In the aftermath of World War II, when Peter Apo was growing up on Oahu, there was a big push toward assimilation into American culture for Native Hawaiians like him.

Amid the popular patriotism of that time, he didn’t really understand what his roots meant. Ironically, the mainland’s appropriation of elements of Hawaiian culture — think Elvis Presley — drew him down a turbulent path that ultimately led him to develop a deep understanding of his roots.

Now in his mid-70s, he continues to explore them.

The professional musician-turned-activist-turned-elected-trustee at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs spends his days offering his take on what it means to be Hawaiian in the 21st century.

His business, which is apart from his work as a trustee, involves consulting for companies from outside the islands on how to be sensitive to Native Hawaiian culture. We caught up with Apo recently to share the story of his journey.

Hit the play button to hear the discussion or subscribe to the Civil Beat Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Read a transcript of this podcast here.

Peter Apo spent much of his childhood in the 1940s and 1950s around the Ala Wai Canal and Waikiki, before the big buildings went up.

Peter Apo spent much of his childhood in the 1940s and 1950s around the Ala Wai Canal and Waikiki, before the big buildings went up across the water.

Eric Pape/Civil Beat

If you have a story about diversity, race, ethnicity, or what local or Hawaiian identity means to you in the islands, feel free to share it for publication in our Connections section. You can send it to epape@civilbeat.com.

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