1st place essay about kalo evokes passion for land, people


ʻAʻaliʻikumakani Dukelow, a 2015 graduate of Ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Kekaulike on Maui, earns a $2,500 scholarship and summer learning and cultural exchange in Washington, D.C., with his winning essay about cultivating taro.

​​​​One of HIDOE's Kaiapuni students was awarded 1st place in the prestigious Holland & Knight Essay Contest for young native writers.

A'ali'ikumakani Dukelow, a recent graduate of Ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Kekaulike on Maui, was honored for his original essay, "Kalo," along with young writers from the Seneca, Nez Perce, Navajo and Iñupiat tribes. The honor included an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the National Museum of the American Indian and other prominent sites as part of Scholar Week last month, as well as a $2,500 scholarship.

The contest prompt this year was to capture cultural images, symbols, or art forms that have been historically used by an American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian community to serve a specific purpose or to communicate a particular message or value.

Dukelow's evocative essay recalled his time spent cultivating taro, its connection to his family and kūpuna, and the value system of aloha ‘āina that sustained generations of his people. Importantly, he notes aloha ‘āina belongs to us all — much as the Mālama Honua eduational movement proclaims. An excerpt: ​

"We as a people have emerged from western despotism and are in the process of restoring our culture. Our taro plant will invariably serve as a reminder to us all of the struggles our kūpuna endured to conserve the belief of aloha ‘āina. Aloha ‘āina appeals to us all, not only as an indigenous group but as a human race."

We caught up with A'ali'i, who is heading to Seattle University in the fall to study English.

Q&A with A'ali'i Dukelow

What inspired you to apply for this essay contest?

With all of the issues that we native Hawaiians currently face, I felt that it was my responsibility to bring awareness to the injustice that me and my people are resisting against in our own homelands.

Were you able to attend the Scholars Week in D.C. as part of your winning submission? If so, what was your experience there? Any takeaways?

I was able to participate in the Scholar’s week in D.C. It was a really humbling experience that allowed me to advocate for my lahui and our current issues amongst other young native scholars from various tribes. Throughout the week we learned about various leadership opportunities for native youth. I am really thankful to Holland & Knight as well as the National Indian Education Association for this experience.

Was there a particular teacher or class at your Kaiapuni school that put you on a path of communications arts / language arts? Someone or something that really sparked your passion in this area?

The entire experience of being a kaiapuni student from kindergarten until graduating from high school has taught me to always trust the values of my ancestors because it is my responsibility to perpetuate their knowledge so that our subsequent generations will thrive. I feel that writing through this perspective has become one way for me to fulfill this responsibility.

Any friends, family or teachers who were your champions whom you'd like to thank for their support?

I would like to thank my entire family for all of the guidance and support that they have given me throughout my years as a kaiapuni student. I would also like to thank every single teacher I have ever had both in kaiapuni and non-kaiapuni for imparting invaluable lessons to me.

Contact Information

Communications and Community Affairs Office

Phone: 808-586-3232

Email: doe_info@hawaiidoe.org


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