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May 2008

Pacific Northwest News

Hawaiian-Suquamish Collaboration at Puget Sound

By Kate Skinner

Photo by Kate Skinner

(L-R) Suquamish elder Dolor Mills confers with Herb Kai and John "Chief Keoni" Sabal

Though far from Hawai`i, Hawai`i's maka'āinana are not apart from Aloha.  In the Pacific Northwest, Hawaiians have nurtured the spirit since as early as 1787 when they were employed by Hudson’s Bay Company to port ships, build settlements, farm, hunt, trap, portage, and for general protection.  Today there are those who continue to celebrate the aloha spirit through the way they contribute their mana`o in strengthening and building community between Hawaiians in the Northwest and the Suquamish people.

Herb Kai, originally from Hilo, and John "Chief Keoni" Kaliiholokai Sabal from Maui, are two men who were originally brought to the Northwest by US Navy employment. Both now kōkua in the cultural resurgence of the Suquamish tribe, a Lutshootseed-speaking Puget Salish people whose ancestors have lived in the Central Puget Sound area, including Bainbridge Island, for thousands of years. Today many of the members of the tribe make their homes in the Kitsap Peninsular towns of Indianola and Suquamish on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, north across the Puget Sound from Seattle.

Currently the Suquamish tribe is occupied with a building program which will bring the cultural values and traditions of the tribe to the forefront of community life. To this end and over a three-year period, a network of buildings, interpretive displays, and arts and culture projects will be built in or near the waterfront village of Suquamish. A focal date on this building timeline is the annual Tribal Canoe journey, which in the summer of 2009 will end at Suquamish.

Herb Kai is a founding trustee on the two-year-old Suquamish Foundation, established to raise awareness and funding for the cultural building projects.  He is a major speaker, reference-writer, and fund raiser, having helped to raise approximately $2 million to date. He offers his expertise to moderate in the design of a cultural community house and museum, a boat dock and pier, a welcoming pole which will use tribal wood carvers and methods to incorporate traditional Suquamish imagery in a story pole telling the history and making a statement at the downtown centre of Suquamish, a community baseball field,  a trail system and the rebuilding of the gravesite of their important ali`i, Chief Seattle, the last chief of the Suquamish tribe. 

Chief Seattle was born in 1786 in Suquamish. He was thus 6 years old when Capt George Vancouver anchored in Suquamish waters off Bainbridge Island in 1792. Later, as Chief of the tribe, he witnessed the transition of his people as they adapted their culture based on fishing, hunting, berry and root gathering and traveling by canoe to a new one brought by the arrival of non-natives and imposed on them by the United States Government. For acts of kindness and well as his long friendships with early Seattle residents, the settlement was named after Chief Seattle.

Hawaiian musician Keola Beamer and Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai collaborated in the opening act for the Foundation's cultural awareness campaign in May 2007. At that time Beamer and Nakai also contributed their mana`o to bless the site of the Community House on the water in the centre of downtown Suquamish. Herb Kai was the key speaker at the recent Community House groundbreaking ceremony.

Keoni Sabal is a kahu ho'o ponopono and keeper of the banana and tī. Though a broken back has limited his physical activities somewhat, he still retains the spirit of the hula kahiko, sword dancer and paddler.  Keoni contributes his skill of pūpū au puhi (conch shell blowing) at Suquamish tribal gatherings and ceremonies and drumming with the Suquamish Drum, Song, and Dance Group, whilst he serves as event overseer.  Both the 2007 and 2008 events were opened by Keoni's conch shell blowing.

In addition to Kai and Sabal, other islanders are involved with the Suquamish tribe, underscoring the long-standing kinship between islanders and Native Americans. Michelle Hansen from Honolulu and a graduate of Punahou is tribal attorney and Colin Kippen, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, was Chief Judge of the Suquamish Tribal Court before his current position as the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Education Council in Honolulu.

We look forward to the March 2009 Community House Grand Opening celebrations where once again contributions of the aloha spirit can be anticipated.

Kate Skinner is a South African librarian, artist and writer who has travelled widely, lived and worked on three different continents: Africa, India and North America.  Currently she finds herself at home in Suquamish, a small town on Port Madison Indian Reservation across the Puget Sound and north of Seattle. She is employed as a reference librarian with Kitsap Regional Library. Her first experience of the Hawaiian Islands was Molokai. Subsequently she has spent time on O`ahu and most recently the Big Island.


My Journey Back to Hawai`i

By Maile Hudson

This letter turned up in our NWHT mailbox recently and we were so touched by it that we immediately called Maile to ask if we could share it. It is with the permission of her and her family that we print it below.

Recently I had an amazing journey that has lead me to Hawai`i and in a sense taken me back to my home, and I want to share that with you. Reading the Northwest Hawai`i Times has encouraged me to find my family history.

I was born in Honolulu in 1967 and adopted by my parents who were stationed there. My father was in the Navy and both he and my mother were from California. I have two siblings they also adopted while they were living in Hawai`i.

Adoptions of that time were closed and all we knew was what was told to us. I was told I was Hawaiian-Chinese. But we moved from the Islands six months after I was born and we never knew much more.

Over the years I have been stopped and asked what is my nationality but I never knew how to answer as I was raised all over the U.S. And if I said “Hawaiian” then I had to explain that I knew nothing about what that meant.

I have visited Hawai`i four times in my life and each time my feet hit the sand, it was electric for me! Everytime I had to leave, as soon as I entered the airport doors the tears seemed to come from nowhere. I didn’t know anyone here, so why was I crying? But there was an overwhelming sense of sadness that I felt. I couldn’t explain it, not to myself or anyone else.

Timing has a way of making things fall into place. My oldest daughter went to Hawai`i to live with her father who had also moved there, and while I was visiting her last November, she encouraged me to begin my birth search.

I started reading the Northwest Hawai`i Times about a year ago and love it. Your articles of history and music and the overall feeling of Hawaiian family made me very interested in my background. So I figured it was worth a try.

And I did it! While I was there in the Islands, I found the court house and filled out my paperwork. My older sister also did her birth search earlier with no luck so I figured it would take some time.

But to my surprise, my birth mom had broken the seal on my records in 1999, which meant I was able to skip the search process, and all of her information was forwarded to me. I received that letter in January (the 4 th to be exact) and I called her immediately.

We began talking pretty frequently after that. I learned of my father who also still lives there. And my adoptive parents were so great! They sent her a photo album of me full of my baby pictures and up to the present.

In February I flew over to meet both families and was received with such warmth and love – it was truly amazing. I learned that my mother is half Chinese and half Hawaiian-Portuguese, and my father is half Hawaiian and half Russian. They have helped me understand my love for Hawai`i and gave me books to read to understand more. My great-grandmother started a lei business in Waikiki called Auntie Bella’s, which is still there but now in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Photo from Maile Hudson

Maile (center) in Hawai`i with her birth parents John Glushenko and Harveleen Ho.

My father’s name is John Glushenko and my mother is Harveleen Ho. So if you went to Farrington High School, you might know my Uncle Andrew and Auntie Naomi too!

My blood runs deep with Hawai`i through both of my birth parents. I am so proud to be a true part of a beautiful people.

I hope to learn hula someday and speak and write the language. I just ordered a Hawaiian dictionary. “It is never too late” is my new motto.

Thank you Northwest Hawai`i Times. Just wanted you to know how you have kept me connected to something I didn’t understand. Now that I do, I read each publication eager to learn something I didn’t know before.




Beetle Heaven

By Leroy Tagavilla

Kahiko Kula Beetles just cruisin'.It was twenty-two years ago that I first owned a Volkswagen.

I can remember when I bought my first Volkswagen. I was 16 and on the school bus heading home from Konawaena High School on the Big Island. Everyday I would look down in the pasture and I would see this old Volkswagen just sitting there. So one day I had my dad take me down to see if someone would sell me the Volkswagen. An old man said, “For $120, this 1961 Beetle is yours, but you would have to tow it home because the motor seized up.”

So my dad and I towed it home and from that moment on, I was hooked. I'd buy Hot VW magazines and try to gain more knowledge of how to custom and build high performance motors. At that time back in the 80's, the Volkswagen scene was starting to explode. You would see more custom Volkswagens than your fixed-up Hondas. After that, I sold my first 1961 Volkswagen and bought a few more just because they were easy to work on and cheap on fuel.

Time moved on and so did I. I am now married with three great kids from the ages of 20 to the youngest at 12. We’ve made Washington home for the last twelve years now and both my brother Sonny and sister Pumehana are also living here in Olympia, Washington. Two years ago my brother made plans to take me to a Volkswagen car show and swap meet in Puyallup for my birthday. From that moment, it was like I was sixteen all over again.

A friend of mine knew someone from Oahu living up in Kirkland, Washington who had a 1961 Volkswagen that was built old school (custom/high performance) like back in the 80's. With no hesitation I bought it and now own a 1961 Type 1 Beetle once again. I’m now 40 years old but it was like reuniting with my high school days all over again! After twenty-four years, I never lost touch of my experience working on a Volkswagen as a hobby.

Today I'm the president of a Volkswagen club named "Kahiko Kula Volkswagen Club" meaning “old school.” Most of our cars are 1957 to 1967 Type 1 Beetles fully restored or full-on custom. We have 20 plus members from the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Guam. We enjoy getting together and just talking story of the good old days and also of how much stronger our “hobby” is getting to be popular not just in the States but also back in the Islands. It seems that there's at least one custom Volkswagen with the island flavor that always makes the Hot VW magazine. We have been participating in the local shows and cruises here in Washington and Oregon. We plan to go to the big "Classic Show" down in Irvine, California in June with nine or more members.

Members of the Kahiko Kula Volkswagen Club at one of their gatherings.

If there's anyone from the Islands with an interest in the Volkswagen scene, please feel free to email me at kahikokula808@gmail.com. If you want to attend or support the local shows, I'll be glad to give you a schedule of some of the events. We welcome anyone in Washington and Oregon from Hawaii to join us. Mahalo for readring my story and hope to hear from more Volkswagen fans out there!


Leroy Tagavilla was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii and graduated from Konawaena High School. He’s married with three children and one grandson, and has lived in Olympia, Washington for the last twelve years. “ Props to all my kahikokula braddahs for motivating me and standing by me to make this dream come true for all of us! Mahalos to my brother for making my past a reality now!

Love You...Leroy.

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