Australia cultural trip hinges on funding for group

Finding money for Mauians' participation in aboriginal cultural festival has been difficult

The Maui News
September 3, 2001

City Editor

PUKALANI - With only Maui County pledging support - but not enough to cover all the bills - Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. said he was ready to cancel a trip to Australia to participate in an aboriginal cultural festival.

Maxwell was named last year as a representative of the indigenous people of the United States to participate in the cultural festival being held Oct. 13 to 21 in Canberra. He and his wife, Pukalani kumu hula Nina Maxwell, attended the opening of the National Museum of Australia in March as representatives of the indigenous people of the U.S.

The festival - "Tracking Kultja-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Festival" - was to have had a contingent from Hawaii, including members of the Pukalani Hula Hale, Hawaii musicians and Hawaii crafters.

Maxwell said he needed about $50,000 to bring a full crew of of artisans and performers. Mayor James "Kimo" Apana and the Maui County Council put up a $10,000 grant for the cultural exchange, but Maxwell said there has been little support from other Hawaii agencies.

He said he was particularly disappointed when he received no support from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. He said he applied for financial support for the Tracking Kultja festival but got nothing, saying he feels that OHA Maui board member Charles Ota failed to follow through on a promise to support his application.

Ota on Saturday questioned whether Maxwell had filed a proper grant application.

"I told him to go through the proper procedures, and now he's blaming me saying I didn't get the money for him," Ota said. "My staff told him to file an application but, as far as I know, he didn't."

He said Maxwell initially asked for $100,000 to take his family and the Pukalani halau, but may have scaled back his request.

When Maxwell announced that he intended to turn down the Tracking Kultja invitation, a supporter offered to put up another $10,000 if others would at least match that amount.

While $30,000 would not provide for the full entourage of 15 people, Maxwell said it would provide more than just a perfunctory appearance by a Hawaii delegation. He said he hoped to take at least 10 performers and crafts people to Australia for the cultural festival.

The group would include Alex and Louise Paleka, two Hawaiian crafts specialists, Paniani Malaikini, a traditional dancer from Hana, musicians Sheldon Brown and Sanford Kaina, as well as members of Nina's Pukalani halau.

His troupe will include some of his family, including Gregory Kahikinamaikalani Juan, a 7-year-old grandson who is training in traditional dance

"We will be representing Hawaii, but we also will be representing all of the indigenous people of North America," Maxwell said.

He was selected to participate in the cultural exchange programs by the National Museum of Australia, which features the indigenous people and culture of Australia, the aborigine.

Participants in the cultural exchange also included a Maori from New Zealand, a Nunavut and a Cree from Canada, a Sami from northern Europe and an Ainu from Japan. In each case, the representative was someone who had been active in promoting indigenous culture, Maxwell said.

In his case, he was recognized for more than 30 years of effort in promoting Hawaiian culture and developing public discussion of the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893.

Maxwell had been a founding member of the Aboriginal Lands of Hawaii Association, one of the first Hawaiian groups to protest the overthrow and claim rights for Hawaiians as a sovereign nation.

During the brief tour for the opening of the national museum, Maxwell said, he realized the connections Hawaiians have with other indigenous people, in particular the aborigines of Australia.

"The cultures are so similar, spiritually," he said.

He noted the reverence for the natural environment, including geologic features and the animals of the land and waters. But the aborigines have suffered more than most, he said.

"Yes, we lost our land and our culture. But they lost their lands and they were being exterminated. They were actually hunted as if they were animals," he said.

"We found that we don't understand each other in our languages, but spiritually we connected. We could understand each other spiritually," he said.

Maxwell said he has applied for additional grants, but he hopes private donations will help in the effort to take a representative group from Hawaii to Australia.

Donations may be sent to Hui Ai Pohaku Inc., a nonprofit corporation set up to promote culture and Hawaii traditional values. The address is 157 Alea Place, Pukalani 96768.

For information on the program, Maxwell has a Web site at

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