Hawaii: Diving into Its History and Culture with Kaliko Beamer-Trapp

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Kaliko says when you learn a new language it changes you into a different person. He says of learning the Marquesan language: “It has its own personality. When I’m over there I’m like a different person. I might look the same on the outside but I feel that I express myself differently. I express myself the way they do. I change my intonation, the pitch in my voice, and the strength of my voice as well as the way my eyes move and the expressions that I make. I change to match that environment and what the people there are like and I find that is so fun. I just love that. It’s like you can be a different person.” He describes being adopted by Aunty Nona, the most revered cultural hero, and her method of teaching. After decades of restrictions stemming from years of repression by the Western missionaries, she brought hula back to the islands in its original sacred form. Hula was originally used for religious purposes but when the Western missionaries arrived in the 1800s they felt it was about sex and was the devil’s instrument. Even in the 1950s when Aunty Nona was a student at the Kamehemeha School it was considered improper to do hula at all. Kaliko describes the transformation, “If you wanted to do hula, you could do sitting hula but you were not supposed to stand up and dance. Aunty Nona broke that mold by actually standing up and dancing. She did get expelled for doing it but later got talked back into getting into school again and, in the end, she encouraged hula as an expression of being Hawaiian. It’s not lewd and lascivious behavior; it’s not something that should be stamped out. It’s a beautiful expression that comes from native roots and should be continued.” He shares the history of the kingdom of Hawaii and the revitalization of its culture and language. This is a beautiful visit to this island state. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Kaliko Beamer-Trapp was born on the Isle of Wight, England. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, joined a performing group named Dances of the Pacific, and spent the following nine years as a performer of Polynesian music and dance in California and also in group tours of England, Spain, Mallorca, Hawaii, and Fiji. In 1994 he moved to the island of Hawaii at the invitation of well-known Hawaiiana expert and cultural historian Aunty Nona Beamer (1923-2008). Being in Hawaii brought about a deep affection for things Polynesian, and Kaliko focused his studies particularly on the languages and cultures of Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands (Te Henua ʻEnana). He attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and joined the Hawaiian Studies department at the University of Hawaii both as a student and an employee in 1994. In 1996, he became the editor for Hawaiian language curriculum at the Hale Kuamoʻo, a Hawaiian language center on the university campus. That same year, Kaliko was adopted into the Beamer family in Waipiʻo Valley, after the late Louise Beamer, Aunty Nona's mother, suggested privately to Aunty Nona, "I wish Kaliko could be my moʻopuna (grandson)." He speaks as an interpreter if a local language person wants to speak in Hawaiian in court. As a musician, he also understands how mele and oli music and chant are an important part of the language and are a big part of hula.

To learn more about the work of Kaliko Beamer-Trapp go to www.oleloonline.com.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How a man from England ended up in Hawaii teaching Hawaiian language
  • Who is the Hawaiian cultural icon Aunty Nona and how did she transform prohibition of the hula
  • Why the Hawaiian language sounds so beautiful to the ears
  • How you become a different person when you immerse yourself in a culture and become proficient in their language
  • Why it is important to be teaching young Hawaiian children their indigenous language and what it is doing for Hawaii and for the world
  • What is the history of Hawaii and why revitalizing the Hawaiian language is important
  • Why there are many different names for rain and for the phases of the moon in Hawaiian
  • What is the practice of hanai in Hawaii (like an adoption)
  • How Hawaiian chants are passed on from generation to generation
  • What is the Ulukau digital library which consists of traditional native sources presented in Hawaiian language
  • What is the history of the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii
  • What is the true meaning of Aloha

 Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 4/24/2019   Program Number: 3681

Music Playlist

From Album: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar in the Real Old Style
Artist: Keola Beamer
2013 The Mountain Apple Company B00F43EBOO

Opening Essay: Track 02  Pua Lili Lehua
Music Break 1: Track 04  Kawohikukapulani
Music Break 2: Track 06  WI Ha
Music Break 3: Track 09 Lovely Hula Hands