Mānoa Heritage Center

Hawaiian Science: ʻIke o Ka Po‘e ʻImiloa (Knowledge of a Far-Seeking People)

“Ahu kupanaha ia, Hawaiʻi ʻimi loa! E noiʻi wale mai nō ka haole-a, ʻaʻole e pau nā hana a Hawaiʻi ʻimi loa.”

A heap of amazing things can be learned about Hawaiʻi! And however diligently the foreigner inquires, he cannot completely fathom all of the doings of far seeking Hawaiians.

Kepelino, Ka Moʻoʻōlelo Hawaiʻi

Inspired by Kepelino’s description of Hawaiian knowledge as ʻimi loa or “far-seeking,” special guest speaker Dr. Sam ʻOhu Gon discusses the similarities and differences between Hawaiian and Western science and the benefits of future collaborative efforts between the two. He gives examples of how native Hawaiians kept records of scientific observations through ʻōlelo noʻeau as well as place names and provides examples of how Hawaiian knowledge and science have benefited conservation efforts.

An example from Dr. Gon’s presentation showing how ʻōlelo noʻeau were used as records for scientific observations. He explains that the Hawaiians observed that when kō flowers are in bloom, it is also the time when mature heʻe (who are almost microscopic in size when young) become visible at the reefs.

Dr. Gon is a conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi where he has been for over 30 years. He has experience with Hawaiian ecosystems and species on all islands and as part of his research, he has documented the small ecological footprint of pre-contact Hawaiʻi, which was 100% self-sufficient, and compared it to our current low level of self-sufficiency and the loss of native ecosystems. He is an advocate for the integration of Hawaiian knowledge, values, and approaches in modern conservation efforts, for which he was designated as a Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi in 2014.

We can’t thank Dr. Gon enough for sharing his ʻike with us and we hope that you enjoy learning from him as much as we did! Watch the recording of his talk below. If you have any questions for Dr. Gon after watching the lecture, you can find him on Facebook as Sam Ohu Gon III.

This program was made possible with support from the Atherton Family Foundation, G. N. Wilcox Trust, Island Insurance, and Mālama Mānoa.

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