“There was never any conflict between my poetic voice and my political voice,” Dana Naone Hall reflected, upon accepting an American Book Award for “Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer” in 2018. “Each informed the other.”
Dana Naone Hall at ‘Iolani Palace. Photo by Masako Cordray
The poet, Hawaiian rights advocate and environmental activist worked for decades to honor and protect Hawaiian burial sites and culturally-important locations when planned development threatened access for Native Hawaiians and the public.
Her advocacy helped to bring about the passage of historic preservation laws in Hawai‘i.
“Dana Naone Hall shaped history by leading changes in practices and laws through her protection of a Maui Native Hawaiian burial site,” said Jonathan Osorio, Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge dean.
“She brought environmental and cultural values into political activism, culminating in the protection of sacred places.”
Naone Hall explained in the introduction to “Life of the Land” her unique approach to doing this.
“In speaking on behalf of these special places, I sought to leaven polemical language with poetic expressions of aloha ʻāina,” she wrote.
“I also wanted to convey as much pertinent information as possible to aid those in decision-making positions.”
Naone Hall’s perspective was forged through her deep sense of place. She graduated from Kamehameha Schools before earning her BA in liberal studies with an emphasis on contemporary poetry from UH Mānoa. There, she became editor of its flagship literary journal, The Hawai‘i Review.
She also edited Bamboo Ridge Press’s winter 1985 issue, “Mālama, Hawaiian Land and Water.” Her poetry has been published in national and international literary journals.
And she’s spent countless hours writing testimony.
Osorio said, “Powerful, fearless community leaders like Naone Hall have been key to the perpetuation of Hawaiian knowledge over the last 50 years, as they worked tirelessly to protect our oceans, streams and forests from urbanization and tourist-driven development.”
To celebrate her life and impact on our world, the Laurence H. Dorcy Hawaiian Foundation recently established the Dana Naone Hall Endowed Chair in Hawaiian Studies, Literature and the Environment at UH Mānoa’s Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.
Its purpose is to help perpetuate Naone Hall’s lifelong passion for preserving and maintaining native Hawaiian history, culture and environmental stewardship.
“Dana challenges us to reflect on our values and live them. To acknowledge what we see, and if the spirit moves us, to act,” said Jeffrey Peterson, president of the Dorcy Foundation.
“Her words and her actions align to make her life truly inspirational and worth honoring in this lasting way.”
Osorio said the chair will contribute continuous research in indigenous land and resource management in Hawaiʻi, building a platform for policy change in keeping with its namesake. He sees this as a fitting and valuable tribute to Naone Hall’s work.
“Through this endowment, we will teach new generations of Hawaiians about their ancestors who honed social, environmental and cultural management skills over a thousand years,” he said.
UH President David Lassner said the impact of this endowed chair—and Naone Hall’s influential teachings—will stretch across generations.
“These leaders and future alumni from our programs will infuse new energy into the application of Hawaiian knowledge, enriching not only our Hawaiian communities, but our world.”