Ua lehulehu a manomano ka ʻikena a ka Hawaiʻi.
The knowledge of Hawaiians is extraordinarily vast. (translation mine)
mary kawena pukui,
ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, 309, no. 2814
We live in a time when many indigenous peoples around the world are
claiming our ancestors’ languages, philosophies, and ways of life as worthy
of our deepest attention. We are seeing anew how our connections to those
ancestors and their/our lands provide bases not only for decolonizing our
minds, but also for the resurgence of indigenous ways of life. In this book, I
have offered examples of how sustained reading of the works of our intel-
lectual pre de cessors, those before us in the unending genealogy of indige-
nous thought, can contribute to a fuller understanding of some of that
ancestral world of native epistemology and ontology.
Perhaps at first observation, Joseph Kānepuʻu and Joseph Mokuʻōhai
Poepoe do not seem to have all that much in common: the former went to
school for only a few years, while the latter completed secondary school and
law training, for example. One is from small but mighty Molokai and the
other from the largest in land mass and in our national imagination, the is-
land of Kamehameha and Pele.1 Kānepuʻu was a primary school teacher, and
Poepoe an attorney, editor, politician, and translator of religious and legal
texts. What I hope to have demonstrated is not how they each are exceptional
in their time and talents but rather are exemplars from multitudes of our ku-
puna who saw the necessity of perpetuating our ancestral thought in the
midst of increasing colonialism. That enduring colonialism took several
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