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Mary Kawena Pukui

Mary Abigail Kawena­ʻula­o­ka­lani­a­hiʻiaka­i­ka­poli­o­pele­ka­wahine­ʻai­honua­i­nā­lei­lehua­a­pele Wiggin Pukui, ( April 20, 1895 – May 21, 1986) known affectionately as Tūtū Pukui, was a Hawaiian scholar, author, hula dancer, composer, educator, archivist, and kiaʻi of Hawaiian ʻike. Born in 1895 in the Kaʻū district of Hawaiʻi, Mary Kawena Pukui was reared by her maternal grandparents, who were experts in hula and lāʻau lapaʻau respectively. Speaking both Hawaiian and English, Mary Kawena showed a propensity for collecting and translating Hawaiian moʻolelo, mele, ʻōlelo noʻeau, and other forms of ʻike at a young age. In a time when there were few Native speakers, she served as a bridge connecting the older generation of Hawaiian speaking kūpuna, with the younger generations that were undergoing the forced assimilation education of the United States. It is thanks to her dedication and expertise that the Native Hawaiian community has continued access to our traditional knowledge today. Following her education at the Hawaiian Mission Academy, Mary Kawena taught Hawaiiana at Punahou School, and worked at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum for over 20 years as a translator and ethnologist. A notable translator, writer, and informant, Tūtū Pukui contributed to and authored more than 50 scholarly works.

These include the Hawaiian-English Dictionary, The Polynesian Family System in Kaʻū, Hawaiʻi, Place Names of Hawaii, both volumes of Nānā i ke Kumu, Look to the Source, The Echo of Our Song, and ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, which contains nearly 3,000 examples of Hawaiian proverbs and poetical sayings, all of which were collected, translated and annotated by Pukui herself. Additionally, Mary Kawena was a chanter and hula expert, writing lyrics and composing music for more than 150 Hawaiian songs.

Along with her published works, Tūtū Pukui has left behind a legacy preserved in her notes, oral histories, hundreds of audiotape recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, and a few film clips, all collected in the Bishop Museum. Her work and the countless resources she created are often credited with making the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970’s a possibility. Without the ʻike she preserved for future generations, our lāhui would not be where it is today. When it comes to the preservation of Hawaiian knowledge, Mary Kawena Pukui is the ultimate kiaʻi. It is thanks to Tūtū Pukui’s dedication and brilliance that we have this wealth of ʻike to guide us into tomorrow.


Life Story: Mary Kawena Pukui (1895–1986) The Kumu (or source) of Traditional Hawaiian Language and Culture

Mary Kawena Pukui - Ulukau

Hawaiʻi - Mary Kawena Pukui Annotated Bibliography: 1950's

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Hawaiian Dictionary, Revised & Enlarged Edition

March 1, 1986

The Polynesian Family System in Ka'ū Hawaii

October 30, 2006

Olelo Noeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings

March 1, 1983

Folktales of Hawai'i

June 1, 1995

Hula, Historical Perspectives (Pacific Anthropological Records, No 30)

November 1, 1980

Hula: Hawaiian Proverbs and Inspirational Quotes Celebrating Hula in Hawaii

November 1, 2003

Place Names of Hawaii: Revised and Expanded Edition

December 1, 1976

Nana I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source) volume I

June 1, 1983

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