Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Increasing conservation capacity by embracing ritual: kuahu as a portal to the sacred

Formally Refereed
Authors: Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, Aimee Y. Sato, Christian P. Giardina, Creighton M. Litton, Smrity Ramavarapu, Leslie Hutchins, Evelyn H. Wight, Michelle Clark, Susan Cordell, Kainana S. Francisco, Heather McMillen, Pua‘ala Pascua, Darcy Yogi
Year: 2021
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: Pacific Conservation Biology. 27(4): 327-336


In this Pule Ho‘oulu (prayer for inspiration), we are calling ourselves and you, the reader, to embrace growth and perpetuation of life’s many sacred manifestations, to honour the guardians of our places and the sources of our knowledge, and affirm the profound responsibility that is conservation management. This chant initiates the process of kuahu, an altar of Native Hawaiian spiritual practice within Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a, a ritual-based stewardship program in Hawai‘i led by Kumu (master teacher, a primary holder and source of knowledge for the community) Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani. This paper outlines how the kuahu process has advanced learner capacity to embrace the many sacred dimensions of resource stewardship, thereby transforming conservation biology, and related conservation practices, through Indigenous perspectives. We examine themes evoked during the kuahu process at scales spanning the universal, the regional, and the personal. In doing so, we describe how kuahu practice can serve as a coparticipant, catalyst, and portal to sacred conservation, allowing learners to engage and grow more personal relationships with the environment, our communities, and ourselves.


Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, Kekuhi; Sato, Aimee Y.; Giardina, Christian P.; Litton, Creighton M.; Ramavarapu, Smrity; Hutchins, Leslie; Wight, Evelyn H.; Clark, Michelle; Cordell, Susan; Francisco, Kainana S.; McMillen, Heather; Pascua, Pua ala; Yogi, Darcy. 2021. Increasing conservation capacity by embracing ritual: kuahu as a portal to the sacred. Pacific Conservation Biology. 27(4): 327-336.