Our Islands, Our Future

Observing Women’s History Month during March, Maui Economic Development Board celebrates revered poet and activist Dana Naone Hall, who was recently named the Hawaii Land Trust 2023 Champion of the Land.

A $3.2 million gift from the Laurence H. Dorcy Hawaiian Foundation established a new Hawaiian studies chair at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Hawai’inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. In 2020, the Dana Naone Hall Endowed Chair in Hawaiian Studies, Literature and the Environment was named in her honor.

Hawai’inuiākea Dean Jonathan Osorio said, “Through this endowment, we teach new generations of Hawaiians about their ancestors who honed social, environmental and cultural management skills over a thousand years. Powerful, fearless community leaders like Dana Naone Hall have been key to the perpetuation of Hawaiian knowledge over the last 50 years, as they worked tirelessly to protect our oceans, streams and forests from urbanization and tourist-driven development.

A graduate of Kamehameha Schools and UH Manoa, Naone Hall writes about the inexhaustible relationship of the Hawaiian people to their native land. Among her many contributions is Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer, covering more than three decades of her political and cultural engagement in public, federal, state and county processes. 

In her book, Naone Hall defines activism as, “99 percent trench work.” She encourages engagement to benefit the life of the land by protecting and restoring cultural sites across the islands. She says, “This ensures that the life of the land will continue to be perpetuated for future generations.” Naone Hall seeks to leaven polemical language with poetic expressions of aloha ‘aina and conveys as much pertinent information as possible to aid those in decision-making positions. In her poem Keone’o’io Fishpond, she writes, “If you do not see / how those here raised / the soft-nosed needlefish, / Look again.”

University of Hawaii President David Lassner said, “We are humbled and honored to have this new endowed chair honoring such an influential and inspirational educator and advocate as Naone Hall. She will have an impact stretching across generations that will infuse new energy into the application of Hawaiian knowledge, enriching not only our Hawaiian communities, but our world.”

Naone Hall’s political activism culminated in the protection of numerous sacred places. She challenges us all to reflect on our values, to live them, and to act. Jonathan Osorio, Dean, UH Manoa Hawai’inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge