Crossing East: Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest Producers Dmae Roberts and Sara Caswell Kolbet report on descendants of Hawaiians who live in the Pacific Northwest. Many generations later, the progeny of those first Hawaiians still carry on some sacred traditions brought from the islands.
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Crossing East: Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest

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Crossing East: Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest

Crossing East: Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now to the northwest of America, where a perhaps unexpected group of immigrants has really influenced the region. Generations of Hawaiians have relocated there. Place names like Aloha, Oregon, and Kanaka Bay, Washington, hint at their influence. Producer Sara Caswell Kolbet of the Crossing East Asian American history series spoke with two women with Hawaiian roots who've made their lives in the Pacific Northwest.

(Soundbite of cheers, applause)

SARA CASWELL KOLBET reporting:

Mayor Pete Poulsen speaks to a crowd in Kalama, Washington.

Mayor PETE POULSEN (Kalama, Washington): This prize is to honor John Kalama and other Hawaiians and the role they played, along with the Native American Indians, in developing the Pacific Northwest; the 175th anniversary of John Kalama's arrival to the Pacific Northwest. Kalama, the little town with the big aloha spirit.

KOLBET: John Kalama was a carpenter from Hawaii who came to the Northwest with the fur trade in the 1830s. There were as many as 500 Hawaiian workers living at Ft. Vancouver during that time and more throughout the Northwest coast. Hawaiians joined the fur trade to escape tribal conflict in Hawaii and to explore the world. Many, like John Kalama, married into the Native American community. Today the town of Kalama celebrates its namesake with dozens of Hawaiians and Northwest sailors who brought their outrigger canoes.

Ms. MARIE KALAMA: The majority of us live on the Nisqually Indian reservation.

KOLBET: Marie Kalama, a Nisqually Indian in Washington state, is the great-granddaughter of John Kalama. Marie is one of 40 descendants here. Dozens more live around Washington state.

Ms. KALAMA: This is probably the first time I am aware of that his ancestors came and walked his path. It touches your heart, no matter where you're from, no matter if you're Native American or Hawaiian or any other culture.

(Soundbite of singing)

Ms. CATHY ROLAND: (Singing in Hawaiian)

KOLBET: Though miles apart, Marie Kalama shares a legacy with Cathy Roland of Victoria, British Columbia. Her great-grandfather, William Naukana, also from Hawaii, was a guide and interpreter with the Hudson's Bay Company in the mid-1800s.

Ms. ROLAND: I grew up always knowing that we had a Hawaiian connection. My great-grandfather married into the native community. Mostly it was the men who came here to the coast for the fur trade, but there are so many people up and down this coast that are of Hawaiian descent, as I am, but they don't know. We weren't white enough to be white. We weren't Indian enough to be Indian. It was the Hawaiians that embraced us. If you had an ounce of Hawaiian blood in you, you were family and welcomed back home.

(Soundbite of singing)

Ms. ROLAND: (Singing in Hawaiian)

KOLBET: Since she was a child, Cathy would sing songs in a language she didn't know. Later she learned they were Hawaiian. After three generations, Cathy's family history was all but forgotten, except for the name Naukana. Then her uncle Paul made contact with a Hawaiian journalist, who took their story back to Hawaii and found hundreds of Naukanas.

Ms. ROLAND: Mom and Dad and I went down to Hawaii for the very first time. Every family that had the name Naukana, it seems, showed up. There were 350 Naukanas in the airport, every one of them with a flower lei on their arm and they had to greet you with this flower lei and a kiss. Every one has to go on, so we pile them on until we were just buried under them, then they'd take off the lump, put it on the table and along would come the next load. And just by being there, you drink up this culture.

KOLBET: The Hawaiian songs Cathy learned as a child led to her becoming a professional singer. Today she and her brothers sing those same Hawaiian songs for her nieces and nephews every year at the family luau.

Ms. ROLAND: I remember my uncles especially singing. They sang beautifully. And they sang songs that were--they call them hapa-haole songs because they are often about Hawaii, like "Beyond the Reef" and "Blue Hawaii." They weren't in the Hawaiian language but they were from Hawaii, these songs.

(Soundbite of singing)

Ms. ROLAND: (Singing) One fond embrace, a ho ia e au, until we meet again.

CHADWICK: That report produced by Sara Caswell Kolbet and Dmae Roberts for the Crossing East Asian American history series. What is that series? Well, that's why we have a Web site. Go to npr.org.

I'm Alex Chadwick. NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.

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