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Talk Story: Lyah Kama-Drake

When the pu sounds at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, Kauai will celebrate King Kamehameha Day with a ho‘olaule‘a at the luau grounds on the Kauai Marriott Resort &Beach Club.

Lyah Kama-Drake, the outreach education director at the Kauai Museum, is just one of the many organizers involved in putting together the King Kamehameha Day celebration, along with The Royal Order of Kamehameha, Kauai Museum, King Kamehameha Celebration Commission, Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Kauai Marriott Resort &Beach Club, and the County of Kauai.

“You know me,” Kama-Drake said. “I’m usually the one in the background. Whether it’s my husband, or my family, they usually tell me what they’re going to do. I’m just the support — the backbone behind the scenes.”

People are invited to the event that will feature cultural exhibits and demonstrations, a king’s court procession and protocol, and hula performances by kumu hula Wallis and Shana Punua’s halau.

“Some of those demonstrations and activities are poi-making, kava-making, lei-making, puka-shell-bracelet-making, and Ni‘ihau-earring-and-bracelet-making,” Kama-Drake said. “Some of those demonstrations will have a nominal donation fee attached due to the scarcity of the materials involved. But it’s still a lot of fun, and people can learn about some of those crafts and crafting from the old days.”

“The king’s court makes its appearance at 11:30 a.m. with its protocol,” she said. “I’m a believer since my Aloha Festivals days that we don’t want the court outside for too long because of the heat.”

Kama-Drake echoes the words of other leaders of Hawaiian culture in advising people to respect the protocol in celebrating King Kamehameha The Great.

Kamehameha was born around 1736, rising to the throne in 1795 and remaining there until his death in 1819.

“It is said that, from birth, Kamehameha I was destined for greatness,” Kama-Drake said, reciting from a placard placed below his portrait on the Kauai Museum walls. “His mother was Kekuiapoiwa, a Kona chiefess, and his father was Keoua Kupuapa Kalaniniu. There are some who believe he was the son of King Kahekili of Maui.”

The nephew of the highest-ranking Big Island Chief Kalaniopu‘u, Kamehameha came into power after defeating his cousins, Keoua and Kiwala‘o, in a civil war that lasted 10 years, later extending his sway over Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Oahu. Kauai was added a decade later.

Charismatic, strong and attentive to the world around him, Kamehameha I would preserve the ways of old until his death.

According to staff at the Kauai Museum gift shop, a lot of visitors to the museum ask, “If Kauai was never conquered by Kamehameha, why do we celebrate Kamehameha Day?”

“Personally, for myself, if visitors can link King Kamehameha to Hawaii, and that he was a Hawaiian, that is exciting,” Kama-Drake said. “That means that we as Hawaiians still exist. Whether we celebrate Kamehameha, Kaumuali‘i, Kekaulike, Kuhio and others, they are who we are today — Hawaiian! We need to be proud to stand together for our future generations. If we can’t learn to celebrate in unity, then what are we saying to our future leaders?”

She said the Hawaiian culture is not connected to any of the social problems that face the community today.

“We as Hawaiians were brain-washed for generations,” she said. “Issues of suicide and other social problems were not created by a Hawaiian. ‘Aloha’ was created by the Hawaiians. This is not to say that Hawaiians never had pilikia — we did. But at the end of the day, we are ohana that work together, eat together, pray together and stay together.”

She said, growing up, she was raised to appreciate the simple life, which today’s society claims is a “poor” life.

“Corporate tells us that if you want to be happy, then you gotta have ‘IT,’” she said. “When ‘IT’ is simply just a temporary feeling — until you need another ‘IT’ to resolve another feeling.”

Kama-Drake’s connection to Kamehameha is even closer.

“My mother, who is the recordkeeper for our family, said our lineage descends from Hewahewa, who served as kahuna nui, or one of the high priests and close advisers, for Kamehameha,” Kama-Drake said. “The line is clear. We can trace our lineage. My family hails from Hawaii Island and Maui, and I grew up on Oahu. Our iwi is in Waimea Valley on Oahu.”

“I grew up in a household filled with laughter, ono food, playing Hawaiian music with the steel guitar, ukulele, guitar, a couple of big dinner spoons, and an upside-down pikini bass,” she said. “My grandparents on both sides were avid entertainers. I started dancing hula, martial arts called lima lama, playing piano and graduated from Keiki Music College School in Kailua, Oahu at 6 years old.”

“Honestly, I got so burned out with Hawaiianess by high school that I started to shift my musical energy to a more modern-day genre. I never thought I would be back, but Hawaiian culture found me after I had my children. I felt it important that they have the same opportunities as I did.”

The King Kamehameha Celebration is normally handled by the Kauai commissioner to the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission. With the departure of Melissia Sugai from the Kauai seat, this year’s celebration is being put together by the organizations and individuals to prevent disruptions from tradition.

“We don’t have a parade,” Kama-Drake said. “But we will have the procession by the king’s court, and the protocol that includes ho‘okupu. This is about being Hawaiian — aloha, akahi, lokahi and all of that. We carry on the spirit of being Hawaiian.”

Kama-Drake said with her strong connections to Kamehameha the Great, her ohana claims she would make a great representative to the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission.

“Everyone said I need to step into the position,” she said. “But I wasn’t ready. There were a lot of things on my plate — my daughter just graduated from high school and has a lot of things to do before she moves on, my obligations to the Kauai Museum, my family and their plans. It didn’t feel right to add one more responsibility to the plate.”

That was yesterday. “People talked to me — the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Kauai Museum, the Royal Order of Kamehameha, but more importantly, my family,” Kama-Drake said. “After all of that, I’m ready. I want to teach people that no matter who we are, whatever name we have, we are Hawaiian if we have the aloha. We’ll have a parade for next year’s celebration.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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