Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Hokani Maria has realized his “He Wa’a Ko Kohala” dream.
The Native Hawaiian teen is among the youngest of the Dreamstarter family, now numbering 40, being only 14 when he was selected in 2017 to receive a $10,000 grant from Running to make his dream “A Canoe for Kohala” a reality.
While it may have taken Hokani and youth in his community “only” seven weeks to build the traditional Hawaiian canoe, his work before and after the construction of the watercraft lovingly named “Nahiku” has already made a major impact that will last for years, if not decades and for generations.
In fact, Nahiku is already being used for a sister project, “Na Kilo Aina” by fellow 2018 Dreamstarter Easton Chong whose dream is “Watchers and Caretakers of Aina (land).
“We are using my Dreamstarter project to help Easton with his project,” said Hokani. “We will be using the canoe for inter-tidal surveys, feeding our fish houses and taking care of the shoreline.”
While, of course, Hokani’s life has been transformed during his year as a Dreamstrater, but so have the lives of many others.
“Dreamstarter has changed many of my fellow students,” he explained. “They were never interested in canoes and sailing. Now because of Nahiku we have many “keiki” (children) and high schoolers who want to learn how to sail a canoe.”
And there’s even more than that.
“I also have peers who have family problems and school problems, they have shared with me that being on the canoe and sailing on the ocean takes their problems away for the time they are sailing.
“It helps them look at their problems differently.”
In addition, as Hokani pointed out, it takes a village to build a canoe.
“My community has come together to make my dream come true,” he told us. “We have many groups that I have presented and shared our canoe with. It feels like more people want to know the history and how canoes sail.
“Our school community has changed in a sense that we have a new floating classroom, which is Nahiku and we have many more opportunities to learn with the canoe on the ocean.”
When asked in his Dreamstarter final report questionnaire “How will your Dream encourage Wellness (the theme for third-year Dreamstarters) for American Indian youth in the future?” this was Hokani’s response:
“My dream has a olelo (quote) we learned about canoes and that says
‘He Wa’a he moku, He moku he wa’a’
“This means our canoe is an island and our island is our canoe. Through this olelo we will have to take care of our canoe, in likewise we have to take care of our island.
“When on our canoe we have to appreciate and be resourceful with food and water and take care of each other. In the same sense this is what we have to do with our island.”
As for Hokani individually, his Dreamstarter experience developed and honed his leadership skills which will serve him well for the rest of his life.
“Dreamstarter has made me become the presenter and the one who shares the history of my project,” he told us. “I am the announcer of the presentations and the one who really takes on all aspects of presenting how my dream came true.”
When speaking with keiki (children), if he senses that they believe they have a dream that cannot come true, “I use myself as an example and our canoe to show the true facts that it came true.”
And when Hokani and others were constructing the canoe, the master builder who was directing them stressed that it must be built with only “positive energy.”
“The sense that we were having a piece of art come to life…we were bringing life to Nahiku and like a baby it all had to be positive.
“I have become a mature young adult,” he adds. “I have learned to be confident and positive in my hula life and school life.
“I have been ever so deepened into my Hawaiian culture and I feel through me, my fellow peers can see how I live my life immersed in my culture and being respectful to others and the land.”
And to all those who supported him through his year as a Dreamstarter, Hokani says
“Running Strong for American Indian Youth made it possible for my dream to be a reality.”