Mary Abigail Kawenaʻulaokalaniahiʻiakaikapoliopele Naleilehuaapele Wiggin Pukui (20 April 1895 – 21 May 1986), known as Kawena, was a Hawaiian scholar, author, composer, hula expert, and educator.
Pukui was born on April 20, 1895, in her grandmother's home, named Hale Ola, in Haniumalu, Kaʻu, on
Hawaiʻi Island, to Henry Nathaniel Wiggin (originally from
Salem, Massachusetts, of a distinguished shipping family descended from
Massachusetts Bay Colony governor
Simon Bradstreet and his wife, the poet
Anne Bradstreet) and Mary Paʻahana Kanakaʻole, descendant of a long line of
kahuna (priests) going back centuries. Pukui's maternal grandmother, Naliʻipoʻaimoku, was a kahuna laʻau lapaʻau (medicinal expert) and kahuna pale keiki (midwife) and a
hula dancer in Queen Emma's court. She had delivered the child, and asked Pukui's parents for the child to raise in the traditional way, and her request was granted. Kawena was born into the Fire Clan of Kaʻu. Kawena and her grandmother were inseparable, and the child was taught many things she needed to know. Upon the death of her grandmother, Kawena returned to live with her parents. Her mother continued her education in things Hawaiian and her father, who spoke Hawaiian fluently, spoke to her in English and taught her of his New England heritage.
Pukui was educated in the
Hawaiian Mission Academy, and taught
Punahou School. Pukui was fluent in the
Hawaiian language, and from the age of fifteen collected and translated
folk tales, proverbs and sayings. She worked at the
Bernice P. Bishop Museum from 1938 to 1961 as an
ethnological assistant and translator. She also taught Hawaiian to several scholars and served as an informant for numerous
anthropologists. She published more than 50 scholarly works. Pukui is the co-author of the definitive Hawaiian-English Dictionary (1957, revised 1986), Place Names of Hawaii (1974), and The Echo of Our Song (1974), a translation of old chants and songs. Her book, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, contains nearly 3,000 examples of Hawaiian proverbs and poetical sayings, translated and annotated. The two-volume set Nānā i ke Kumu, Look to the Source, is a valuable resource on Hawaiian customs and traditions.
In addition to her published works, Pukui's knowledge was also preserved in her notes, oral histories, hundreds of audiotape recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, and a few film clips, all collected in the Bishop Museum. She is often credited with making the
Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s possible.
1972: Native Planters in Old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore, and Environment; with Edward Smith Craighill Handy; Elizabeth Green Handy. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press; Revised edition (1991).
1974: Place Names of Hawaii; with
Elbert and Mookini
1974: The Echo of Our Song: Chants and Poems of the Hawaiians
^Often written in hyphenated form as Kawena-ʻula-o-ka-lani-a-Hiʻiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele-ka-wahine-ʻai-honua Na-lei-lehua-a-Pele, which translates as "The rosy glow in the sky made by
Hiʻiaka in the bosom of
Pele, the earth-consuming woman."
Dye 1998, pp. 109–110