Kamana Beamer wins Hawaii Book of the Year Award

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Text Summit Staff

Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer, president and CEO of The Kohala Center, received the Samuel M. Kamakau Book of the Year Award for his book No Mākou ka Mana: Liberating the Nation at the 2015 Ka Palapala Po'okela Awards presented by the Hawai'i Book Publishers Association on May 15, 2015.

Beamer describes No Mākou ka Mana as a story about the creative and amazing indigenous leadership in Hawai'i in the 18th and 19th centuries. "Imagine how this little country in the middle of the Pacific—tiny little islands—could be recognized by the most powerful nations in the world as a sovereign independent state in the 19th century," he said.

"It is a story of hope and courage and resolve in how the native rulers engaged with the outside world in creative ways and embraced other people and cultures to form an inclusive, multi-racial, and bilingual country based around indigenous Hawaiian values and perspectives," continued Beamer. He attributes this "diplomatic prowess" and policy of diplomatic engagement to Hawaiian leaders who had a firm sense of who they were as Hawaiians in their changing world.

"As someone who grew up in Hawai'i in the 1950s and 60s, I found Kamana's book to be profoundly eye-opening," said Dr. Matthews Hamabata, The center's founding president and CEO and Beamer's predecessor. "No Mākou ka Mana should be on everyone's 'must-read' list regardless of where they stand in the spectrum of contemporary Hawaiian issues, as it offers an objective account of the endurance of indigenous values in a rapidly changing landscape. Kamana uses Hawaiian language archival research to uncover ancestral knowledge that will help island communities define paths to take, so that we can thrive ecologically, economically, culturally, and socially."

Beamer graduated from Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, and received bachelor's degrees in Hawaiian studies and philosophy and master's and doctorate degrees in geography from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. He was inspired to write the book when he was researching his doctoral thesis, and began developing his manuscript while a postdoctoral fellow in the inaugural cohort of The Kohala Center's Mellon-Hawai'i Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in 2008–2009.

"I started to study the land tenure system here in Hawai'i and the deeper I got into it the more rigorous it was and the more ordered I recognized it to be—ordered in a very Hawaiian, place-specific way," he said.

It was that knowledge of the Hawaiian land tenure system that led Beamer to read original documents and letters from rulers in the 18th and 19th centuries. These Hawaiian language sources and archival documents helped him frame a new story from the perspective of what Beamer calls "ʻōiwi (Native Hawaiian) optics."

"In the course of my research I started to realize that these leaders had never been portrayed in a light that showed how really intelligent and creative they were in the midst of challenges and tremendous change," Beamer said, explaining that the book doesn't focus on what missionaries did for or to Hawaiians but much more on what Hawaiians did for themselves. "We used ʻōiwi optics to see how our leaders were viewing this engagement with the outside world from their perspective and in their terms.

"That was a really powerful thing for me because so much of that resonates with me as a Hawaiian in 2015. Indeed, much of the cultural re-awakening and renaissance that's happened since the 1970s has been trying to restore parts of our identity," he said.

The Ka Palapala Poʻokela Awards recognize the best in Hawaiʻi book publishing over the past year. With help from Hawaiʻi public libraries and local readers, the Ka Palapala Poʻokela Awards are presented by the Hawai'i Book Publishers Association to winners selected by various members of the local literary community to honor excellence in a specific category.

Beamer's book, published by Kamehameha Publishing, also received an Honorable Mention in the Excellence in Nonfiction category and an Award of Excellence in the Excellence in Hawaiian Language, Culture & History category.

Founded in the year 2000, The Kohala Center (kohalacenter.org) is an independent, community-based center for research, conservation, and education. We turn research and ancestral knowledge into action, so that communities in Hawai'i and around the world can thrive—ecologically, economically, culturally, and socially.

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