The Kresge Foundation, based in Detroit, Mich., has awarded $460,000 to a University of Hawaii at Manoa program that aims to empower the Native Hawaiian community through decision-making in environmental and social issues. 

The Lamakū Na‘auao project gives participants policy training so that they can participate in decisions involving island food security, renewable energy research, cultural practices and climate change, according to a UH Foundation press release.

“The core idea is that the Hawaiian community has a deep reservoir of knowledge that can benefit not only its own members but also the larger community,” the press release says.

The project is spearheaded by the Loli Aninau, Maka‘ala Aniau (LAMA) program, which is housed within the Hawai’inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and the William S. Richardson School of Law.

LAMA endeavors to “catalyze climate adaptation and resiliency” by engaging the community through training and policy tools, linking decision-makers with various stakeholders.

According to the press release, Kresge funding will help LAMA:

  • Hire qualified staff.
  • Develop the Kilo Honua (earth observers) curriculum and distribute it to Native Hawaiian communities and the general public through workshops. The workshops will offer a human rights-based approach to enhancing food security, renewable energy development, and traditional knowledge from a local, national, and Pacific perspective.
  • Design and publish a briefing sheet that evaluates existing laws and policies around traditional knowledge relevant to Hawai‘i and then offers effective recommendations that recognize the rights of Native Hawaiians to their traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, and art forms as well as natural and biological resources.
  • Create a website and via community television and social media provide the Native Hawaiian and Hawai‘i communities with information to inform dialogue with local, state, and national policy-makers about climate change, renewable energy, food security, and traditional knowledge.


Preserving Native Hawaiian cultural knowledge (Photo courtesy of the UH Foundation)

— Alia Wong