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'Iolani School Indigenous Peoples' Day: Kuleana

Cultural Competency

Organizations doing work related to Kuleana (not a comprehensive list)

What does it look like to be a responsible steward of indigenous stories?

Kuleana to Place and Stories (Notes on Settler Allyship)


"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. If you are here because you recognize that your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
- Lilla Watson / Aboriginal Women’s Collective

"Don't just do something; sit there." - Buddhist witticism via Thich Nhat Hanh


Within many indigenous epistemologies, kuleana to place and story is often expressed as a matter of kinship–aloha ʻāina and moʻokūʻauhau, for instance–and it’s important for settler allies to recognize and respect indigenous relationships to place and story without overstepping and reproducing unwarranted claims to land/place/space. Scholars and practitioners debate, for example, whether settler allies can/should claim a sense of aloha ʻāina (even as political practice) in defining their allyship, or if such attempts inherently lead to further erasure of indigenous voices.

Equitable-Social Change Process Model*

Maxwell lays out a four-phase process for creating equitable social change as social justice/equity leaders within our organizations. Her four phases take us from “Awareness and Affirmation” to “Allyship and Advocacy” to “Access and Activism” and finally into “Accountability and Audit.”

Here are four important steps from phase one to focus on:

  • Exercise cultural humility, which will allow you to honor the narratives of others and engage in ongoing self-reflection.
    (Listen with humility and without claim of mastery/ownership)
    • Know and honor the stories and place names
  • Source and examine your biases, beliefs, and values to determine how you might effectively model equity through your thinking and behavior.
    (Deep introspection and learning)
    • De-center yourself in the story; lift native voices/experiences
  • Review data from various sources to diagnose the inequities that need correction.
    • De-center Western/colonial stories, knowledge, ways of being
    • Listen to communities when they articulate their needs
  • Increase and enhance your consciousness about the issue.
    (Prepare to take action, not the lead)
    • Adopt appropriate language to honor communities and their struggles
      • The continent, occupation/colonization, “state” of Hawai‘i

*Taken from Shatter the System: Equity Leadership and Social Justice Advocacy in Education by Candice Dowd Maxwell (2022).


Research by
Chase Wiggins, 'Iolani School English Faculty
Indigenous Peoples' Day Committee



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