In Their Own Words: Pomaika‘i Krueger 

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Cultural Advisor 

The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas  

“There’s something about Hawai’i –like learning the language – that is powerful.” (Photo by Jason Moore) 

“I grew up in Wailuku, in the same house that my paternal grandfather built. My mother’s side was very active in practicing Hawaiian culture, so as a child, I was following after elders – literally, learning at their feet. That gave way for me to be able to be where I am today. [My upbringing] gave me the cultural foundation that I stand on. 

When I perform hula or sing or chant, and people are impressed and say, ‘Wow,’ I often tell them, ‘It’s not me. My body and my voice is a mirror image of the generation that came before.’ How does that work? That’s what I learned to do – somebody took the time to mold me to be able to do those things. This is a hallmark and a tradition of an oral society. Culture changes through the years though.  

In the 1800s, the missionaries came here and promoted literacy for the sake of spreading Christianity. The Hawaiian Islands – like the rest of Polynesia and Native America – were oral societies; so all culture, history and language was memorized and orally passed from parent to child. When the missionaries created the writing system, Hawaiians were fascinated by this idea that you could put information from your mind onto a paper, and then you could send it to another island, and your loved one could open it and read a message from your mind without you being present. 

Hawaiians immediately recognized the value of literacy. By 1850 or 1860, Hawai‘i was one of the world’s most literate nations. We have hundreds of newspapers written by native Hawaiians, and today they’re digitized. We’re often finding new stories, place names and traditions. We have a lot of information recorded – oral tradition is locked into place but literacy helps our traditions to spread further. 

Everybody is fascinated with surfing and hula. Those are products of our culture. They stem from who we are and the civilization we built on these islands. So how much of our culture is still practiced, versus in the 1800s? I guess my response is: Enough – enough of our culture is still perpetuated. 

We have our language, our food, our crafts, our mannerisms. We have our celebrations. I feel like those are all the hallmarks of any culture. If a culture is truly living, then what is authentic? In every generation, it should shift and change to fit the lifestyle of that world that it exists in. 

My biggest worry is that outside influences change the culture, versus change coming from an organic place. A good example of this is Disney creates a movie called ‘Moana,’ right? It’s a great movie and everything but now a whole new generation of children think that is an accurate depiction of Hawaiian culture. They [Disney] just combined all Polynesian cultures together to make a new thing but children don’t know that. 

Now the world is getting a new perspective of who Maui is, but that perspective is not coming from culture. We have been passing down stories of Maui for generations but this Maui is different. I think cultures are meant to change and evolve; however, the issue is for what reasons they’re evolving and who’s evolving it. Let Hawai’i be, grow and evolve in her own way. 

There’s something about Hawai‘i – like learning the Hawaiian language – that is powerful. That is the reason why Maui is so attractive to people. The outside world thought it was just the beaches they liked, but in reality something else is drawing them to these islands. It has to do with the depth and wealth of our culture. 

So many of our teachings are based on ideas like love, patience, gratitude – you can’t help but feel good when you’re here. What you’re feeling when you’re here – it’s our aloha spirit, our culture. And it comes with a great depth. So, learn more, embrace Hawai’i and her uniqueness and let her embrace you.”  

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