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Hawaiian memories: cherishing our Kupuna

Auntie Nancy

In Hawaii, our kupuna, or elders, have traditionally occupied a place of deep respect, but, as each generation passes, if we are not careful, we will lose the connection to our family’s unique history. The past should not needlessly trickle through the hourglass of time or perish when old photos fade. As former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona said about honoring our elders, “One of the simple reasons [for respecting our elders] is that our kupuna give us life, heritage and culture. It’s important to recognize the wisdom and the kindness that our kupuna possess and strive to pass that on to future generations.”

So, how do we do that?

How to capture living memories

  1. Start a journal:Make it a family project to write down stories, advice, interesting anecdotes from past and present conversations with your kupuna. Encourage children to write their own experiences.
  2. Scrapbook:Use clips of pertinent news articles and headlines for your page headers, and paste greeting cards, personal letters, etc. into a scrapbook. Children love being included in the process. Consider using online scrapbooking options, such as
  3. Make recordings:Record your kupuna telling stories about your family and what it was like when he or she was a child. Or sing songs together and record them; later, you will cherish these unforgettable moments.
  4. Take photos:Take current photos and save older ones. Scan family photos and have them made into a book, using an online print-on-demand service, such as
  5. Create art together:Make a handprint (or footprint) of your loved one out of plaster of Paris or have your kupuna and your keiki make handprints together. If you do not have access to plaster of Paris, use tempera paint on paper or white cloth. Make color copies to share with the whole family.
  6. Collect recipes: Families often have favorite recipes. Why not record your favorites? Maybe Grandpa Kimo has a special poke’ recipe or Auntie Lei has her favorite way to make mango relish. When you later use these recipes, you will savor the memories of those who passed them down to you.

Love, Life, and Peace of Mind

Our kupuna are our existing treasure and unique link to the past. They are a source of knowledge, guidance, strength, and encouragement. By spending quality time with them now, we honor and respect them, express our love, and gain peace of mind for ourselves. Remember: There are no U-turns on memory lane. Now is the time to map that road.


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