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Cultural Feature: Our Name - Papahānaumokuākea

The birth of the Hawaiian Islands and Native Hawaiian people.
The birth of the Hawaiian Islands and Native Hawaiian people. Artwork by: Solomon Enos

The name Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced Pa-pa-hah-nou-mo-koo-ah-keh-ah) comes from an ancient Hawaiian tradition concerning the geneology and formation of the Hawaiian Islands, and an honoring of the dualisms of life. Papahānaumoku is a mother figure personified by the earth, and Wākea is a father figure personified by the expansive sky; the two are revered as the ancestors of Native Hawaiian people. Their union resulted in the creation, or birthing, of the entire Hawaiian archipelago – thus the naming of the Monument is to honor and preserve these names, to strengthen Hawaiʻi's cultural foundation and to ground Hawaiians in an important part of their history. Taken apart, "Papa" (earth mother), "hānau" (birth), "moku" (small island or large land division), and "ākea" (wide) suggest a fertile woman giving birth to a wide stretch of islands beneath a benevolent sky. Taken as one long name Papahānaumokuākea can be seen as a symbol of hope and regeneration for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the main Hawaiian Islands.

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