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  • Writer's pictureConvening Storytelling Team

Story as Gift

Updated: May 30, 2023

By Cheryl Ka‘uhane Lupenui

We are pleased to share with you today a piece from our storytelling series of reflections and noticings coming out of our convening in Tucson!

Please stay tuned for more writings from our team of storytellers and revisit the blog here to see them all in the coming months.

Gifts from Kohala

We have a saying passed down from our ancestors in Kohala, ‘A‘ohe u‘i hele wale o Kohala. No youth of Kohala goes empty-handed. Youth of Kohala are raised knowing that when they travel, they take along gifts, provisions, and a helping hand; they are prepared in every way when doing things.

Thus, as our Hawai‘i team headed out to Tucson for the Assessment for Learning Conference, we loaded our bags with handmade gifts to appreciate our many hosts. On the day designed for learning excursions which would take me to visit Cholla High School and the Mission Gardens, I was ready with one gift set for the teacher host and one for the garden hosts. Arriving at the high school I was greeted by four senior girls who I found out were also to be my hosts throughout the day. Oh dear, I really was not prepared!

I put this worry out of my mind at the time believing that what was supposed to happen will. The day continued to move beautifully. As the learning journey was coming to an end, I looked in my bag and saw that I still had a gift set of four cards and their envelopes. Each card held a different photo image of a place called Ho‘oulu ‘Āina. But all represented ceremony, healing, gratitude, feeding and family lovingly captured through a Hawaiian lens.

I asked each young woman to choose a card that called to her, perhaps sharing why she was drawn to that particular card. One by one, each took their turn and spoke their truth. “I’d like to go there.” “I was drawn to the colors.” “It reminds me of my family.” “This card was the only one left.”

In return, I offered a story about what makes each picture so special.

After our ceremonial exchange, we knew clearly and felt deeply that each card had chosen its own keeper of the story. Even the girl who received the last card felt the magic. This card held her story in that it was about wellness and healing and she comes from a family of healthcare workers. Our little circle became a bit safer, and we talked more freely about things that mattered to us.

I returned to the conference and to the driving question asked of us, What can we learn together in Tucson about how assessment for learning relates to learner belonging, equity and liberation?”

That day I remembered ceremony invites story. I learned stories bring our relations and bring out our relatedness. I feel ceremony and story are acts of belonging, equity and liberation. I learned that Chuk Shon’, the village of the dark spring at the foot of the mountains is a storied place. In figuring out what I had left to give these girls, I realized everyone received exactly what they needed including us. I was reminded some stories are gifts themselves. Now, the magic of our stories is held in these ancestral grounds to be passed down by those who remember them.


About the Storyteller

Cheryl L. Ka‘uhane Lupenui founded The Leader Project as a

place for learning about shared leadership from Hawai‘i for Hawai‘i. Now as President and C.E.O of The Kohala Center she is part of a larger community returning ancestral knowledge and research into daily practice across fields of education, agriculture, conservation and yes, still leadership. Her career path to this work includes serving on the Board of Education for Hawai‘iʻs Department of Education, being CEO for the YWCA of O‘ahu, managing business development for Servco Pacific, Inc., running her own restaurant promoting sustainable local agriculture and consulting native-led entrepreneurs.

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