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Hawaiian culture takes a bow in Little Norway

POULSBO — Little Norway may be the land of lutefisk and lefse.

But next week, another world culture will get its chance to shine at a special public exhibit.

The ‘Ike Pono Hawai’i traveling culture show from the Kamehameha Schools will make a stop in Little Norway from 6:30-9 p.m. Aug. 25 at Poulsbo’s First Lutheran Church.

‘Ike Pono (pronounced ee-kay-po-no) literally means to learn or understand thoroughly, Kamehameha class of 1961 graduate and event organizer Herb Kai explained. So the ‘Ike Pono show is meant to enlighten those of Hawaiian descent throughout the world about their roots.

The free exhibit will feature ancient Hawaiian artifacts from the Bishop Museum of Honolulu, Hawaii and guest speakers on various cultural topics from the Hawaiian Studies Institute of Kamehameha Schools.

This is the second such event to come to the Northwest. The last one was held in Renton. Kai, a Poulsbo resident, explained that the school was going to have this year’s exhibit take place in the Seattle area but he asked that they consider the Kitsap Peninsula instead.

“I don’t know how successful it’ll be. I don’t know how big it’ll be. The point is the information will be presented,” he said.

One of the guest speakers Wednesday will share her experience of being one of only a few women ever to pass the exam of navigating on a 1,000-mile journey in a double-hull canoe using only the primitive Polynesian “way finding.” Kai said though the ancient craft uses the stars and maps traced on pieces of bamboo, recent research has shown it a very useful method.

“What they found out is if you’d used modern day techniques, you’d use the same routes,” Kai said. “That’s the, ‘Wow’ part.”

A traditional sea-going double-hulled canoe will also be on hand for viewing at the Aug. 25 exhibit.

Besides teaching about the Hawaiian culture, Kai said the event will also highlight a little known connection between the Hawaiian Islands and North Kitsap. The Suquamish Tribal Museum will have artifacts on hand chronicling a landmark 1995 canoe journey that Hawaiian master navigator Nainoa Thompson made from the Seattle area to Sitka, Alaska. The voyage was a vehicle to thank the Tlingit, Haida and Tshimshian tribes of Sealaska for donating two Sitka spruce logs for his canoe’s hulls and also for cultural exchanges with First Nations throughout the West Coast. Kai explained that there is a long-standing belief that contact took place between Hawaiian tribes and other canoeing tribes long before written histories.

“They don’t just take a voyage,” Kai explained of the many chronicled trips like Thompson’s. “They want to prove you can get around using the canoe. It’s the canoe culture.”

Among those visited during Thompson’s 1995 journey was the Suquamish Tribe, to which he presented a tea leaf cape, the equivalent to Northwest Tribes’ precious button blankets. Kai explained that the Suquamish have also had much contact with local Hawaiian communities, including donating two First Nation canoes for the Silverdale Hawaiian Outrigger Club’s use when it first started in 1995.

“I want the Suquamish to come so they can be proud of what they did and the Hawaiians to come to learn about their culture,” Kai said of next week’s event. “But the more cultures we have come to it, the better.”

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