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Kaipo Manoa, the New Hawaiian "Chief"

Kaipo Manoa Hawaiian Chief     


Kaipo Manoa, the new Manager or Chief

of the Hawaiian Village at the Polynesian

Cultural Center.

Manoa actually first came to Laie in 1980 to attend BYU–Hawaii. He started working the same year in the Theater Department as a dancer and later as a musician. He is an accomplished Hawaiian slack-key guitar player. In fact, his skills led him to join an extended performing tour of Europe with another group, before he returned to the PCC in 1985. He has spent all the years since in the Hawaiian Village. 

He met his wife, Kanani Luke-Payne, while working in the Hawaiian Village; and two years ago he completed a degree in music at BYUH.

Manoa points out that the PCC’s Hawaiian Village has recently undergone major renovations. “Physically, the village is set up as an ahupua’a, a land division where we are able to use the resources from the mountains and plains to the ocean. This helps us to educate our visitors on how the early Hawaiians were able to be self-sufficient by utilizing all the resources they had.”

“For example, in ancient times there wouldn’t have been any canoes if there were no upland trees. Our ancestors couldn’t have made poi without being able to plant taro. We also have a fish pond, which often reminds our guests that they’ve seen larger examples as they travel around the island, but may not have understood that Hawaiians practiced both agriculture and aquaculture.”

“All of this comes into play as we explain various aspects of Hawaiian culture to our guests,” Manoa said. "Actually, self-sufficiency and dealing with the concepts of an ahupua’a is a hot topic in the world. Many countries are looking toward native practices and trying to incorporate them into society.”

“Our ‘new’ village also opens the view toward the lagoon, facing Fiji and Tahiti,” he continued. “This has brought a peaceful calm that our guests notice and makes it easier for them to feel the aloha spirit here in Hawaii. That’s really what we want to share with every guest, and hope they remember it when they get back home.”

Manoa also pointed out the student workers also benefit from their time and experiences in the Hawaiian Village. For example, he said he hopes they take advantage of the time they spend with the skilled fulltime workers, and that they gain enough confidence in themselves and their cultural heritage to converse with the guests and “share what they learned growing up from their parents and tutu [grandparents].”

“Some of them think they don’t know anything about culture, but I tell them to think back,” Manoa said, “to ask themselves what happened when they didn’t cook the rice right. ‘Oh, we get licking.’ That’s part of culture. Everything that happened to them while growing up in Hawaii, that’s culture, too.”

“I tell them if your tutu taught you to do things different from the way we do it, that’s good, too. We want them to be able to use their own experiences, to learn to think for themselves, to make sound decisions and become better leaders.”

“The Cultural Center has always been trend-setting,” Manoa said, “and I love being here.”

Hawaiian Village

Story and pictures by Mike Foley