected pupu, the kahuli, the land snail. And they have the most beautiful coloring. And it is said that they sing. And what really happens, though, is when they move to edge of a leaf, and the breeze is blowing, it catches in their shell and it hums, it whistles. It does make a sound; it’s a lovely sound. We didn’t know at the time that they would become endangered, and he has a collection now of several hundred shells. And he called me the other day from Maui—he lives on Maui, and he was kinda picking my brain. What should I do with this collection? And you know, we thought about Bishop Museum, but they have quite a big collection already. I said, Find a school on Maui, and continue the story there. Yeah.


Wow. And don’t keep them in your house, ‘cause now everybody knows he has them.


No. Well, now, everybody knows he has them. But they all tell a story. And I’m so glad, because I was up on the range a few years ago, and the kahuli—bless the Nature Conservancy and their project up there to shelter them, and make sure that they continue to live. They’re so beautiful in the wild. So, all of these outdoor experiences, you know, just kinda made who I am today.


Sabra Kauka experienced many different cultures living around the world as the daughter of an Army officer, and then the wife of an Air Force pilot. She was enjoying her career as a photojournalist in Alaska when the calling of her Native Hawaiian community brought her home. She landed on Kauai, where her knowledge and care for the environment and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian traditions have made her a respected cultural leader of the community. Sabra Kauka of Kauai, next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Sabra Kauka is the go-to person on Kauai for almost anything to do with Hawaiian culture. She’s a master kapa maker and kumu hula, and she’s called on as an expert in natural resource management, be it marine mammal protection, preservation of historic sites, or ethnobotany. She will even bless your home or new canoe. But Sabra Kauka was not always a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. For much of her early life, she lived away from Hawai‘i, in places with very different cultures.


Dad was in the Army. He was the University when World War II broke out, and so then he had to join the service, and he joined the Army and became an officer. And so, we lived all over the world. It was really a wonderful experience. I didn’t realize how unusual it was until I came home and met people who had never left Oahu.


Where did you live?


Dad’s first assignment was in Bremerhaven, Germany. And the cool thing is that I am still in touch by Facebook with the granddaughter of a woman who was our nanny there. She’s still alive; she was my mother’s age, she’s in her nineties. And after Bremerhaven, Dad was assigned to San Francisco, and we lived at Fort Mason at the end of Van Ness Avenue, and my brother and I went to school there. And then, after that, Dad was assigned to Saigon, Vietnam, and we lived there for a few years. So, a couple of years ago, I went back to Vietnam, and my guide found the old house that we lived in. It was amazing; it was still in really good shape. Following Vietnam, Dad was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and we lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a beautiful area. And then, after that, there was a reduction in force, and we moved home to Hawai‘i.


What was your family life like as a kid?


Phenomenal; really, really phenomenal. I didn’t know how great my family life was until high school years, and I’d bring friends home, and they’d say, Wow. You know, they’d look around, they’d just …

‘cause they didn’t have that kind of support. You know. So, it wasn’t really until high school or college that I realized that not everybody had the support that I did as a youngster.


What kind of support?


A safe place, a home. You know. Food, education, adventure. Because wherever we moved in the world, it was an adventure. They enjoyed traveling, my parents; they enjoyed learning, they enjoyed going to all these great different places. And they made it an adventure for us, as well. But they were also very cognizant of the community around them. My dad’s first assignment after World War II was in Germany, post-war Germany. And I think it was integral to him as a Hawaiian to feed people, and he brought people home for dinner. My mom never really always knew who was coming home for dinner. And one particular family that he invited home for dinner, they returned the next day with some of the most beautiful crystal, ever.


And wherever you lived, your family went outside a lot. You were outdoorsy.


Yeah, we did; very outdoorsy. Because when we lived in San Francisco, we went camping up in the Sierras, and that’s the first camping trip I can remember. It was really cold, but really fun, and catching trout in the stream, and cooking it over a campfire, and the trout was as big as the pan. Yeah; good fun stuff. So, ever since then, I’ve loved it. I mean, I love the outdoors; I love camping, hiking.


You’re comfortable with just a few things around you.


Very comfortable. Very few things; yeah, minimal.


Did your family even go hiking in Germany?


Oh, yeah; skiing, in fact. Tobogganing, skiing. I was still pretty young, but I can remember the skiing and tobogganing, and the snow activities in the Alps.


And what about back here in Hawai‘i?


Our recreation was either in the mountains, hiking in the mountains with my uncle Elmer Williamson, or playing at the beach, like down at Queen’s, in canoes and surfing. Mom and Dad were both University of Hawai‘i graduates in the early 30s, I guess; in the 30s. And it was always emphasized that we would get our educations, and graduate.


Where did you decide to go?


I was first at Oregon; I went to Linfield College for a couple of years. And then, I wanted to major in anthropology; they didn’t offer it there, so I came home to University of Hawai‘i here at Manoa.


And why anthropology?


It just put together everything that I was interested in. I was interested in different cultures, I was interested in different people, and I had a lot of questions.


And you’d had a lot of experience watching people from around the world.


Oh, to the max; yes.


So, you did graduate with a degree in anthropology?


I did.


Kauka means doctor.


Kauka means doctor.


Does that mean you come from a line of doctors?


I come from a line of traditional healers. And the name Kauka, though, was given to them when they lived in Waipio Valley. And I have a Chinese grandfather who very quickly learned laaulapaau, or Hawaiian medicinal herbs, and people came to him to be healed, and they called him Kauka Lau; Dr. Lau. And from then on, his sons all became called Kauka.


Have you gone into healing at all?


Just a bit. I studied with Levon Ohai for a year, and I grow the iplants that I need for some basic healing, like olena, like mamaki. And uhaloa, I know where to find it, you know. I haven’t done as much as maybe I should in that area to explore it a little more, continue it.


After finishing college, Saba Kauka got married, and once again, left Hawai‘i, eventually settling in Alaska to raise her family and pursue a career. She was in remote village in Alaska when she saw a newspaper article about the Hawaiian people. That changed her life.


I was married then, ’67, and my husband at the time was … this was during the Vietnam Era. Then the Vietnam War came along, he also had to join the service, so he went into the Air Force and became a pilot. And we lived in various places, upper North America over these years, eventually ending up in Alaska, for fourteen years.


You were raising two children.




You also became a photojournalist along the way.


I did, because I was looking for a way that I could make a living as an Air Force wife, because you move every couple of years, and still be able to stay at home, take care of my children, too. And I had a friend who was editing a magazine. She said, Can you do a story on something? I said, Sure. So, I started writing, started publishing. And every time I wrote and published, they’d want photographs to go with it, so then, I’d start providing the photographs. And then, very quickly learned that one photograph can bring in a lot more money that maybe a story can, even though the story takes time, takes effort, takes refinement, takes skill. They both do; both fields.


That was a good call; but it’s not what you do now, at all.


No; no, it isn’t. But what happened was, in 1983, there was a Native Hawaiian Studies Commission report that was published. It came out in Associated Press around the world. But in Alaska, there was a fantastic AP writer called Ward Sims, and Ward expanded on this report. And it came out on the front page of a native newspaper. And I was working in the bush at the time; I was working lower Kuskokwim River Delta, photographing the salmon processing ship. And there were Japanese on the ship who totally pre-purchased all of the salmon roe, and they treated it like gold, because it was worth quite a bit of money. But as I’m sitting there on the dock of a little native store reading this story about Hawai‘i, about the poor condition of Native Hawaiians in Hawai‘i, I said, What happened to everybody? What do you mean? And so, it talked about the high rate of high school dropouts, teenage pregnancies, diabetes and cancer, high blood pressure, all of these things. And I went, Oh, yeah, that’s right, isn’t it? Not all of my cousins had the opportunity or the support to continue on to college, like I was, quote, required to do, expected to do, supported to do. And oh, that’s right, my grandmother had diabetes, you know. So then, I began to turn around and look very closely at things that were happening in Hawai‘i. And it just goes to show the power of a written or a spoken word, the power of words. Because that was a turning point for me, is reading that article and beginning to inquire, What happened in Hawai‘i? Because it’s hard to believe now, but in the 60s, I don’t feel that we were really taught the true facts of history, of what happened here in the islands. And when I began to ask questions about it, my mother would, you know, send me books and things.


Was she one of the old-timers who wouldn’t give up secrets, they wouldn’t tell you, they wouldn’t explain?


Definitely, my grandmother was one of those. Whenever she had things that she didn’t really want us to hear when she was talking to her sisters or her family, it was in Hawaiian. And you know, we’d catch a few words here and there, but not the deep meanings of them. And in Mom and Dad’s time too, they were products of the 20s, 30s, 40s, it wasn’t talked about as much. Even though we visited Iolani Palace; Iolani Palace in the 60s was some office building. There desks and file cabinets, and offices in there. It’s not the beautiful place that’s respected today.


It’s true; it took the Hawaiian resurgence.


It did; it did.


The renaissance to bring to light the details of history, when and what.


It did; it did. And that renaissance, and you know, the beginning of Hokulea, and all of that stuff. I have classmates, you know, quite involved with all of this. And I had to ask myself, and my friends were asking me, What are you doing in Alaska? I said, Well, I’m raising my family.


Had you planned on staying in Alaska indefinitely?


I was in Alaska for fourteen years. I was in Fairbanks for elevens years, and Anchorage for three.


And were you happy there?


Very happy. Great job, working for the statewide system of University of Alaska, and freelancing quite a bit on top of that. And I took some post-graduate classes there in journalism, had some awesome, awesome professors who encouraged me and believed in me.


So, you didn’t feel a call at that time to go back.


No; not necessarily. Not until I read that article in AP. You know. And then, I started pitching ideas to magazines here. Well, national magazines, of ideas that I could do in Hawai‘i. And Hawaiian Airlines; I asked Hawaiian Airlines, Hey, can I come home and do the story on something on Molokai? They said, You’re in Alaska; please do a story for us up there. So, I pulled out those three interviews that I had in my files, and wrote about the kupuna there who are related to people from Hawai‘i from, you know, over a hundred years ago. And so, I started pitching more and more. Those were the days that you’d write a query letter, and put it in an envelope and send it off or at the most fax, because we didn’t have email.




And darn if, you know, you didn’t get phone calls back or, We like that idea, go for it, here’s X-amount of time, X-amount of money. I liked that stuff.

That was fun. You know.


You’re in Alaska.




And you’re concerned about what’s happening.


Oh, yeah. Every time I came home, my friends here would ask me, you know, What are you doing up there, besides making money and raising your family, and this kinda thing? They said, We need your help at home. I said, Lawdy me, what can I do? I mean, good grief. But my focus and my interest returned here to Hawai‘i. And eventually, I moved here.


When did you move back?


Oh, it was after ’87, ’88; in that area, in that time zone. Yeah.


When Sabra Kauka moved back to Hawai‘i, she didn’t have a specific career plan in mind. She took one step at a time, trusting that the right path would reveal itself to her when she was ready.


I had an assignment from a national magazine to do a story on Kauai. And that was one of my transitions. So, it enabled, supported part of my transition home, and I chose to return to Kauai on my return home to the islands.


Did you know anyone, have a job there?


I had some friends there. Really, it was the beauty of Kauai that I said, This is where I want to live, this is where I want to make my contribution, for the rest of my days.


But you didn’t make a living the same way. I mean, so many things changed.


Yeah. I didn’t want to leave Hawai‘i anymore. And what I found in Hawai‘i in the 80s was that it was almost like there was somebody with a camera behind every coconut tree. So, the day rates and the pay that I had been getting in Alaska, or from national, it just wasn’t the same here in Hawai‘i. And then, I realized that I didn’t want to do commercial work; I didn’t want to do weddings, I didn’t want to do portraits and studio. Even though I appreciate that, I admire good work, I wanted to continue to learn and to, you know, share stories. And you know, you reach a stage in your life where you ask yourself, What are you gonna do? You know, you’re in your thirties or like forties, whatever, in there. iWhat are gonna do with the rest of your life? Where are you gonna put your energies? You know. Can you make a difference, and if so, how, when, where, how, why? You know. And so, I returned home to the islands, and I freelanced for a couple of years. I had some fun projects that I worked on. But then, I was very, very honored and very lucky to be appointed as the first public information officer for Mayor Joanne Yukimura, her first term in office. And through that job, I learned quite a bit about the community, I learned lot about protocol, what to say, what not to say, when to say it.


And you got connected all over the island of Kauai.


Very much; yeah. When I was working in the Mayor’s office, there was a band of merry music makers that came through during Christmas; they were Christmas caroling. And they were mostly Hawaiian, and they were having fun, and I said, Well, who are you people? Well, we teach Hawaiian studies in the schools. I said, Oh, do you, now? Tell me about that. And there was a woman who worked for them, Wilma Place who started to come by my desk once a week, for weeks, and she’d drop off something for me to read, or she’d tell me about something interesting. And I said, Oh, this is cool stuff. So, she said, Well, when you’re finished working here, maybe you want to come work for us. I said, Yeah, let me think about that. And sure enough, you know, the day after I left the Mayor’s office, I went to work in Hawaiian Studies.


Why did you leave the Mayor’s office?


Because my heart was leading me over there to Hawaiian Studies.


And you had a Hawaiian upbringing in many ways, but were you trained to be a Hawaiian educator at that point?


No; no. As a matter of fact, my mother was a teacher, and as a child, I thought, No way, I’m not gonna do that. Lookit, she’s always got papers to correct. She had a long dining table, you know, and there were always projects on that table. And I said, No way; I’m not gonna do that, that’s too much paperwork. And she’s working all the time, you know. But it turned around, and I found my calling as a Hawaiian Studies kumu, teacher. I was offered a job at Island School, I think in ’95, after the hurricane, to teach Hawaiian Studies, kindergarten through fifth grade. And uh, it’s a great schedule, because I teach there every other day. And on my even days, then I go and support Department of Education, the public schools, and I have a great job of coordinating the Hawaiian Studies Cultural Personnel Resources, they’re called. They’re known as kupuna and kumu in the schools all around the island, from Hanalei to Kekaha.


Did you go to school?


No; it’s all been on-the-job training. I mean, I picked up classes here and there. Like, I took evening classes in olelo Hawai‘i, in the language. So, at this stage of my life, it’s also my objective to pass it on. You know, to share with the next generation, as well.


You’re known for many things; your lauhala weaving.


Oh, I love lauhala.




I love kapa.


Which is just …


I love kapa.


I mean, you beat the kapa, but it beats you up too; right?


Really does; it really does. So, that’s why when I have a project now, I open it up to anyone who wants to learn.


So, Sabra Kauka, who at the time of this conversation in 2016 doubles as a Hawaiian studies teacher at Kauai’s private Island School in Lihue, and as a public school coordinator of Hawaiian cultural personnel, found her passion and her livelihood in sharing the Hawaiian culture. With her students, she embraces the Hawaiian value of observing silently first; not the Western style of students piping up with questions as they occur.


As part of my lesson, I always begin with an oli. And there are so many to learn. And then, they go to looking, actually, the lesson itself, what the basis of it is. But at the end of it, I do observations. And my classroom is adjacent to a reservoir, and in that reservoir, we have alae ula, which is endangered; alaekeokeo, the ones with white head; I have aukuu, the heron that come in.


Those are beautiful.


And there’s fish in there. I mean, you know, it’s tilapia; it’s not a native fish, and there’s bass in there. But they observe, and I have them record what they observed. And they point out butterflies, dragonflies, birds. We have kolea that come on our campus. So, our campus, we have two or three, four, endangered species that lay their eggs there, nest there. I was always a curious kid, and always observant, and always asking questions; sometimes too much, as a child. ‘Cause in a Hawaiian home, you’re kinda raised to not be niele, not be too inquisitive, not just ask what, what, why, why, why everything. So, it took me many years to kinda curb that.


Why is that, anyway?


It’s polite; it’s not being nosy. Don’t ask people too many questions. Oh; oh, my god. Okay. When I first came home, I was in a halau with Roselle Kaniihonipua Lindsey Bailey; right? So, I’m getting this new chant that we’re learning, and I’m asking all these questions. And the answer came back … don’t ask too many questions, the knowledge will be clear to you when you are ready for it. I went, oh, man, this reminds me of my childhood, you know. But she was right, and if you just keep quiet and observe … in other words, observe, listen.


But that was very different from how you were trained in the other areas where you lived and traveled.


Oh, golly. Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, that’s Western world. Western side, and then Hawaiian side. Yeah. It was like, yeah, be inquisitive, ask your questions, da-da-da-da-da.


Be proactive; right?


Be proactive. But this Hawaiian side which is, observe, listen, the answer will come.


The knowledge will come to you.


The knowledge will come to you when you’re ready to understand it.


How do you teach? Is that how you feel, too?


Yeah; yeah.


You do? You switched?


No; no, no, no, no, no. Yeah, there are different times in the lesson and different times in the class, there’s different techniques. You know. I’m like, Save your questions for the end, or Save your comments, I’ll give you time. Yeah. Yeah.


You’re a person of tradition, and then you’re completely open to new ways that don’t conflict with your values.


Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I think you have to be. You have to maintain some flexibility, or you’re gonna break. You know, someone years ago told me, You gotta do what brings you joy. You know, whether you get paid or not, do what you love. And so, when I have high school seniors or whatever come to me, and you know, need a letter of recommendation for college, or need advice on their senior projects, that’s what I tell ‘em, that’s what I tell my grandsons. Find out what it is that you love, and follow that path. I certainly have.


Mahalo a nui loa to Sabra Kauka of Kauai for sharing your stories of keeping Hawaiian culture alive through traditional practices, and inspiring the next generation on Kauai to find their own passions. And big mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit


I did a lesson recently on ha, on the breath of life. And I asked the children to tell me what words they knew that have the letters H, A in them. And they were good; they were pretty good. They said, Oh, aloha, mahalo, Hanalei. You know. And then, I had them hold their hands to their mouth like this, and exhale. What does that feel like? Oh, it’s warm, it’s moist. I said, That is your ha. Then we continued, and I said, Where does it come from? The air, oxygen. I said, Where does that come from? Oh, the trees, the plants. So, they’re making these connections. And then, I had them blow bubbles, ‘cause they could see it. And it was just a fun lesson; it was a quick and fun lesson. But I think it’s important that our children know that they have a place here in Hawai‘i, that they have a purpose here in Hawai‘i. And it is my hope that the children that I teach grow up to appreciate the beauty that we have here, the unique communities that we have, the unique cultures, and that they want to come home and take care of the place.




Taking Our Cue from the Kukui Tree


Architect Sheryl Seaman created these kukui designs for our NEW HOME. The designs are featured on PBS Hawaii's new t-shirt.

Architect Sheryl Seaman created these kukui designs for our NEW HOME. The designs are featured on PBS Hawai‘i’s new t-shirt


Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS HawaiiIf you pluck just one nut from a kukui tree, you will have oil to illuminate the dark for more than three minutes. That’s one of many reasons that Polynesian voyagers brought kukui saplings aboard their canoes to this new land more than 1,500 years ago. Almost every part of the kukui tree was useful in the settlers’ everyday lives. Today the kukui tree is our state tree.


Our PBS Hawai‘i team looks forward to seeing the kukui represented on our soon-to-be NEW HOME on Nimitz Highway. Group 70 International architect Sheryl Seaman has designed an artful metal screen to enfold the building, depicting historically important Hawaiian plants of the area.


The kukui is a particular favorite of ours because it does what we try to do in our own way – be useful every day and illuminate.


At last month’s meeting of PBS Hawai‘i’s statewide Community Advisory Board, Maui member Kainoa Horcajo called out a recent illuminating Insights on PBS Hawai‘i program. Three individuals who’ve been diagnosed with stage-four (advanced) cancer spoke candidly on live television about what they think about and what their lives are like as they face the prospect of death.


“What is more shrouded in darkness and needs more illumination than death?” Horcajo asked. “(Hawaiian) sovereignty and death – those are the elephants in the room in Hawai‘i.”


Lei Kihoi Dunne of Hawai‘i Island spoke of activists in her rural county. A Kona attorney, Dunne said, “They need to know how to access and participate and properly conduct themselves in advocacy that truly advances their cause.”


“Right now, people feel outside the process,” Dunne said. “They can be empowered to make a difference and bring, for example, a contested-case hearing to protect natural resources and culture.”


Horcajo agreed that knowledge of procedure counts: “Knocking on the wrong doors engenders apathy – a feeling that nothing will change…You don’t go to a shave ice store to buy a loco moco.”


Oahu member Cheryl Ka‘uhane Lupenui said that civics education is important for good citizenship: “It’s wayfinding.”


Long ago, Polynesian voyagers brought the means to create light. The kukui tree design on our new building will be a constant reminder to shed light on things that matter.


Aloha a hui hou,

Leslie signature


“Dr. Tusi” Avegalio


Original air date: Tues., June 25, 2013


Leslie Wilcox talks with Dr. Tusi Avegalio, Director of the Pacific Business Center Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A twist of fate brought him from American Samoa to a Kansas teachers college. Dr. Tusi, as he’s known on campus at UH Manoa, went on to earn degrees in education and social science. At the Pacific Business Center, Dr. Tusi helps organizations bridge traditional Pacific Islander values and western thought.


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What we bring to the table, to me, a very compelling cultural perspective. It acknowledges that substance is enduring, and that form is ephemeral, and knowing the difference.


Achieving a balance between the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of the future, with the director of a program at the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business at Manoa, Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, next on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou, and welcome to Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. With a foot in both Western and Pacific Island cultures, our guest has been recognized nationally in economic business development. He is Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, better known as Dr. Tusi, at the UH Shidler College of Business. He runs the Pacific Business Center program with the college. Descended from a long line of Samoan chiefs, Dr. Tusi was raised in the coastal village of Leone in American Samoa in a family that included six other siblings. His father served in the U.S. Navy, and ran a successful agricultural business. His mother was a cultural practitioner who devoted her time to serving family members and supervising the family plantation during his father’s military assignments. After graduating from high school, Dr. Tusi, following the family tradition of military service, was on his way to the Marine recruitment office to enlist, along with four friends. But a twist of fate intervened.


Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, it was the same day that the newspapers published the list of scholarship students. So, my name starting with an A, Avegalio, was the first on the list. So, my aunt brought it to my father’s attention, and the family was absolutely sure I must be the smartest kid on the island, because I was named first on the list. They actually caught me just before I entered the recruiting office.


How interesting, how a life can change on timing.


So, he grabbed my hand, and for the first time, I was almost disobedient. But, when you got a big father with a big hand, I gave it a second thought and was obedient.


And he wanted you to go into education?


Wanted me to go to school; college.


Which became your livelihood.




Your profession.


And so, two weeks later, my dad went with me. Went to Hawaii to meet family there, and then he saw me off in San Francisco. So, I was on the same flight as the other four. They went on to Vietnam, and I went to Kansas. Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kansas. Our Commissioner of Education of Department of Interior at that time felt that small Midwestern schools would best be for acculturation purposes for students from the islands, and I’m glad I went there.


So, strong family values, but still culture shock.


Extreme culture shock. Especially with winter. But family values were very much the same. In fact, I sort of developed a tongue – in – cheek book called Coming of Age in Kansas. And it’s just basically the cultural adjustments that coming from a tropical sea coastal village, going to the middle of Midwest, and interacting and working with people there. What amazed me was that many of the young Kansas boys had never been to Kansas City, or had never flown on an airplane. So, they had their own kind of insularity, their own kind of island, so we actually had a lot in common, and we certainly had a lot of fun.


So, they welcomed you, and you embraced them too?


Well, they didn’t welcome me at first. They didn’t know what …


What to make of you.


They didn’t know what I was. [CHUCKLE] It’s the usual, He’s too big to be a Mexican or an Indian, American Indian. He’s too light – skinned to be Black, so they figured that might be one of the light – skinned Negros, or something of that nature. So, it was fun trying to get to know them, and they get to know me. And it usually comes around by playing music, playing the guitar. [CHUCKLE] Little cultural things that eventually got their curiosity to the point that it laid the foundation to some very enduring relationships.


Enduring, as in marriage.


Yeah; marriage and friendships. I married a young gal from Emporia, Kansas. She had no idea where American Samoa was. But I think what really helped make the transition to Kansas were the Hawaiians, the Hawaiian students that were there. They, more than anything else, helped me to transition successfully. Because they already had networks, they had relationships, and they were extremely popular. And so, I was very fortunate that they sort of took me under their wing, and … rest is history.


And you never once considered leaving, saying, Oh, this is so different from what I’m used to?


No, because, again, being part of a collective culture, I think the shame would be unbearable.


You represented your community.


Yeah, because it wasn’t just me that left.


But didn’t your community want you to marry a local girl from your village?


Oh, yeah. Well, that came later. I was already gone, and it’s a lot easier to make a decision when you’re like, seven thousand miles away from the village. [CHUCKLE]


How did that go over in Leone?


It didn’t go over as well as I thought. My grandmother was very concerned that my wife was so skinny, and she was fearful that her health would not allow her to bear as many grandchildren as she would like to see. But I think in time, Linda became a very endearing part of the family, to the point where when we’d go anywhere, the first thing they asked for is, Well, where’s Linda? [CHUCKLE] And I said, Hello? Oh; where’s your wife? [CHUCKLE] So, yes. So, in many ways, going to Samoa enriched her life, and her life enriched my family’s life and my people’s, those that she had the occasion to interact with.


So, the people who decided about the match between a Samoan culture and the Midwestern Kansas setting were right.


Yes; in ways, yeah. And what also helped was that my dad, having served in the military, was able to keep the family and traditions at a distance to allow his son to make a decision. Dad knew me so well, and he was able to see without having to ask me where I wanted to go in this situation. And I think my mom attuned to me also, so they both, without having to sit down and draw it out, felt and sensed where my heart was. And knowing my heart better than most, they just supported it.


Failautusi Avegalio, or Tusi, returned to Leone in American Samoa to teach at a local high school while considering a career in law. With most of their teachers trained locally, the students were excited by the accomplishments of this native son who had returned home with a college degree. Finding his true calling, Tusi went on to pursue his education in Missouri and Utah, earning masters and doctorate degrees in educational administration. After earning his PhD, he proudly returned home. Sitting together under a breadfruit tree, his mother asked him to explain why he thought it was such a great achievement.


And I was thinking that this is too much, too complex, et cetera, for my mother to understand. And I sadly also included the fact that she only had two years of education in elementary school, thoroughly confusing the difference between knowledge and wisdom. I shared with her, because I love theory, so much of my emphasis was on looking at the theory of giants in the field. Mintzberg, Hertzberg, Adrius, Hertz and Blanshard, and political people like Montesquieu, Locke, and looking at organization, et cetera. She sort of just absorbed all that and listened quietly. And then, she told me to go feed the pigs. So, [CHUCKLE] I was thinking, Feed the pigs? I mean, that’s what I used to do when I was a kid. Meanwhile, thinking to myself, Wow, the great value of my doctorate degree is no higher than feeding pigs, and a little miffed as I left. But then, when I returned, my mom then asked me, questions that thoroughly put me in my place and forever endeared me to appreciating wisdom. She asked me if all the books that these men wrote were to be put in a large basket, how large the basket would be. And I said, It’d probably be as large as the village. [CHUCKLE] And I was thinking, Where is this going? And a towanga [PHONETIC] is a fibrous mesh that we pull from the Heliconia stem, and we use that to squeeze grated coconuts so we get the milk out of it. So, she said, If we got a towanga and you squeezed all of these books, what would you get? Privately, I was thinking, a lot of ink. But I really didn’t know where she was going, so I said, I don’t know. And she says, This what you’ll get. You’ll get respect, consideration, dignity, sensitivity and compassion, the very things that are needed to make men do the kinds of things that need to be done, especially if you’re a leader. And I was thinking, Damn, she just encapsulated it. Essentially all the theories said the same thing, is to treat a human being humanely, followership and leadership can become that much more effective. And then, if you take those words and you squeeze them in the towanga again, what do you get? Then she really got me there. I said, I don’t know. She said, You get alofa. And alofa means, in our language, love. And then, she said, How strange that you should go so far away to a place, at great expense to learn how to alofa. You could have learned that here at home in your family and among the village. She was just reminding me that, Don’t be so full of yourself. [CHUCKLE]


Throughout her life, the mother of Failautusi Avegalio gently imparted to her children the values of the elders, their alofa and hopes for the future. Dr. Tusi’s work honors his mother’s vision that he would one day play a role in enhancing the quality of life for those of the Pacific Region. As the director of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Business Center program, he consults with and coordinates assistance to organizations that have business and economic development projects in the area. The Center’s staff provides the technical assistance; Dr. Tusi’s key role is bridging traditional values and Western thought.


What we bring to the table, to me, a very compelling cultural perspective. It acknowledges that substance is enduring, and that form is ephemeral, and knowing the difference. That by preserving the substance of the past, and then clothing it with the forms of the future, we would be able to achieve an enduring balance between the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of the future. My technical staff are very good in the areas of fiscal management, accounting, marketing, financing. What I bring to the table are the social, cultural, and the historical and the spiritual ones. It’s weaving these two things together. My approach in the Pacific is very different from the person that might be approaching from a corporate business or a business from the mainland or from Europe. I think Bank of Hawaii might be the best example, just recently when American Samoa was hoping to get at least twelve months transition period versus Bank of Hawaii wanting to withdraw within thirty days or ninety days. When a meeting was held at the last minute, the discussions initiated from the Samoa delegation dealt with issues of commonalities, common history, family, ancestors, wisdoms, things of that nature, and reminders that even though we may be separate on the surface, that we all connected in the deep. Now, I can imagine the Bank of Hawaii strategic consultant freaking out and says, What does this have to do with assets and projected profits, et cetera, things that are more business associated? But fortunately, the leader, CEO Peter Ho, as a boy grew up here, was born here. And it resonated. It resonated at that depth. They had reached an agreement that twelve months might be something that the Bank of Hawaii can certainly accommodate and would reconsider its original position. All the lawyers in the world could not have done what occurred there. And again, it’s bringing the social, cultural, spiritual side, and then weaving it with the technical and the knowledge side to arrive at a place where there can be some mutual understanding, basic human decency and consideration. And I think it has worked out then, and I think it will continue to work for the future.


So, in a sense, you find partners and ways to get people moving together to enhance mutual lives. It’s so tough to pick personal partners, business partners. How do you do that? How do you identify?


We have a term called iike. In Hawaiian, it’s called ike. It means attunement, sensing. And that can only come about from experience, from maturity, and learning, and living wisdoms over a period of time. So, I lead with my senses, which is really peculiar, because my more quantitatively oriented colleagues are wondering, What are you talking about? But we always get there. And I need to be able to sit down with the various leaders, whoever they are, and sense them. Our ancestors used iike to navigate. So, they can sense not only the wind, the wave, the winds and the stars, but they can also feel. And I think that is what enabled them to achieve their destinations, and in a very small humble way, that I was able to tap into that to help me to achieve what goals that we were able to for our purposes.


Tapping into the wisdom of the ages did not come easily to Dr. Failautusi Avegalio. With the distractions of youth and exposure to many philosophies and models, he says it’s taken a long time. Today, his life perspectives are well developed, and they begin with the belief that his ancestors have always held, that people and the universe are family.


We have two mothers. There’s the birth mother, and there’s your Earth mother. And in Samoa, it’s called Papa. Papa is the name of the Earth mother. The burying of the afterbirth in a ti leaf – and ti leaf is a very spiritual plant, metaphorically symbolizes the connection of your umbilical cord to the Earth. So, my birth mother, and there’s my Earth mother. And there’s also your father, your human father, which is my dad, and Tangaloa Langi, which is the universe, the stars in the heavens. When you have this sense of awareness of who your parents are, that gives you a sense of wholeness that you wouldn’t have without it. What it also means is that the offspring, both your mothers and your fathers, are your siblings. They’re your kin. If the Earth and the heavens are the parents of all living things, and they’re also my parents, that means all living things and inanimates, stones, rocks, et cetera, are my relatives. So, that really didn’t bear fruit in terms of its meaning until I was in college. One of my student friend’s family owned a large ranch. They were clearing some land with huge trees, and they had this tractor knocking down the trees. And in fact, I couldn’t even stay, I couldn’t watch. But I’d been having those kind of feelings every time I see these kinds of things, and then it sort of all came together. It’s like watching your kin being slaughtered or abused. The basis of nature is God; they’re one and the same thing. You can’t separate the two, and it’s this separation thing that I had a real difficult time trying to reconcile. But what made a big difference for me is when I sat in on a lecture about Howard Gardner. Howard Gardner did these studies on human intelligence. What he pointed out is that there’s more than one intelligence. Before, it just used to be either your IQ, and that had to do with problem – solving and quantitative thinking through mathematics. That there are other intelligences, and the one that just jumped out at me was attunement. It was an intelligence, people had an ability to sense and feel what is not readily apparent to others. And then this quantum mechanics things comes out with physics, that all things emanate rhythms or energies, and that there are animals and humans; they can sense these. And I said, Ah, that’s what my grandfather meant was, we talk to the trees. He didn’t talk, literally talk to the trees. If you’re a healthy tree, you would emanate a different energy than if you’re a sick tree, or if you’re young or inappropriate. So, many of these kinds of attributes can actually now be validated or at least reaffirmed with modern science.


How do you develop attunement?


We develop it only if we focus on it. But we don’t focus on it, because we have technology that does it for us. Let me give you an example. A mother has a child. The child is a block away, and falls off the stairs. Mama knows something happened to Baby. She said, Oh! And there are many incidences where people say, How did you know? Well, I just knew something was wrong. Another more common example. You’ve ever visited a place where it just felt really foreboding? And then, you go to another place, and nobody’s there, but it felt so warm and inviting. An example for that for me is the church in Leone. When I go into that church, I have an incredible feeling of embrace. I now know why, but at the time, I didn’t know. In the late 1800s, churches were built by crushing coral into lime, and then making sort of a cement, but there were no rebar, they used stones. But they ran out of stones when the walls were sort of halfway up. Gathered them from the river and the streams. And so, the only stones left were on what we call kia [PHONETIC]. Kia’s are like the heiau’s where alii are buried. So, Leone, if you go to that village, is noteworthy in the sense that it has no kia’s. So, a very agonizing decision and a testimony to their faith had to be made. So, all the chiefs of the clans gathered, and the proposition was suggested that we have no stones, and the only stones remaining are the stones on the kia of each of our families. And these are our ancestors, these are the giants of our history and the past. So, each clan, I think very emotionally, made a decision that they’re going to build, finish the church. And so, each one brought their stones, and completed the walls that now hold up the church. That explained to me why I felt the way I did, because the kia’s of my alii ancestors are in the walls of this building.


Do your cultural values get in the way of your job at all?


If you only have a foot in one world, reconciling dilemmas may be an impossible thing. But having a foot in both worlds, I can move back and forth very comfortably in both of these worlds. I’m a firm believer that trust begins with looking in another person’s eyes, and feeling them, sensing them, observing their behavior. It has been a traditional practice of our traditional leaders. We sit and we look at each other, and we share food and drink. Sharing food and drink is so essential to sharing oneself. And you take it even further when you can invite them to your home. It’s important for me to have them feel that I’m comfortable, that they are welcome to meet my grandchildren, my children, and my wife, and others in the family. But see how disarming it could be. When I can move then into my world, then I think I’m in a position where I can enhance a trusting relationship. In our traditional settings, before we engage or receive visiting dignitaries or chiefs from other villages, they do their homework. They check your genealogy and your history so that when the engagement actually occurs, there is a context in which pathways can then be extended out. And multiple pathways enables the guest to find which is the most comfortable to walk on. Once that one is identified, the others all collapse into that one. And then, we receive them that way.


Dr. Tusi says he’s thankful for the collective guidance, wisdom, and sacrifices of his parents and extended family in his voyage through life. It’s now his turn, an obligation to impart those Pacific lessons and his Western educational experience to be there for his four children and seven grandchildren, as they navigate toward the future. Thank you. Dr. Failautusi Avegalio – Dr. Tusi, director of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Business Center, for sharing your long story short. And thank you for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou, ‘til next time. Aloha.


For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit


Our people, we think in metaphors and we learn through stories. And because we’re a navigator people, most of our wisdoms derive from the ocean. When the winds don’t shift, adjust your sails. My favorite metaphor is the one that deals with challenges. And it’s about being bold, being courageous, being entrepreneurial. Only you can sense when it’s time to turn into the wind and reach for shores yet untouched. When is your time? When do you turn into the wind? When do you adjust your sail? Like my mom said, anybody can hoist an anchor and unfurl a sail. You know how to do that, but it’s knowing when to do it, and more important, why do you do it.


Corbett Kalama


Original air date: Tues., Feb. 2, 2010


A Community Leader from Humble Beginnings


Leslie Wilcox talks story with Corbett Kalama, Executive Vice President and Region Manager at the Oahu Office of First Hawaiian Bank and Bishop Estate Trustee. Corbett comes from humble beginnings – he grew up in a 900-square-foot house in Kailua with a family of 13 – but his road to success was not the typical dog-eat-dog climb up the corporate ladder. It was, instead, formed by his family’s Hawaiian values of family, education, and community.


Corbett Kalama Audio


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Every child on the beach, every child that’s born—they all have dreams. I want people to be put in a situation where they can at least experience working toward those dreams.


He grew up in a family of 13…living in a 900-square-foot house…hand me downs got pretty worn out. He went on to become a top official of a leading Hawaii bank and a trustee of the Kamehameha schools. Meet Corbett Kalama — next, on Long Story Short.


Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this edition of Long Story Short, you’ll get to know Corbett Kalama, First Hawaiian Bank Executive Vice President, Kamehameha Schools trustee, husband, father, and much more. Corbett Kalama grew up in Kailua in Windward Oahu…the 7th of 11 children! He describes his dad as a renaissance man and his mom as a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. From them he inherited a sense of responsibility to the community—something that has shaped his approach to business.


From a bank perspective, our responsibility goes far beyond profit. Our responsibility goes through our community, and we’re here—banking, when it was originally set up, was to benefit communities. I think there’s a lot of discussion about the more challenging side of banking. But I fortunately, I’ve been raised in a bank that never got involved in a lot of these issues, and we never got involved in sub prime lending, for example, those types of things. And I think that just goes to back to the core of who we are and as organizations. But people realize that even from a bank’s standpoint, general banking, that’s the responsibility that you have to your broader community. And the flip side of it is to look at two choices. We either do it, we get involved and we do it willingly because we want to, and because it’s the right thing to do or you address it some other way, and that’s gonna have to be through social programs and different things. I don’t think one will go away completely, the social programs, but that should be there to be in a supportive role, not the means by which we have our community realize their aspirations. So our bank’s always been that part of it, and I can say that for the other institutions in town, because we work together as teams, that they’ve been actively involved in that.


What’s the scope of your work at the bank? What do you do?


I head up—I have the Oahu I Region, which is all the majority of the branches here on Oahu, the metro side, Kahala, Hawaii Kai, Kaimuki. And then I also head up the personal and small business banking portfolios, which is about eighty thousand of our customers; Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan. So I’m pretty active on that. I sit on our senior management committee here at First Hawaiian.


So your main job is more than enough.


To be a servant; just to be a servant. And I think the one string for me all the way across is you put yourself in that position of taking care of people, of providing guidance to people. So I’m a servant to my workers that are out in the field. Don Horner, my boss now, terrific, very humble man, grew up in humble beginnings. He lives our values and he always talks about line and staff, line and staff, right? You got the folks out there that are on the frontline doing everything, and we work for them. And it’s more than just a saying; we work for them in that meaningful way. So you’re constantly serving people in different ways. In the community, we’re out there, even though we go in there and you’re in a leadership position, but I’m serving them.


What’s your number one objective serving on the board of trustees at Kamehameha Schools?


Educate children, educate as many children as possible.


That means a lot of outreach?


Lot of outreach. You’ve heard there’s been some discussions about some of the work that we’re doing out in Nanakuli and Waianae. That’s a major effort on the part of Kamehameha Schools. But just a continued outreach working through the charter schools, working through our Ho‘olana programs, the scholarship programs, the Pauahi Scholars. Trying to really strengthen our community from an educational standpoint. So where we may not necessarily have large campuses, there’s a way that we can continue to work through and use our resources to work with the existing schools that are there. And in light of some of the challenges that our state is facing currently, from a budgetary standpoint, there are a lot of opportunities for Kamehameha. But it’s just, education is just critical.


At the same time, Hawaiian entitlements are under attack.


M-hm. They are; they are, but we have to stay true to our mission, and stay focused on that. My feeling is, you can use the legal system as much as possible to protect the different entitlements that are there, but continue to do your work, continue to do your work. So I’m not really as concerned, not to make light of it. It’s a major challenge for us, but the attacks against different groups have taken place since the beginning of time. It’s history repeating itself. But we can do is, we can address the here and now, and get as many children educated as possible. But we’re not gonna be able to do that by ourselves. I think part of the challenge with Kamehameha is, people look at Kamehameha as having this very large entity, but it was designed to last into perpetuity. And even with Kamehameha going into various communities, I like to use the analogy of a stool. In many instances, Kamehameha needs to go in and be one of the legs on the stool. Because there have been people in these communities for generations that have kept the communities moving, kept it on a positive note, and our responsibility is to go in there and strengthen them, rather—


But not be the whole stool.


You don’t need to sit on the stool. You need to be one of the legs, because communities—we need to help communities take care of the communities themselves. And the opportunities exist within all of these communities; young leaders that are there, that are committed to making things happen. And it’ll happen.


Have you considered quitting your bank job to serve on the board of Kamehameha?


No, it’s a challenge, though. I serve…you can’t lead an organization, it’s not—I’m not talking about micromanaging or anything. In order to give direction and to provide policy, and to provide insight to the group, you need to spend time and you need to read. I mean, we’ve got an investment portfolio that’s just enormous. There are issues in the community that go far beyond accounting, far beyond looking at rent rolls. What impact does this have on the community long term. So no, I think working at the bank, one enhances the other, one compliments the other. My background at the bank has provided a lot of guidance. And I say that humbly to the staff, in the sense that I’ve seen things in the banking community from large land developments, for example, the operation of shopping centers, financing of different types of things, leasing operations that assist the organization in growing and when we start identifying different challenges that exist. So do I see myself quitting the bank? No, not in the immediate term. Do I have free time? No.


You’ve spent a lot of time considering leadership, haven’t you? Who are some of the other leaders you admire?


Well, my father. My father was—leaders have to connect what they say to what they do, and what they do to what they say. My father did that all the time. Leaders have to be caring. My father did that all the time.


You know, I notice when you talk about leadership, you tend to say humility, humble, ha‘aha‘a. Oftentimes, when you read descriptions of leadership, it says bold, assertive, decisive.


I think it’s possible to be bold, assertive, decisive, and still be humble. You don’t have to be someone that speaks in a loud tone, or a bold tone to be bold. You can be yourself, you can be strong. Like I say, people watch your actions. Right; you can show intensity by not necessarily saying a single word, but just through your actions and your commitment, and your resolve to getting things done in a way that’s very sensitive to the entity or individual that you’re trying to assist. When you sit back and you look at just a real broad perspective, and you look at someone like Martin Luther King, when he was giving his speech, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I have a dream; everybody has dreams. Right? But he laid it out, point by point, what he expected to see, and getting people to buy into that dream. For me, if you ask me whether or not I have vision and dreams, I’d like to see our community be much stronger. I’d like to be able to go into our housing communities as we do in a much larger fashion, and continue to build on those things that have occurred. We’ve been very fortunate to have our private school system here willing to go into some of these housing projects and provide scholarships. But my whole aim is to go ahead and work with the homeless on the beach, and really bring opportunity to them to get them to dream.


You did something really unusual when we asked you, who are the people who have influenced your life. You named your family, and friends, and then you named the poor—and you’re a banker, and then you named people who you’ve never even met. Could you talk about that?


I named the poor because the poor give you a foundation. And I spend time with the poor. And the poor help me appreciate all the different blessings that I’ve had in my life. The different opportunities, the different people that have crossed paths with me, that have said, hi. It’s the simple things. My dad would often say, Say hi to whoever you run into. The worst thing that could ever happen is that they won’t say hi back to you. But you’re not any worse off. But the reason why I say the poor is, when you go and you do work with the poor they teach—you learn so much from that group of people and you can get in there, and you hone your skills. Selfishly, you hone your own skills. We often, from a business standpoint, we push our people into the community. We push them out there, because it forces them to go ahead and really get uncomfortable, and to recognize that that’s part of their kuleana and responsibility. But the poor are just at the forefront for me. Because when we lose the sense of responsibility for that part of our community, it’s over. It’s over. It doesn’t matter what economic programs we put in place, it’s over when we lose that sensitivity working with the poor. And a lot of our leaders and future leaders, and the hope comes from that part of our community that we can’t lose sight of.


Corbett Kalama was raised with a strong belief in the values of inclusiveness, stewardship and education. His mother Elizabeth Correa Kalama was a kumu hula. Father Charles Alan Kalama was a plumber, draftsman, musician, and boat builder. He even made musical instruments and fishing equipment. The family didn’t have much money but Corbett Kalama says he had a rich childhood.


What was it like growing up in Kailua? This would be in the middle 50s?


M-hm. It was fun. Kailua was just it—if I could describe it, it was a huge playground, and I had many mothers and fathers. And it was a time of real broad community, growing up. As a community, we learned to respect our elders, in more ways than one. If we were out of line in any way, shape, or form, we’d go home and get disciplined by our parents, then we’d have to go back up the street and apologize again to Mrs. Esposito or Mr. Grandberg, or Mr. Silva, or Mrs. Kim, and that type of thing. But that was just the way we were raised. And even when we’d go fishing and different things like that, we’d fish as a group. And all the elders, it wasn’t unusual for them to sit down and give us guidance on what to look at in the ocean. So they were constantly teaching us. But we learned at an early age to share. So we’d lay nets, for example, off Kailua Beach right near the boat ramp, catch fish—they’d teach us how to do that, and take the fish out of the net and make sure that everybody in the neighborhood shared in that part of it. So it was very giving, comfortable, environment. It was a challenge growing up in the types of houses that we were. There were different types of camps. We had a very small home, nine hundred square foot house.


Nine hundred square feet, and how many—children?


Eleven children.


Oh, that must have been rough.


Oh, it was rough, but you work it out. Yeah, you work it out, and it was an interesting perspective reflecting with my older brother, Charles, about how he viewed his life when he was growing up. Because when he grew up, he was the first one, so he lived at the time when we only had two, three children. So it was an interesting perspective. It wasn’t until, it got to me as number seven, already; and then there were four more after me. And it’s interesting when we reminisce as a group, as a family, the different perspectives we had at different stages in our life. But it a very very rich time. We shared everything that we had. My father shared all of the knowledge that he had, we spent a lot of time in the ocean. We lived a lot off the ocean. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to eat lobster or those types of things anymore, because it was right there in our front yard. But we learned the right way to pick lobster and not to damage the whole—we were very, very protective of sustainability as they talk about it today. But we learned that way, so we all had to pull our load.


What was the fishing out Kailua way like then, compared to now?


Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Kailua Reef used to be like an aquarium.


You had every type of fish that you could think of. There was white coral; you could go just a little further outside that, deep enough to where you’d see a lot of black coral that was there. There were lobster holes everywhere in Kailua. You could walk right from the sand into the water, and find a lobster hole, octopus holes. It wasn’t unusual for us to take that small island off Kailua Beach is called Popoia Island, they refer to it as Flat Island. But we’d go out there, and we’d go surfing. It wasn’t unusual where we’d just take a bottle of water, some matches, and we’d hide an old refrigerator grill, and then we’d jan ken po at about lunchtime to see who was gonna go in the water to pick slipper lobster. We’d go out there, and it was two apiece. One person would have to dive in the water and pick it, and that’s how we’d live. We’d go out there and do that. So we had a park that was there. We were windsurfing before there was windsurfing.


Did you see other people taking too much? Was there some kind of a neighborhood—


As a child, no, you never saw that. You always had—the neighborhood was very, very protective of each other. So even when you went fishing, you had to go and you went to visit with other families to make sure that they had enough food too. So it wasn’t unusual. But see, with that responsibility, they also had the responsibility of the discipline aspect of it. So no, it wasn’t unusual, it wasn’t unusual for the neighborhood kids to just sleep on the beach as a group. It wasn’t unusual to be sleeping at someone’s house, and know that everybody was okay.


When you have something, you always share.


You share it. You share it. And it worked out, and kids talk about that. Now they’re all adults or grandparents, they talk about coming to our house when we were youngsters. And my dad, at a very young age, even though we lived in that small house, it wasn’t unusual for him to go around and pick up the homeless in those days—that were in Kailua, and bring them home to our house.


I think that’s so true that so often, it’s the people who have less who give more. Do you find that?


I still see that. And I think it’s just finding the opportunity for those that do have to help connect them to the group. ’Cause a lot of the work that I do in the community now, it’s not for a lack of desire on the part of individuals that are a little better off than others, but it’s trying to make that connection.


Can we go back to your dad a bit? ’Cause you mentioned him as your first role model as a leader. Tell me about him. I’ve heard from your old-time neighbors in Kailua, he was a character.


My dad was a character. My father, he developed a three-prong spear out of aluminum when no one had it. And my father is just very, very creative. But the other side of it too is, he spoke a number of different languages; he could pick up really fast. He had great relationships. In our neighborhood, we had a Filipino community, for example, the Lambitoc family was there, and a lot of Filipino workers that would come in, and we got to really know them. We learned the culture, and that type of thing. My father would include everyone all the time. We’d go through, but he was just able to take things and look at issues, and look at challenges, and resolve them quickly.


What kinds of things did he build? You said he was—


Well, he built boats. He could build houses. He was a draftsman, so a lot of the big buildings in town, he was there. Lot of the plumbing that went on up on Waialae Iki Ridge and all of those places, my dad’s company did that. He just…motorboats. It wasn’t unusual for my dad to…well, musical instruments, he made banjos, guitars, ukulele, electric things. I mean, he was just amazing. But he could do that, and have it just be perfect. Harmonicas, bass harmonicas. And we had that around, it was just everywhere in our homes.


Did you have musicians come to your house too?


Yeah, we had a whole bunch of musicians. So you had Charles K.L. Davis, Tony B, Gabby Pahinui, that type of folks that would be in there. And we’d just sit there and listen and watch them play. ’Cause you know, in those days, you never asked too many questions. You just listened, and then you remember the sound. When they’d all pass out eventually, we’d grab the instruments and start playing. And that’s how we all learned how to play music. But we got exposed to a whole number of things. And then my mother was a kumu hula. Her teacher was Auntie Lokalia Montgomery. Her pahu drum was made by Daddy Bray. And the other students in her class were Auntie Maiki Aiu was my mom’s cousin, Sally Woods Naluai, and they were all trained, and they all uniki’d at the age of thirteen. Right, but the story there is, my dad—my mom in order to spite my dad, went ahead and sold her—pawned her pahu drum. And on her pahu drum, her name’s there, Kekauilanikaeakawaha is on it. So lo and behold, this lady named Auntie Pilahi Paki is walking past the pawn shop. And Auntie Pilahi is relating this story to me. And she says that the drum was calling out to her. So I’m in my little back yard in Kailua Beach, I’m raking up the panax hedges. And I see this lady, who I’ve never met before, was Auntie Pilahi Paki holding my mother’s pahu drum.


Was she considered a cultural expert at that time?


Didn’t even know who the lady was. This was my first experience with Auntie Pilahi. I looked at her, and I said, Auntie, how come you have my mom’s pahu drum? I didn’t know my mom had pawned it. And then Auntie Pilahi started chanting to my mother. So I ran in the house and I said, Mom, there’s this lady out there, she has your pahu drum. So that’s how I got to meet Auntie Pilahi. And I was about six, six or seven years old. And that’s why our relationship started. But that was just part of the music part of it. Then from that, I got to meet Uncle Eddie Kamae.


Okay; well, let me ask you about Auntie Iolani Luahine.


Very special, very unique, very spiritual. It’s my experience with her was going up to Mauna ‘Ala with my mother, who was a kumu hula, and I went up there grudgingly ’cause my mom would have us in the days when I was growing up in Kailua, not too many men were dancing anywhere. So my brothers and I would often have to go ahead and perform for my mother in the Waikiki Shell and then pa‘i umauma. All that stuff. And then every so often, my mom would want to go up and visit Auntie Lo in the 60s, and she was up at Mauna ‘Ala. And we’d go there, and it was always an interesting time for me. Auntie Io had a way about her that demanded respect immediately. And you were a bit scared, in a real respectful way, because she had these eyes that could basically burn holes through you. And then her hair was this way, and what she used to do was let her hair out, and her and my mom would dance on the lawn there. I would [DRUMS TABLE] for them, and they would uh, Kaulilua was—she would—and so I remember vividly—she would teach me how to take the ti leaf and fold it, so that I could pa‘i my [KNOCKS TABLE] puniu my drum for them.


Is it true that when she danced, something seemed to come from within her? She almost became another person.


She was larger than life. Auntie Io—I get chicken skin, my whole body is alive now, ‘cause I can just see her, and she was just a very, very unique, very powerful.


Why do you think that was?


She just had—she had mana. She had the spirit in her.


And she was—connected to the spirits, as the—curator of Mauna ‘Ala.


She was connected. People went to her for guidance.   She was a beautiful dancer. And as a child growing up, it was people doing kahiko was very special. You never used to see that. It was interesting to watch the transition when the whole Merrie Monarch and everything, and then everybody started doing it. Because even as my mother was going through and training her haumana, very few were taught—


Your mother’s generation, was the generation that generally was looking more Western than going back to roots.


Yeah. See, my mother was raised around that, so my mother was a chanter. My mother was a chanter that would actually—Auntie Maiki, her haumana would come to my mom, and my mom would provide them guidance.


But were they going against the mainstream grain at that point? Everybody else was looking elsewhere.


They were somewhat, to a certain extent. But if you get back to who we are as a people, as Hawaiians, it’s to be inclusive. The Hawaiians, when they talk about aloha, and reaching out to everyone, that’s what it was. You know, so they went far beyond, and you find a lot of our folklore and a lot of our stories about Hawaii in all parts of the world. You can go to Japan, it’s a big part. There are olis out there that talk about the volcanoes in Japan, and why they’re so tied. There are a lot of things that have gone on in Hawaiian history that have gone on and ’til today, you have that challenge between the kumu that want to leave it, and the others that want to continue to grow. And it’s been growing.


Kamehameha Schools trustee Corbett Kalama graduated from Kailua High School with honors. Also from Western Oregon University and the pacific coast banking school at the University of Washington. He’s taught high school and college courses. His love of learning started at a young age. It was something that came naturally to him.


I just blazed through school. There wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do in my mind’s eye. I was an honor student, and it just goes back to high school. I remember walking into an assembly one day as a sophomore at Kailua High School, and I saw a guy walking and had one of these yellow braids, right. And I said, What is that? And he said, That’s the Honor Society. I said, I’m gonna get one of those. Right? Well, there are no—so I went and I figured out what I had to do. And one way to get in, I went and took a trigonometry class. But I was the only Hawaiian in the class. And I decided, okay, I’m gonna get the top score in the class. So that’s what I did. I got straight A’s and I aced all my tests, and all that stuff. And it became a challenge. The things were pretty easy for me. And then when I went to college, the same thing. I challenged a bunch of courses, so I had enough credits to graduate within three years. So life was easy.


Tell me about meeting your wife. You met her—legs first?


Yeah. My wife it’s really interesting. I came back. I was a freshman in college, I came back to Kailua Canoe Club, and I’ve always been very successful in canoe paddling since I was a youngster. Did a lot of big races, and those types of things. So I got out there, and in Waikiki we have a 4th of July regatta, the Walter J. MacFarland Regatta put on by the Outrigger Canoe Club. I’m an experienced steersman, so I get to go out there and steer the canoes. Not everybody does. Well, my wife was paddling in the seventeen and under women’s crew, and I as the steersman. Well, as we were coming in, the boat sunk. We filled up with water and swamped. So part of the steer’s responsibility is to make sure that you’ve got your passengers okay. So I went underwater and I was counting legs. You know, five sets of legs, and I saw these long legs. I go, Ho, who is that? Came up, and it was Sandy. So she didn’t know this; I decided right then, that’s who I’m gonna marry, was that. She was seventeen years old, and I was eighteen. And then we struck up a relationship over time, and then I’d go back to school in Oregon, and she was here. And she’s a very, very hard, hard worker, very patient, very patient. She’s a kindergarten schoolteacher in Kailua, loves kids, kids love her. She’s done a tremendous job.


So could you really make a lifelong commitment based on underwater legs?


Yeah, uh—no. But it was a start. Starts from the toes.


Is there anything else you want to talk about that I havent asked you about?


The idea of aloha. Being kind to people all the time, recognizing the importance of working together as a group, seeing the good in all people, recognizing that we have to be good servants, and recognizing that through patience and perseverance, you’re gonna emerge successful, but you cannot do that by yourself. One thing that I learned as a child growing up is you need to understand your history and where you come from. And so it’s not uncommon for me to go ahead and share my genealogy when I meet with Hawaiian groups, especially, because that’s who I’m representing, that’s who I come from, that’s who I am.


Corbett Kalama connects to the past, lives in the present and helps shape the future with his commitment to children and the community. He draws from the Hawaiian values he learned, growing up in that tiny home with a large family and an open door to those less fortunate. Mahalo to Corbett Kalama…and to you…for joining me on Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox with PBS Hawaii. A hui hou kakou.


So I decided, without telling my mom, that I’m gonna go to Kailua High School. So what happened was, I turned out for the football team, and the Kailua coaches didn’t know. And I turned out for the junior varsity football team, and I made it all the way through the cut, and it came time to register me, they realized that I wasn’t going to Kailua yet. So I went to my mom, and I asked her, I went to her house and I said, Do you mind dropping me off at school? So we were driving up through Kailua town. And I said, No, you have to take a left here. [chuckle] She said, Where you going? I said, Kailua High School. And she said, When are you going to Kailua High School? I said, This year. When? You didn’t tell me about this. I said, Don’t worry, Mom, don’t worry; I’ll be okay. That’s how I got to go to Kailua High School.