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Hōkūpaʻa members on stage

On May 8th, Hōkūpaʻa, Dartmouth's Pan-Pasifika student organization, hosted lūʻau for the first time since 2019. Coinciding with Mothers' Day, we were able to host an incredible event, honor all of the mothers, grandmothers, and aunties of our members that helped out, and fed over 400 people with home-cooked Hawaiian food. On the same weekend as the annual powwow hosted by the Native American community at Dartmouth, it was a powerful display of the Indigenous community and a wonderful celebration of all of the diverse cultures that the Native students at Dartmouth represent.

Hōkūpaʻa food tray
Everybody eats!

Preparation for lūʻau was a super long time coming, but it was such a collective effort on behalf of the whole community. Both members of Hōkūpaʻa and non-members played massive roles in preparing the food, getting the word out, and securing funding. Thanks to donations from Dartmouth's Special Programs and Events Committee, several academic departments including the Native American and Indigenous Studies departments, and a wonderful group of Greek houses, we raised tens of thousands of dollars and created an event that made us all proud. 

Bryan and Kainalu Tolentino
Bryan and Kainalu Tolentino, parents of former Hōkūpaʻa president Momi Tolentino '20, performed for our event!

Over the course of the lūʻau, we had a hula exhibition featuring most of our members, a Hawaiian language game featuring prize bundles of Hawaiʻi-sourced treats and merchandise, and had live music courtesy of Hawaiʻi musicians from the Big Island. Island Style Grindz, a Hawaiʻi-based food truck, is a local business founded by the parents of Hōkūpaʻa's treasurer, and we had the delight of inviting them to cater for lūʻau. The food selection featured spicy and Hawaiian-style ahi (tuna) poke, homemade poi (mashed taro) from Native Hawaiian-owned and Oʻahu-based farm Hoʻokuaʻāina, kālua pork, chicken long rice, li hing fruit salad, and a bunch of other Hawaiian dishes. Personally, I couldn't get enough of the poke — the fish was caught locally on the Big Island just a few days prior to our celebration, and you could really tell!

I was really happy that we could put on an authentic lūʻau to help the visibility of Pasifika culture on campus. I feel like too often, the idea of a "Hawaiian style party" or an "island luau party" is thrown around as a theme, but to make an event happen that's true to the traditional notion of a lūʻau — an event honoring family, culture, and aloha — is a powerful thing. We didn't use cheap plastic leis made of fake flowers, instead opting to make everything by hand; we didn't order generic food or cater food from some business, instead cooking everything together under the guidance of an Indigenous chef whose family to one of our members; we didn't try to cater to what people thought a luau was, instead showing them what they should know a lūʻau to be. Putting on events like these is how organizations like ours can provide such complementary reinforcement to the academic knowledge sourced from the classroom. 

Hōkūpaʻa members serving food!
ʻAʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia - no task is too big when done together by all!

This next year, we're hoping to continue the tradition and make another amazing celebration for all of campus to enjoy. For those of y'all with a connection to the Pacific and the islands, always feel free to join in! For those of you who'd love to see this event, we'd love to welcome you same time, next year. Aloha nui a hui hou!

All photo credit goes to Naia Bhalla '22. Mahalo nui for such amazing pictures!

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