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E Ulu Nā Mu’o Hala

E Ulu Nā Muʻo Hala

The ʻōlelo noʻeau, “Moena pāwehe o Niʻihau, Patterned mat of Niʻihau”, is a poetic expression often used in reference to Niʻihau. Amongst the many items that Kanaka Maoli used to weave and create were jewelry and bedding made from the Hala. However, many other types of flora and fauna were used, such as the fine makaloa mats of Niʻihau that were beautifully patterned and made famous throughout the islands.

Papahana Kuaola introduces to our ʻohana, E Ulu Nā Muʻo Hala, to foster the new growth of hala. ʻOhana will be able to navigate the various tabs below around Moʻomeheu “Culture”, Moʻolelo “Stories”, and mea pilina to Hala”, those things connected to Hala. Here learners will engage with resources and develop their knowledge deepening their cultural heritage. Our Papahana Kuaola and its vibrant community can access information about lauded Hala groves and weavers from around the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaiʻi celebrates the fact that many institutions across the archipelago house historical Hala artifacts and related implements safekeeping these items for many generations to grow and learn. Institutions, such as the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum not only boast an extensive collection of Hala material culture, they also invest in digital ways of learning connecting learners of all backgrounds to its physical and digital collection. Here, learners will gain access to links and points directing them to these vast resources particularly on Hala.

Like our beloved King David Kalakaua who once said, “E Hoʻoulu”, which alluded to the increase and restoration of our race after colonization and plagues wiped away so many of our Kanaka Maoli. E Ulu Nā Muʻo Hala seeks to do something similar and that is to increase the understanding of Hala importance in today’s Kanaka Maoli life; to re-establish a connectivity between our ʻŌiwi and the art of weaving and the fundamental practices associated with Hala and lauhala; and to advance the knowledge systems of our Native communities by providing valuable resources, so we encourage all learners visiting this site to enjoy and indulge as you navigate the various sections below. E Ulu Nā Muʻo Hala!

Gladys Kukana Ontai Grace, a master lauhala weaver and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award. She is better known as “Aunty Gladys” to those she mentored and was a master lauhala weaver who learned the art from her maternal grandmother and namesake Kukana while growing up in the small town of Olelomoana on Hawaii island’s South Kona coast. Her family was known for the “Anoni” style of weaving which is a technique of light and dark contrasting patterns. On her paternal grandmother’s side, Aunty Gladys is a descendant of Kameeiamoku, one of the Royal Twins of Hawaii and Mamakakaua or War Leader and General of the Kamehameha Military Regime.

Gladys Grace


Pōhaku Kahoʻohanohano comes from a lineage of lauhala weavers from Kahakuloa, Maui. As a young adult he began his journey of apprenticeships with seven mentors and immersed himself in the art of lauhala weaving. He is now a master weaver dedicated to sharing his skill with others. He is excited to bring weavers to the island of Maui by co-chairing Kauluhiwaolele Maui Fiber Arts Conference.


Pōhaku Kahoohanohano (Maui)

Master Kumu Lauhala weaver was the founder of Na Lala O Ka Puhala. She created this organization to perpetuate the art of lauhala weaving.











Keoua Nelsen creates contemporary and functional woven pieces of the hala leaf from the pūhala; incorporating styles that are timeless yet push the boundaries of the customary.  He continues to perpetuate traditional practices of weaving however not limit where styling is concerned.

Keoua currently experiments with the styling of the hats – reviving styles of yesteryear traditional, those learned from our Maori cousins, and creative styling to bring to life appropriate yet timeless functional pieces of wearable art.

Keoua’s mission is to educate and perpetuate a lauhala weaving lifestyle for future generations, and to bridge the gap between customary and traditional practices of his kūpuna to modern contemporary times.

Keoua Nelsen


Marcia was born and raised on Oʻahu and still resides in Niu Valley. She started hat weaving in 1980 with Gladys Kukana Grace and continued to weave with her until her passing in 2013. Marcia loves handling pāpale lauhala samples of old, looking at old photos and movies so that she can learn from them and try to replicate what she has experienced.


Marcia Omura








“E nānā ka maka, e hoʻolohe ka pepeiao, E hana me ka lima.” (Look, Listen, and Do!)

Gerry Palacat

Hailing from an ʻOhana of noted weavers from Kīpahulu/Hāna, Maui, Kumu Ipolani Vaughan began weaving under the auspices of Master Weaver Gladys Kukana Ontai Grace. Ipolani is also a Kumu ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, Kumu Hula, Kumu Ulana, and Hawaiian cultural specialist and preservationist. She is most noted for ʻeke/pahu hapai lauhala in a fine weave for the storage and carrying of precious possessions.She continues the traditions of her Kumu Aunty Gladys, hoping to instill in this new generation the “waiwai” (values) of the art of ulana lauhala that have been passed down by our kūpuna. In the words of her beloved Kumu, Aunty Gladys:

“E nānā ka maka, e hoʻolohe ka pepeiao, E hana me ka lima.” (Look, Listen, and Do!)

Ipolani Vaughan

Language of a people perpetuates the culture. The hua ʻōlelo commonly used in the art of lauhala weaving can be found in the lists below.
Molokai Woman - Pilaa Kilani - Material Culture - Hala - 1913
Hawaiian Woman - Material Culture - Hala - 1875

Ohiohikupua is the name of the hala tree.  

Its origins are said to belong to the Kanaloa clan, initially sprouting during the time of Pō in the kaiuli, or the depths of the ocean in Tahiti.  It grew broad and vast under the sea and reached for the surface during the time of Ao.  One day, the tip of the hala tree peered through the ilikai – the skin of the oceanʻs surface, entering into the atmospheric realm of Lononuiʻākea.  Hala started popping up all over Kahiki.

According to one of many moʻolelo, the first hala plant arrives in Hawaiʻi on the canoe of Peleʻs travel from Polapola.  When arriving at Halahalanui, Kōhala on the island of Hawaiʻi, Pele was entangled by the roots of the hala.  Her frustrations led to her furiously breaking the ule hala and flying them across the land, spreading it out all over.  Kamapuaʻa, who follows Pele from Tahiti digs the earth giving a fresh foundation for hala to grow.

Peleʻs mother Haumea was the younger sibling to Lauhiki, who pulls the knowledge together to be the first womang to plait the lau of the hala.  Her patterns and weaving are so well known, that a man named Lonoauhi asked her to make a sail for his canoe which was round like the sun.  Lonoauhiʻs journeys took him throughout the pacific spreading the knowledge of Lauhikiʻs weaving and sail making technique.  

Lauhiki taught all the women, who were Godesses, to weave including her sister Haumea and their daughters named Ka-meha-i-kaua, Mea-hani-pāoa, Lohea, Ka-huihui-ma–lanai and Ka-hoa-noho-o-ka-ʻohu.    

Kahuihuimalanai and Kahoanohookaʻohu were the first to take the drupes from the hua hala and string the first lei hala, a custom and tradition that is continued to this day.  Ka-hoa-noho-o-ka-ʻohu was the name of Kamehamhea Nuiʻs sail for his waʻa peleleu.

It is important for us to remember and continue to spread the origins of hala, and its ʻike throughout the generation as we ʻaʻapo or grasp its knowledge while tilling through the various patterns and techniques – just as Kamapuaʻa did by creating a foundation for hala to grow.  


Alternate Moʻolelo of Hala coming to Hawaiʻi

In the Hawaiian creation change Kumulipo, the pahaha or young mullet in the sea was born.  The aerial roots, or ule hala provided protection for the pahaha from large predators.  Young mullet would spawn in the tidal pools, the kaheka or fishponds called lokoʻia.  Hala trees can be found growing on the edges of the kaheka or fish ponds.  However, if compeletely submerged in salt water, the hala will not survive.

When Pele was traveling to Hawaii escaping Namakaokahai’s wrath, she was slowed and entangled in the hala.  Her relative Pa‘ao was travelling the great sea at the same time, and notice Pele struggling.  He went over and grabbed a pail of salt water and poured the water from the top of the tree, the leaves wilted away and the hala weakened loosening Pele from her bondage.


The first Pūhala:  another moʻolelo version

Peleʻs brother, Kamohoaliʻi, is said to have planted the first hala tree in the Hawaiian islands.  He brought the hala fruit cluster (ʻāhui hala) on the canoe from Kahiki in case the Pele family needed the fruit for food.  When they were hungry, they ate the soft, inner ends of the fuit keys (pua hala).  The also saved the hard ends of the hala keys (iwi hala) for planting.

When the Pele clan arrived on the island of Hawaiʻi, Kamohoaliʻi planted the hala seeds in Puna.  A magical pūhala sprouted which was always laden with fruit.  The tree was named Manuʻukeʻeu.  From the fruit of this tree came the seeds that were planted and grown on every island in Hawaiʻi.

These famous hala groves of Hawaiʻi have been used for generations by lau hala weavers. Hala is found on all islands within Hawaiʻi but there are a few specific groves that are famous for the beautiful and bountiful hala that they provide.
Many mele (songs) were written to honor the famous hala groves found throughout Hawaiʻi. These two mele reference the famous hala groves of Naue on the island of Kauaʻi and Kekele of Kailua.