While the COVID-19 continued to force most of our partners who operate summer camps for Native American children and youth to put their programs on hiatus for a second year, a couple have been able to soldier on in a safe and responsible manner.
In the small community of Hawi on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Northern Kohala Community Resource Center was able to host a four-week summer camp “Mauka to Makai,” Native Hawaiian words frequently used in giving directions with “Mauka” meaning on the mountain side of the road and “Makai” meaning on the ocean side of the road.
In addition to the summer day camp was held for 15 Kohala elementary and middle school students in June led by former Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarters Hokani Maria (2017) and Clyson Igarashi-Marquez (2020), they also hosted a 5-day, 4-night overnight leadership camp for about a half-dozen upper middle and high school students.
The leadership camp took students who have participated in the program in previous years to various districts of the island learning stories about place and expanding their understanding beyond Kohala. Students learned the ways in which people care for their special places around the island and bring that knowledge back to Kohala.
The purpose of the free camps was to introduce the students to the reproductive cycles and lifecycles of shoreline limpets (a type of marine gastropod), invertebrates and near-shore fish; reforestation and “ahupua’a” (the traditional land dividing system that promotes sustainability and conservation of natural resources) management practices, significant cultural and historical sites in North Kohala, and safe boating and fishing practices.
As Hokani and Clyson explained, the camp culminated in a ho’ike (celebration) for family and community members in which campers present oli (Hawaiian chant), mele (Hawaiian song), hula dancing and demonstrated other skills they learned.
“The ho’ike is a joyful and prideful event for campers and their families,” they explained.
“For students of Hawaiian descent, Kohalal Unupa’a (Big Island of Hawaii) helps foster a greater sense of identity and pride in their heritage; students not of Hawaiian ancestry gain a greater appreciation for the host culture and place they call home, as well as incorporate many beneficial Hawaiian values into their own lives.
“They also learned about the physical environment of their North Kohala home, including the biophysical processes that shape the land and waters through hands-on projects. Science and culture are not taught as separate ‘subjects’ but are integrated in a meaningful context that is fun and exciting!
“This summer camp also helped children build positive relationships and trust with the peers as well as adults in their community. These personal relationships and bonding experiences can help children better navigate the emotional and social challenges that can interfere with their academic development.”