Maui Benefit Event Brings Hawaiian Community Together

Students, community members, and faculty gathered on Nov. 4 to participate in the Maui Benefit event in Hunsaker lounge. The event featured Hula performances and a Hula ‘auana workshop, food, and the blessing of the space by the Cahuilla Bird singers. There was a variety of food donated by Hawaiian alumni and musubi donated by the President’s Office. Donations of money and toiletries to benefit Maui residents were accepted through Nov. 10. This event was planned in response to August 2023 wildfires on Maui. 

Talamaivao said that the event was hosted to “bring our community together for a benefit that supports the efforts for our Hawaiian community on campus, [and to] gather resources for our community in Maui.” Maui Benefit was hosted with help from Native Bulldogs, Office for Inclusion and Community, and University of Redlands Staff Assembly (URSA). 

The event was very casual and hosted “backyard style – with AC,” joked event organizer Elaine Talamaivao, Interim Department Coordinator for the Office for Inclusion and Community. Talamaivao said the event was intended to feel like a family backyard gathering, which was evident through the smiles and relaxed demeanor of attendees. 

Some of the food donated to the Maui Benefit event. 

The event started with the blessing of the space by Cahuilla Bird singers, a Southern California Native American singing group. They performed four traditional songs, with “three generations of love present to bless this space,” said Talamaivao. These songs are passed down through generations and tell stories of creation and daily life. They were executed with the performers singing, dancing and shaking rattles made from gourds and filled with palm seeds. 

Cahuilla Bird singers bless the space before the event. 

Talamaivao’s family members and friends were present at the event, many of whom helped lead students in an informal Hula ‘Auana lesson. Each dancer was paired with an inquisitive attendee, as Talamaivao led the pairs in learning basic Hula ‘Auana steps. This was followed by each pair choosing two steps of their own to learn then sharing these steps with another group. 

Attendees learn basic Hula ‘Auana steps. 

The university also accepted donations of both toiletries and money through Nov. 10 to benefit Maui residents. Proceeds go directly towards the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), according to an email from the university sent on Nov. 2. CNHA is a “non-profit organization with a mission to enhance the cultural, economic, political, and community development of Native Hawaiians,” said their website. The donations will go to relief efforts in Maui, like Native organizations and small businesses.

There is also a toiletry drive, with donation boxes located in Hunsaker Lounge. These donations will be shipped directly to CNHA. Many Maui residents were displaced in the wildfires in August, so these toiletry donations will help provide needed resources for families in the Maui area. 

Toiletries donation box located by the main doors on the first floor of Hunsaker. 

According to Talamaivao, there are 4-6 graduate and undergraduate Native Hawaiian students at the university, making this event especially important to the community. She said she hopes the Bird song and Hula ‘Auana performances “shook the earth so the ancestors can hear we’re here.” 

Photos by Adelaide Hubble. 

Adelaide Hubble is a freshman majoring in environmental studies and minoring in spatial studies. She enjoys writing about club events and any important issues on campus. Adelaide is from Las Vegas and likes to listen to 80s/90s alternative rock and explore coffee shops in her free time.

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