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He Pilina – Relationships and Leadership

By Pāhonu Coleman

Growing up, I always felt connected to the land, my family, my community, the ocean and most importantly, Ke Akua. I recognized that all these things were connected and played a role in my upbringing. The land provides sustenance for my family and community. The ocean is my playground. Ke Akua is the creator of all things.

Understanding the importance of these relationships has inspired me to give back to our lāhui and has helped shape who I am as a person and an aspiring leader. My relationship with the world around us has also helped me develop new skills and discover new passions. One of these newly found skills that I have acquired is haku mele (song writing).

Haku mele has helped me to express my feelings and emotions, particularly on issues that I believe are important. While I always recognized the value of haku mele and the significant role that it plays in our culture, I never saw it as something that could help with leadership development. Yet, as I began to grow as a leader and as a kānaka, I realized that there was pilina between the two.

Mele was not just a way to express emotions, but it was a way to perpetuate and preserve our moʻolelo. To be a good leader, you also must know your history and where you come from. It’s important for us to not just look at the words in mele, but we must also look at the melody and kaona that these compositions entail. Through this, we’ll be able to gain insight into the haku mele and better understand the context in which these mele were composed.

As I continue to grow as a leader, I also want to inspire other ʻōpio to learn about their culture and develop the skills needed to lead our lāhui in the future. As someone who was fortunate to engage in many leadership opportunities from a young age, I’ve been able to learn from kūpuna and other community leaders who have so much knowledge and ʻike to share. Like myself, many of them were also given opportunities at a young age to develop their skills. Their experiences (as well as my own) serve as a great example of why we need to mentor and foster our ʻōpio.

Cultural practices such as hula and mele have also inspired and helped create many leaders in our community. These practices have not just captured the hearts of our own Kānaka, but of people all around the world.

It’s important for us to use our culture to educate and inspire our ʻōpio to get involved and realize their leadership potential. By engaging with us and helping to build our ʻiʻini for service and leadership, you’re helping us to become the leaders that our lāhui needs in the future.


Pāhonu Coleman is from Waimānalo, Oʻahu.

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