Now everyone in the United States will know about “Aunty Edith” Kanaka’ole. This is thanks to the program that will feature the legendary Native Hawaiian. “Aunty Edith” Kanaka`ole is a “venerated Hawaiian cultural icon, kumu hula, composer, chanter, and a key influence in the Hawaiian renaissance of the 1970s.” who died in 1979. She will join four others (shown below) in being honored in the Mint’s 2023 series. We’re looking forward to seeing this coin, which gives us chicken skin and has an amazing story.
Aunty Edith was born on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast, and her mother was her hula teacher. She once joked that she didn’t even finish middle school. During her life she became a composer and choreographer of hula and oli and founded Halau o Kekuhi hula halau. She helped develop the first public school Hawaiian language program, and later became a teacher at Hawaii Community College and then University of Hawaii, where she created courses as varied as Hawaiian chant and mythology, ethnobotany, genealogy, and Polynesian history.
Her daughter, Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, Ph.D, said of her mother, “she was a ‘pusher” but that “she always did it with a smile. Aunty Edith pushed all six of her children, when it was not yet a natural process for Hawaiians, towards Higher Education to earn a degree. When she became an Instructor at the University of Hawaiʻi in Hilo she encouraged Hawaiian students.”
Aunty Edith was the winner of countless global awards and was named a Living Treasure of Hawaii. When she won her first Na Hoku Hanohano Award for best traditional album, she accepted the award entirely in Hawaiian.
A legendary family includes the famed Kaumakaaiwa Kanakaole.
While neither of us had the privilege of seeing Aunty Edith perform, she touched us nonetheless. Here on Kauai, we’ve seen Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole, Aunty Edith’s great-grandaughter perform hula and oli (chant). We’ve included a video so you can watch for yourselves.
Kanakaole is considered, like her great-grandmother, a force of nature, is the winner of Na Hoku Hanohano awards, and is a performer of world-wide renown. She says, “Hula is the constant rhythm that nature has. Hula is movement at its most primal.”
Watch and you’ll see why Hula is of critical importance to Native Hawaiians, and associated with the core of their identify on this land. You’ll also see the spirit of Aunty Edith live on in a new generation.
Here’s the list of the honorees who will be featured on quarters in 2023:
- Bessie Coleman – first African American and first Native American woman pilot.
- Edith Kanakaʻole – indigenous Hawaiian composer, chanter, dancer, teacher, and entertainer.
- Eleanor Roosevelt – first lady, author, reformer, and leader.
- Jovita Idar – Mexican American journalist, activist, teacher, and suffragist.
- Maria Tallchief – America’s first prima ballerina.