New Kumu Hula Edith Kanaka‘ole Quarter Celebrates Hawaiian Culture
Learn more about this Hawaiian icon of education, language and dance.
A new special-edition quarter is spreading the word about Kumu Hula Edith Kanaka‘ole as the freshly minted coins arrive in people’s pockets. And on Friday, June 9, Bishop Museum will honor her legacy in an after-hours event with the Kanaka‘ole ‘ohana, her hālau and more.
This celebration will bring attention to the icon and the quarter that shows her face, long hair and lei po‘o streaming onto Maunakea and the rest of Hawai‘i Island. The coin includes the phrase “E hō mai ka ‘ike,” or “Grant us wisdom.” It’s from a chant she composed that reflects how hula and chant intertwine with cultural preservation.
Here in Hawai‘i, we remember Kanaka‘ole annually during the weeklong Merrie Monarch Festival, celebrated at the Hilo stadium named in her honor. Kanaka‘ole gained widespread respect as a key figure in the Native Hawaiian renaissance. She taught hula, culture, Hawaiian language and much more while working as a kumu hula and educator.
Now, O‘ahu folks will get a chance to experience that legacy in person at Bishop Museum through Kanaka‘ole’s hula, choreography and compositions and through her Hālau o Kekuhi, which is internationally recognized for its teaching of hula. Since her death in 1979, it has been run by two of her daughters, Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele and Nalani Kanaka‘ole.
Bishop Museum Event Honoring Edith Kanaka‘ole
Friday, June 9, 5–9 p.m.
The event is titled “E Hō Mai Ka ‘Ike, A Celebration of Aunty Edith Kanaka‘ole.” Bishop Museum and the foundation will present a special after-hours event with tribute performances at 6 p.m. by Hālau o Kekuhi under the direction of Nālani Kanaka‘ole and the Kanaka‘ole ‘Ohana. They will also be joined by three acclaimed O‘ahu hula hālau: Ka Pā Hula Hawai‘i under the direction of Kaha‘i Topolinsky; Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai o Haʻehaʻe under the direction of Keawe and Tracie Lopes; and Hālau Hiʻiakaināmakalehua under the direction of Robert Keano Kaupu and Lono Padilla.
The event will offer other cultural activities for keiki and adults, including lau hala weaving, lei making and an ‘ukulele lesson.
A Life of Teaching
The nonprofit Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation was created in 1990 to maintain and perpetuate the teachings, practices and traditions of the late wife-husband team of Edith and Laka Kanaka‘ole. Granddaughter Huihui Kanahele-Mossman, who serves as the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation’s executive director, sees the quarter as carrying Kanaka‘ole’s message across oceans and generations “to ensure that her life passions—traditional hula, mele and oli, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and teaching—continue into the next millennium.”
She’s also pleased that the coin calls attention to her grandmother’s deep commitment to the environment and safeguarding of natural resources that she and her 12 brothers and sisters relied on growing up.
“She was very motivational—which is a better word than pushy—when it came to education, language and hula,” Kanahele-Mossman says regarding what her grandmother would think about all this. However, when it came to accolades, awards, distinctions, declarations, etc., “she was very humble and did not expect at all that she would be recognized for her work.” Kanahele-Mossman expects her grandmother’s response would be two-fold: “I think she would be very appreciative and honored and at the same time tell us to get back to work and pay attention.”
How Many Edith Kanaka‘ole Quarters Are There?
As of May 5, the U.S. Mint shipped 336 million of the Kanaka‘ole quarters to the Federal Reserve. Local banks received an allotment and were selling them to customers by the $10 roll as well as putting them in general circulation so they turn up in our change. The U.S. Mint sells them through the mail at higher prices.
Kristie McNally, deputy director of the U.S. Mint, says Kanaka‘ole was recommended by both the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and National Women’s History Museum for her lasting impact and unique legacy. Of the five women honored this year, McNally says, “None … ever accepted the status quo.”
The U.S. Mint produces the coins based on monthly orders from the Federal Reserve. The mint says it shipped an average of about 500 million each of the previous American women quarters. The program, honoring five women each month, began in 2022 and continues through 2025.
Who Are the Other Women in the 2023 Quarter Series?
The U.S. Mint describes the other four women in the 2023 series as:
- Bessie Coleman: a pilot and aviation pioneer who was the first African American and first Native American female pilot, as well as the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license.
- Eleanor Roosevelt: first lady, author, reformer and leader. As chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, she oversaw the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as the chair of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, she advocated for civil liberties and the needs of the poor, minorities and the disadvantaged.
- Jovita Idar: a Mexican American journalist, activist, teacher and suffragist. She devoted her life to fighting against separatist ideologies and sought to create a better future for Mexican Americans.
- Maria Tallchief: America’s first prima ballerina. She broke barriers as a Native American ballerina who exhibited strength and resilience both on and off the stage.
Who Will Be on the Next Hawai‘i Quarter?
The next Hawai‘i woman who will be honored on a U.S. quarter is the late Hawai‘i U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink. Mink, whose quarter will be part of the 2024 collection, was the first woman to represent Hawai‘i in Congress and the first woman of color to serve there as well. Mink also served in local office. Throughout her career, she fought for gender and racial equity, affordable child care and bilingual education. Her work toward the passage of Title IX in 1972 was later recognized when it was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.