Puakea Nogelmeier

Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities Pavilion
Saturday, May 5, 10:00 am
Panelist for the WE GO JAM! event with Carlos Andrade and Aunty Noelani Mahoe

OHA Alana Pavilion
Saturday, May 5, 11:00 am
Discussing Ho‘olaupa‘i, the collaborative project to digitize Hawaiian Language newspapers, with Kaui Sai-Dudoit in the ‘Ike Ku‘oko‘a panel

Mission Memorial Auditorium
Saturday, May 5, 12:00 pm
Introducing Julia Flynn Siler, author of Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure

Brief description of Ho‘olaupa‘i: Nogelmeier continues to work with Ho‘olaupa‘i, a collaborative project spearheaded by the Bishop Museum with the goal of digitizing and placing on the Internet tens of thousands of pages from Hawaiian-language newspapers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, which are currently available only on microfilm. Project manager Kau‘i Sai-Dudoit says the newspaper project essentially amounts to reconstructing a national archive. “This is our language, and there is nowhere else in the world we can learn this language,” she explains. “If we don’t keep this language alive here, it will certainly die. Today, thanks to people like Puakea, there are a lot more Hawaiian language resources available than there were yesterday.

Reviews about Nogelmeier:

Resonant. Sonorous. Deep. These words are often used to describe the voice of Puakea Nogelmeier, though none seem to capture the actual auditory effect when he’s speaking directly to me.

“I’m the voice of TheBus,” he points out—deeply, resonantly, sonorously—but this is something I already know. Anyone who has taken O‘ahu public transportation in the past five years knows his work: Triggered automatically at every stop, the pre-recorded spots let riders know they’ve arrived at Kapi‘olani Boulevard or Alapa‘i Street. As pronounced properly by Nogelmeier, it’s Kah-pee-oh-la-nee and Ah-la-pah-ee, the ‘okina—the upside-down apostrophe—requiring a cutting off or ending, a glottal stop.

… “I don’t know anyone that gives of himself so freely,” she says. “I asked him once, ‘Why do you do all this?’ He said that he received his skills as a gift, and now it is time to share everything that he has learned.”

Hana Hou!

A year out of high school, Marvin Nogelmeier decided to quit his job at a post office in Minnesota and go to Japan on an adventure with friends. There was to be a brief stop-over in Honolulu. But a lost wallet (no passport!) kept Marvin from continuing on the trip. He stayed in Hawaii, waiting for his ID to be replaced, and then continued to stay. And stay. He’d  found cheap housing and good friends in Wai‘anae.

And it all started with a lost wallet.

Leslie Wilcox Blogs

Mr. Nogelmeier’s late hula teacher gave him the honorific name “Puakea,” or “fair child.” When he began learning about Hawaiian culture, “I was a real empty calabash,” he says, referring to a hollowed out gourd used in Hawaiian feasts. “I never even knew Hawaii had a kingdom or that it once had a monarchy.”

Over the years, he absorbed the language and culture by spending time with elderly native-Hawaiian speakers, whom he calls his “uncles” and “aunties.” He visited their homes several times a week, “talking story” with them, strumming a ukulele and singing his own Hawaiian compositions to them.

One of his “aunties,” 71-year-old Lolena Nicholas, has known Mr. Nogelmeier for more than 25 years and says his pronunciation is good even when he uses obscure colloquialisms. Asked if she can tell he’s a Minnesotan when he speaks Hawaiian, she laughs and says: “No!”

Julia Flynn Siler

Hawaiian language champion Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier is an Associate Professor of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii, where he has taught for 25 years. After coming to Hawai‘i at age 18, Nogelmeier joined Mililani Allen’s halau hula in Wai‘anae, which fostered an interest in Hawaiian language and culture. He has followed that interest in many directions over more than three decades with language, poetry, literature and history as his major fields of study.

Nogelmeier studied under Naomi Losch at Leeward Community College and eventually enrolled at UH Manoa. An unusually quick study, he had graduated from high school at age sixteen. It took him only seven semesters to earn a double major in anthropology and Hawaiian languages. Now fifty-three, he has a master’s in Pacific Island studies and a Ph.D. in anthropology, and has been teaching Hawaiian languages at Manoa since 1984.

Nogelmeier’s understanding of Hawaiian has recently graduated to a new level. He was made a kumu hula under the tutelage Aunty Mei Kamamalu Klein. With his colleague Dwayne Nakila Steele, Puakea established Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project in 2004 to develop resources and resource people that foster Hawaiian knowledge. He has been the Executive Director of Awaiaulu since its inception. Nogelmeier is also an award-winning composer.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s John Berger speaks with Puakea Nogelmeier at the 2009 Hoku Awards.

Nogelmeier’s works:

Mai Pa‘a I Ka Leo: Historical Voices in Hawaiian Primary Materials, Looking Forward and Listening Back; Bishop Museum Press, second edition; September 2010

I Ulu I Ke Kumu: The Hawaiinuiakea Monograph, editor; University of Hawai‘i Press; October 2011

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