Featured Image: Keauhou overlooking the active Kīlauea volcano taken in 2022. Photo Credit: Whitney Aragaki
This post was co-written by Whitney Aragaki & tia north, educators and 2892 storytellers.
ʻĀina, in the Hawaiian language, translates to land and Earth, and all that thrive on them.
Land is how we forge and build connections, land becomes our sanctuary, our “special place”. It is why place-based storytelling resonates and draws people in to create a sense of belonging.
This feeling of “where do I belong?” is the crux of 2892 Miles To Go: A Geographic Walk for Justice which calls on the stories of local communities told by those who live there. These stories, delivered through online educational resources available in and out of the traditional classroom setting, often reveal perspectives that have been hidden, overlooked, or silenced in favor of one point of view. These stories represent the voices of the many, of several generations, and countless backgrounds and locations. 2892 is active in five sites including Louisville, Kentucky, Amarillo, Texas, St. Paul, Minnesota, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hilo, Hawaiʻi.
Hawaiʻi of course is often celebrated for its stunning landscape and captivating culture—however, do you know the number of sacred lands on each island? The stories passed down amongst family members across generations? The artwork that depicts our rich history?
In this article we, the 2892 Hawaiʻi storytellers, offer this StoryMap as a gift to you and to nā keiki o ka ʻāina, the children of the land. This is a resource that we three millennials from Waiākea, Hawaiʻi did not have in our school experiences but encapsulates our lived experiences and lessons from elders, community, land, and water. We crafted this resource as educators working in classrooms today to offer knowledge we acquired through observation, time, apprenticeship, and trust on a digital platform accessible to a greater audience. We aim to demonstrate the ways in which indigenous and local wisdom have global applicability in educational pedagogy.
To embark on 2892 Hawaiʻi, please know that we have intentionally resisted over-describing or translating concepts surrounding ʻāina. Just as if you were to physically enter a sacred space like a forest or body of water, we ask that you take the moment to silently and humbly seek welcome. This sets intentions, signals to those why you are here, and gives thanks for the privilege of entering. Similar to learning a new language through immersion, we invite you to engage in an opportunity of (un)learning from a lens of Infinite ʻĀina. We define (un)learning as letting go of preconceived notions and allowing yourself to learn about, co-create with, and find enrichment from ʻāina in a way that honors our places and stories.
So often in virtual spaces, we lapse on the privilege of access and diminish the reverence for which these places and artifacts deserve. As a way to advocate for greater protocol practices for indigenous collections, we ask you enter 2892 Hawaiʻi centered in aloha.
Additionally, you may notice there are no geographic maps with obvious coordinates. This is an intentional design choice made to discourage geotagging and ecologically irresponsible tourism. As much as we want to share our places with the world, we live in constant awareness of how unprotected access to the sacred places of our natural environment can cause immense harm. Increased pollution, traffic, land erosion, and for-profit operations plague our beautiful, rural homeland. Our decision to remove coordinates from the map was made in our effort to preserve our places, flora, and fauna to ensure future generations will receive the same lessons from the land that we do.
A sense of belonging is built on a foundation of place. ʻĀina is an inviting presence and holds memories of our interactions in the same way we do. Learning from ʻāina reminds our students that we are ever-connected and share more in common than any of our differences may divide.
Whitney Aragaki (she/her) supports students to learn through a lens of abundance that honors place, people, and cultures. Her teaching focuses on conversations, practices, and systems that sustain the intimate interrelationship of public education, community, and environment. Returning to serve her high school alma mater, Aragaki teaches biology and environmental science at Waiākea High School in Hilo, Hawai‘i. Aragaki is the 2022 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year Finalist. As a 2892 storyteller, Aragaki enters the conversation as a K-12 classroom teacher and a biologist who explores the tensions that arise when science research aims to correct rather than appreciate.
tia north (they/she) serves ʻāina through poetry and writing. They are the Associate Director of Composition at the University of Oregon, an A.J. Ersted Distinguished Teacher of the Year, and the inaugural Culturally Responsive Teaching Fellow for the Department of English. Their teaching focuses on developing student awareness of language, power, inter-being, and identity. As a 2892 storyteller, north enters the conversation as an ʻŌiwi poet and educator from the ahupuaʻa of Waiākea.