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BYU-Hawaii, PCC forge even closer ties through the Iosepa

Mike Foley | University Advancement | 6 November 2006

Bill Wallace at PCCPLC, others celebrate permanent halau
for Iosepa at PCC

BYU-Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center, sister institutions which have worked hand-in- hand for over 40 years, celebrated even closer ties in a special ceremony on November 3 in the Hawaiian village marking the fifth anniversary of the launching of the Iosepa and impending plans to build a permanent halau or learning compound where the 57-foot traditional wa'a kaulua or twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe will be permanently berthed when it's not on the water.

That morning at PCC, language immersion keiki [children] sang, the conch shell sounded, and Hawaiian village representatives chanted in welcome as dozens of guests from BYU-Hawaii, the community and visiting members of the Presidents' Leadership Council (PLC) gathered for the ceremony. The PLC is a select group of successful people who donate their talent and means to the university and the Center.

Naauao Panee of the PCC Hawaiian village explained the theme of the ceremony — Pupukahi holomua — was an ancient call to paddlers to work in synch so they could move a canoe forward together. PCC Hawaiian cultural expert Cy Bridges outlined how the canoe hulls, named after Lehi and his wife, tie into genealogy leading to this community and the intricately woven relationiships, "like a fine mat," among many of the Hawaiians who have worked on this project.

William K. "Uncle Bill" Wallace III (pictured, upper left), Director of the BYUH Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian Language and Culture Studies which uses the Iosepa as a floating classroom, told of working in the Hawaiian village as a boy, helping Jubilee "Pop" Logan — PCC's first Hawaiian village "chief" — make the imu [earth oven]. "I had a dream where I saw Pop Logan with 'Ma' [Eugenia] Logan here in the Hawaiian village, and at that moment I realized that the home for Iosepa was to be here, in honor of them, in honor of all our kupuna [ancestors]."

Wallace recalled hearing the early PCC villagers say they hoped their "grandchildren would be able to enjoy this place. Here I am as a grandson, but also as a grandpa because I have my grandsons that are here today. What we're doing is not just for us, but it's for the future. I'm so grateful...for all of those who have made it possible for us to have made it so far. There's no doubt in my mind that once Iosepa is here it will help unlock the windows of heaven and that blessings will descend upon this place, to help the work go forward."

Then, following more speeches and the presentation of hookupu or traditional Hawaiian gifts, Ira A. Fulton and Mark H. Willes — who have both made significant donations to the Iosepa fund — spoke on behalf of the Presidents' Leadership Council.

Fulton, tracing his involvement with the canoe over the past six years, said he wanted to make sure the Iosepa became a reality. "I can't tell you how honored I am to be here in this setting, with all of these fine brothers and sisters and of their spirit and dedication. Thank you for allowing me to participate."

Willes, vice-chairman of the PLC and a former president of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, built his remarks around another meaning of the Hawaiian word aloha, which he incorporated into the mission motto — The Aloha Mission:

"A stands for atonement. All that we do must eventually lead us to Him who we honor and worship as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For after all, He made the greatest sacrifice of all," he said. "All that we do at the Polynesian Cultural Center and BYU-Hawaii must eventually take us toward, and lead us to, our Savior and gratitude for His atonement."

"L — Love is our motivation: Love of Him and of each other," he continued.

"O — Obedience to the commandments, including the commandment of stewardship, which allows each of us the privilege of sharing what we have with others. I'm so grateful to be a part of this group, because you honor and recognize that principle. It's why you follow the promptings of the Spirit to give; and as we do that, we are able to have people come and feel the..."

"HA — the breath of life [in Hawaiian]. As they come and feel it, if they're members of the Church, they are strengthened in their testimony. If they are not members of the Church, when they encounter the Church they feel [the same spirit] they felt here. As they learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, they get eternal life, which is the real meaning of the breath of life."

Hawaiian Studies at PCC Hawaiian village
Willes recalled five years ago when BYU-Hawaii President Eric B. Shumway was seeking financial help to build a new home for the Iosepa, he talked about the "feelings that people from the community, university and PCC had" because of the Iosepa. "They would come, they would touch, and they would feel a special spirit about that canoe."

"He then talked about how there was a building of bridges between the Center, the university, the community and the extended community here in Hawaii; and as he spoke, the Spirit spoke to us and said, 'You are to help them build that house.'"

Willes pointed out when the new halau is completed, the Iosepa will no longer be "in a back lot behind the university where nobody can see it. It will be here in this place where hundreds of thousands will come every year to see, touch and feel. And as they feel the spirit of this place, they will honor the Hawaiian heritage and the remarkable people who have helped make this place so special."

"They will also feel something that many of them won't understand, but someday will; and it will give them the ha — the breath of life, even eternal life," Willes said.

"We are so grateful to be a part of something so special. We are grateful to all of those who have made it possible and all of those who bring their spirit here — those living, those who have gone before and those who will yet come — to help everyone else who comes feel and understand the real meaning of aloha."

—  Photos by Mike Foley