Welcome to Owyhee Country.....
the State of Idaho!
Welcome to Owyhee Country.....the State of Idaho! OWYHEE is the written name that Captain James Cook, among others, used for the natives of the Sandwich Islands and it is the name that was used for the Hawaiian fur trappers who worked the rivers and lakes of the then Idaho Territory in the early 1800’s. Not much is known about those early Hawaiian trappers except that in 1818, a Donald McKenzie led a party of about a hundred men (32 of them were “Owyhees”) to the confluence of the Snake, Walla Walla and Columbia Rivers in Idaho to establish a fur trading center. Three of the Owyhees (Hawaiians) left the main group to scout the area and they never returned. Their remains were found later and it is believed that they were killed by the Indians in that area. On December 31, 1863, the Idaho Territorial Legislature paid homage to these Hawaiian visitors by creating the first County in Idaho and naming it Owyhee County. Idaho also has Lake Owyhee, the Owyhee River, the Owyhee Mountains and the famous century old Owyhee Plaza Hotel in downtown Boise! I was invited to attend the Boise State University’s (BSU) Hui O Aloha Luau in Boise, Idaho on April 21, 2007 where I had a chance to meet some of today’s Hawaiians of Owyhee Country, my Profile guests this month.....
Alva Eaterling's Hula Halau of Owyhee who performed at the Boise State U Hui Aloha Luau
Alva Kehaulani Easterling was born and raised in the Kaneohe area. Her Hawaiian Chinese parents (Dad Gomer Lee and her Mom Alva Liu) were from Honolulu. Both were professional musicians who had a group called “Hula Maidens” and young Alva Kehaulani began dancing professionally when she was 12 years old. Alva has lived in Boise since 1989 and is leader/teacher of the dancers of the Hula Halau of Owyhee who performed so gracefully at the BSU Luau!
Cynthia Toyama Budell is a Kalihi/Farrington gal whose husband Paul Budell was Sports Director for the University of Hawaii (via Honolulu radio station KHNL) for over 10 years in the 1990’s. Professionally, Cynthia has a job with a marketing firm in Boise but in her spare time she works closely with the BSU Hui O Aloha club. She was a mistress of ceremonies at the BSU Luau. Cynthia, Paul and daughters Natalie Noelani and Malinda Sanae have lived in the Boise area for twelve years and say that while there isn’t a huge group of Hawaiian Islanders in the area, the ones there are a very closely knit group.
Jim Morse and his wife Maria are Hawaiians who now live in Mountain Home, Idaho. Jim retired after a career in the US Air Force. He recounts how he and his wife were devastated when they first came to Idaho for an assignment to Mountain Home Air Force Base because, after hours of driving, they kept looking for the “mountains” and never saw any (Mountain Home AFB is in the middle of a dry, desert like terrain). They disliked the area so much that Jim volunteered to go anywhere else to get out of there. Jim says he and Maria and their family now love the quiet, friendly, low cost of living Mountain Home lifestyle and wouldn’t think of living anywhere else.
Malia Hall is a beautiful Portuguese/Hawaiian/German lady who grew up in Honolulu but has lived in the Boise area since 1989. Malia has her own professional “organizer” firm (she designs/organizes/reorganizes interior spaces for individuals or business agencies) which is doing well. Michelle Pualani Reyes moved from Lahaina to Boise five years ago and loves the Aloha spirit she has found in Boise. Michelle is now one of the featured hula dancers in the area. Leonard Chow went to college in Boise right after graduating from St Louis HS (’58) and Boise has been his home ever since. Leonard Chow’s son Norm Chow (formerly with national champion USC, now in the NFL)has gained national fame as a football coach.
Boise is second to none! I have attended hundreds of luaus and the 2007 Boise State University Hui O Aloha Luau is one of the best I’ve ever been to! While most college luaus rely on professionals as their main entertainment, BSU’s Luau was totally “home grown” and without doubt, the most culturally diverse I’ve been to! The BSU show had wholesegments (four or more dances each) featuring the Hawaiian, Maori, Tahitian, Samoan and Tonga cultures and it was so good, so authentic that it could easily and appropriately fit on the center stage at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie! The show opened with the excellent “Island Blend” foursome (Piko Johnson, leader/from Maui, Kaihilei and Keaulii Johnson and Rich Mansfield who all live in the Boise area now) accompanied by multi-talented BSU student Kapono Rawlins-Crivello (singer, guitarist, dancer, football player, a KS 2006 grad from Moloka`i). Kapono and Mik Lose (Low-say), a Tongan from Sacramento, CA (starting fullback for the nationally ranked BSU football team) were the key kane dancers in the show. Over fifty dancers from the Hula Halau of Owyhee, Hui O Aloha, Island Rhythms and the BSU football team performed at the luau. Kahuku’s Jannette Lowe (student activities coordinator on the BSU staff) and Hui O Aloha leader Florence Reupena-Clarke (a student from Pago Pago, American Samoa ) did a fantastic job organizing the luau! Florence said that there are only 25 full time members in the Hui O Aloha club but there were over a hundred “associates” (other BSU students/parents/friends/local area fans) who helped make the luau a huge success.
Our Hawaiian culture is alive and prospering in Owyhee Country!
Until next time, be kind to each other......me ke Aloha pumehana............Danny
Copyright © 2004-2009 by Northwest Hawai`i Times
All Rights Reserved