About the Plenaries and Main NHC 2019 Speakers

August 16, 2019

About the Plenaries and Major NHC 2019 Speakers

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The 2019 National Humanities features four special plenary sessions for attendees: Welina: Welcome and Opening Ceremonies from the Pacific Islands Humanities Councils; a morning Address from the NEH Chairman Jon Peede; the Capps Lecture featuring Jonathan and Jamaica Osorio, poet, activist and scholar; and the closing plenary, The Navigator’s Water: Traditional Seafaring in the Pacific. Read on to learn more about these events and the speakers.


Welina: Welcome and Opening Ceremonies from the Pacific Islands Humanities Councils

Location: Hilton Hawaiian Village

The 2019 cohosts will welcome everyone to the conference with a Native Hawaiian chant and introduction to the geography and history of ‘āina of Waikīkī. Each cohost will briefly explain their unique community and history, touching upon ways that the Pacific Islands are connected. The presentations will include music and a short film that highlights the indigenous Pacific Islander humanities. The opening event will conclude with an ‘awa/kava ceremony which honors a commitment to respectful and deep conversations in the days to come.

Meet the Opening Ceremony Speakers:

Aiko Yamashiro, executive director, Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities (opening plenary speaker)

Aiko Yamashiro was raised in Kāneʻohe and her families were raised in Kāneʻohe, Puʻunēnē, Yanbaru, and Agaña Heights. She has taught decolonial Pacific literature and community-engaged poetry for the UH Mānoa English Department as well as in partnership with community organizations and events, and has worked as an editor, researcher, and event planner for the Center for Biographical Research. Aiko is a former board president of Hawai‘i People’s Fund, and has worked as a peacebuilder with Women’s Voices Women Speak. She coedited The Value of Hawaiʻi 2: Ancestral Roots, Oceanic Visions (UH Press, 2014), and her poetry and essays can also be found on Ke Kaupu Hehi Ale, blackmail press, Spiral Orb, and on the radio with “It’s Lit” with PhDJ. Aiko is grateful for jam sessions, pool tables, over-easy eggs, Okinawan dance, the Koʻolau mountains, the richness of our shared ocean, the strength of nā pua, and all of their protectors.

Kimberlee Kihleng, executive director, Humanities Guåhan (opening plenary speaker)

Kimberlee Kihleng has been the Executive Director of Humanities Guåhan since 2005. Under her leadership, the council has expanded its partnerships with local and regional organizations, and broadened the scope of its activities to highlight Guam’s diverse cultures, especially in relation to the larger Pacific Islands region. Kihleng has overseen some of the council’s most ambitious and rewarding programs, including “Writing the Pacific: Albert Wendt Comes to Guam,” “Dance and Identity in the Pacific,” four Smithsonian Institution Museum on Main Street exhibit tours, NEH’s “We The People” projects, “8,000, How Will It Change Our Lives: Community Conversations on the US Military Buildup on Guam,” “The Micronesian Question: Issues of Identity, Migration and Belonging on Guam,” and “I Tano yan I Tasi, Land and Sea: Ecological Literacy on the US Pacific Island of Guam.”

Prior to her current position, Kihleng served as the executive director of Mission Houses Museum, a fully accredited history museum and national historic landmark in Honolulu’s Capitol District focusing on Hawaiian and Pacific history, culture and art. From 1997 to 2000, Kihleng was the visiting scholar in Micronesian Studies at the University of Guam, as well as coordinator of the Women and Gender Studies Program.

Kihleng, a Fulbright Scholar, has carried-out long-term ethnographic research in Pohnpei Island, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and short-term ethnographic study in the Republic of Palau. She has a PhD from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Leo Pangelinan, executive director, Northern Marianas Humanities Council (opening plenary speaker)

Leo Pangelinan was appointed to the executive director position on November 6, 2018.  Prior, Mr. Pangelinan managed a local non-profit engaged in sustainable sea transportation and traditional seafaring culture.  He is a local music recording artist and facilitates music clinics for youth interested in learning about the CHamorro and Carolinian culture through music.  He has served in a number of leadership roles in public institutions of higher education, most recently as the dean of student services for Northern Marianas College.  Mr. Pangelinan has a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Washington and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Washington State University.

Niualama E. Taifane, executive director, Amerika Samoa Humanities Council (opening plenary speaker)

Niualama E. Taifane is the founding executive director of the Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. She is a native of the island and has lived on the Islands most of her life. She left her home in the 70’s to continue her education in the United States and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from Linfield College in McMinville, Oregon and her Master’s Degree from the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. As the executive director of the Amerika Samoa Humanities Council she has lead and assisted in many council programs and the Humanities has become a household concept since the council opened its doors more than two decades ago. 



Address from NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede

Location: Hilton Hawaiian Village

Join Chairman Jon Peede for the NEH annual address at the National Humanities Conference.

Jon Parrish Peede, chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities

Jon Parrish Peede is the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). His previous positions include publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) at the University of Virginia, literature grants director at the National Endowment for the Arts, counselor to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, director of the NEA Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience program, director of the NEA Big Read program, director of communications at Millsaps College, and editor at Mercer University Press with a focus on the humanities. He has written speeches for a U.S. president, a first lady, and a librarian of Congress.

From 2007 to 2011, Peede oversaw the NEA’s funding of literary organizations and fellowships to creative writers and translators. For seven years, he led writing workshops for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Bahrain, England, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, the Persian Gulf, and on domestic bases. Under his leadership, VQR expanded its paid readership to 51 countries. He acquired work from seven Pulitzer Prize winners and edited interviews with two Nobel laureates. He has served on several nonprofit boards, including the national council of the Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African-American Experience at Jackson State University. 

Peede holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Vanderbilt University, and a Master’s in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. He is the coeditor of Inside the Church of Flannery O’Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction (Mercer, 2007) and editor of a bilingual anthology of contemporary American fiction (Lo que cuenta el vecino: cuentos contemporáneos de los Estados Unidos [UNUM: Mexico City, 2008].) 

Capps Lecture with Jonathan and Jamaica Osorio

Location: Hilton Hawaiian Village

The Capps Lecture honors individuals for their contributions to the humanities, particularly those who pursue integrity in public life, believe in the power of stories, and are committed to the inclusion of all voices, particularly those at the margins of society. This year’s Capps lecturers are Jonathan and Jamaica Osorio. The Capps Lecture is open to the public.

Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, poet, activist, scholar

Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a Kanaka Maoli wahine poet / activist / scholar born and raised in Pālolo Valley to parents Jonathan and Mary Osorio. Heoli earned her PhD in English (Hawaiian literature) with the completion of her dissertation entitled: “(Re)membering ʻUpena of Intimacies: A Kanaka Maoli Moʻolelo Beyond Queer Theory.” Currently, Heoli is an assistant professor of Indigenous and Native Hawaiian Politics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Heoli is a three-time national poetry champion, poetry mentor and a published author. She is a proud past Kaiāpuni student, Ford fellow, and a graduate of Kamehameha, Stanford (BA) and New York University (MA). 

Dr. Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio

Dr. Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio is the Dean of Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. He is married to Mary Carol Dunn and has fathered five children, all reasonably well-adjusted human beings. Dr. Osorio received his PhD in History from the University of Hawaiʻi in 1996 and was on the faculty of the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, serving as director of the Center from 2003 to 2008. As a professor, he has collaborated with numerous other faculty and students in many departments to bring recognition for indigenous knowledge, championing Hawaiian language, performing arts and the study of Hawaiian and Pacific Islands history and contemporary issues through conferences, forums, and publications. He has published broadly and both of his books, Dismembering Lāhui (2002) and The Value of Hawaiʻi (2010), co-edited with Craig Howes, have won local publishing awards. Dean Osorio serves on several boards and committees in support of the Hawaiian sovereignty and protection of sacred places in Hawaiʻi. He is a composer and singer and has been a Hawaiian music recording artist since 1975.


The Navigator’s Water: Traditional Seafaring in the Pacific

Location: The Bishop Museum

Join us at the Bishop Museum for this unique closing plenary which will explore navigation with three traditional navigators who are working to revitalize the art of Pacific wayfaring within communities on O‘ahu, Saipan, and Satawal.  As students of Grand Master Navigator Pius ‘Mau’ Piailug, they each work to embody his spirit of giving and perpetuate his legacy of sharing these traditions.  While rooted in and guided by their kuleana (responsibility and privilege) as members of an intellectual genealogy that extends millennia into the past, these leaders also remain steadfast in their efforts to create positive futures for Pacific people.

Milton Coleman Jr., educator and canoe builder (closing plenary speaker)

Milton Coleman Jr. was born on Oahu, and is a Pacific Islander of Hawaiian, Samoan, CHamorro, and Refaluwasch (Carolinian) descent.  He is a canoe aficionado and has helped build and sail various kinds of sailing and/or voyaging canoes for more than 27 years. His early canoe years were spent as an apprentice under the respected late Kahuna Kalai Waa (Master Hawaiian Canoe Builder) Wright Bowman Jr. and then spent six cherished years under the tutelage of the venerable Grand Master Navigator Pius ‘Mau’ Piailug. In the mid and late 90s, he served as a steersman and apprentice navigator on board the Voyaging Canoes Hokulea and Makalii during some of their open ocean long distance voyages. Mr. Coleman has been sharing and teaching traditional cultural and experiential knowledge for the past twenty years on Oahu.  He has worked with the Bishop Museum, Hawaiian Public Charter Schools, Kamehameha Schools’ Aina-based Education Department, Kapiolani Community College’s Summer Bridge program and the University of Hawaii’s Ka Holo Waa Program. He resides in Waimanalo with his wife, Mahana and their nine children.

Bonnie Kahapea-Tanner, project director, Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy (closing plenary speaker)

Bonnie Kahapeʻa-Tanner was born and raised in Kaneohe where her love for the ocean began. She got involved with the voyaging canoe Makalii in 1995 and has been sailing ever since. In 1999, she was a watch captain on Makalii’s historic voyage, “E Mau: Sailing the Master Home,” which took Grand Master Navigator Pius Mau Piailug home to his community in Micronesia.  Following this life-changing experience, she helped to open Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School and launched the waa Kanehunamoku, a 29 ft. coastal sailing canoe, to share and teach voyaging culture and practice. Today, the non-profit Kanehunamoku Voyaging Academy teaches learners of all ages about the waa and connects that to college and career opportunities in ocean-based industries.  She holds a BA in Hawaiian Studies, a MS in Counseling Psychology, and an MA in Transformative Learning and Change. Bonnie lives in Heeia Oahu with her husband Halona Tanner, and daughters, Kaialea (12) and Lehia (11).

Cecilio Raiukiulipiy, proprietor, Marianas Water Works

Cecilio Raiukiulipiy was born on Satawal, a coral atoll about the size of one square kilometer located in Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia. He has been sailing on traditional canoes since the age of seven – often voyaging away from his home island of Satawal for several days at a time to go on fishing and hunting expeditions in and around neighboring islands. At the age of ten, he was presented with his own canoe and with it made his first attempt to sail toward West Fayu – an uninhabited coral atoll some 71 kilometers northwest of Satawal.

Mr. Raiukiulipiy’s matrilineal clan is one of three that form the foundation of knowledge for the School of Weriaeng – the only surviving school of traditional navigation in the western region of the Pacific Ocean. His affiliation to this clan and strong early interest in seafaring provided him with opportunities to learn these traditions which were passed down orally and through access to hands on sailing experiences with master navigators. Mr. Raiukiulipy is a graduate of the Pohnpei Agriculture and Trade School (PATS) and has earned certifications as a Water Distribution Operator, Haz-Mat Technician, and Transport Technician. He currently owns and operates several businesses that provide construction, shipping, and water treatment system services to his community on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Mr. Raiukiulipiy has sailed on numerous occasions between islands throughout Micronesia and had completed successful open ocean voyages as captain and navigator between Japan and Australia, Hawai’i to Saipan, and Guam to the Philippines.

In July 2018, he served as Captain for Okeanos Marianas, a 50-foot double-hulled sailing canoe, sailing her over 3,000 miles from as far North as Pagan in the Northern Mariana Islands to the islands of Fayu, West Fayu, Satawal, Puluwat, and Pulusuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. On this voyage, he achieved the rank of Pairoro when he received his Pwo from his Great Uncle, Arpi Aylwairh, a Rhaepin Woak or Grand Master Navigator from the School of Weriaeng. Mr. Raiukiulipiy shares his knowledge and skills today as a member of the Marianas Sailing Club and as a sailing instructor for 500 Sails – organizations committed to reviving sailing and traditional seafaring culture in the Mariana Islands using the Chamorro Sakman canoe.

Leo Pangelinan, executive director, Northern Marianas Humanities Council (bio included above under Welina: Opening Ceremony) is also speaking at the closing ceremony.


NHC 2019 Event Website

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