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portrait of Pelehonuamea Harman
Pelehonuamea Harman (Photo Credit: Daniella Zalcman)

Hawaiʻi Island educator Pelehonuamea Harman has been appointed as the first-ever director of Native Hawaiian Engagement at the . The announcement, confirmed by the Board of Regents and President David Lassner this June, marks a significant stride toward the universitys goal of becoming a leader in Indigenous education. Harman is scheduled to start in her new role on July 1.

Harman will join the growing Hawaiʻi Papa o Ke Ao team established throughout the 10-campus System to develop, implement and assess strategic actions to enhance the higher education needs of Native Hawaiians. At Hilo, Harman will help to implement priorities such as advancing language and culture parity in areas ranging from programming and curriculum to research and hiring practices.

“Her acceptance of this role and her willingness to share her rich lineage of Hawaiian language and cultural knowledge as a moʻopuna kuakahi (great-granddaughter) of Mary Kawena Pukui, one of the University of Ჹɲʻ most esteemed scholars of Hawaiian knowledge, is a testament to her commitment to our shared journey of reclaiming this ʻike (knowledge) in our endeavors moving forward as a university,” said Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin.

Wealth of knowledge, expertise

Harman brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the position, with more than twenty years of experience in Hawaiian immersion education, which includes teaching at ᾱǡ Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu K–12 laboratory school and the program within .

Harman is an alumna of Hilo with a bachelor of arts in Hawaiian studies, a teaching certificate from Kahuawaiola, and a master of arts in Hawaiian language and literature.

ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) innovators

Together with her husband, Kekoa, an associate professor of Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language at Hilo, Pelehonuamea serves as a kumu hula (hula teacher) of Hālau I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo (Hālau of the Living Voice of Descendants).

Related: From hula to PhD: Hilo kumu shares ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi journey, March 28, 2024

Harman is a haumāna ʻuniki (student of intense studies) of Kumu Hula Kimo Alama Keaulana. The Harmans hālau hula (hula school) based on Hawaiʻi Mokupuni (Hawaiʻi Island), is focused on raising new generations grounded in the practices of hula from a strong foundation of Hawaiian language fluency. Living what they teach, they raise all four of their children through ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language).

In a notable recognition of their expertise, the Harmans were invited to Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in 2022 to collaborate on curriculum development for their haumāna (students).

For more go to .

By Susan Enright

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