Niihau Celebrated in 11th Annual Princess Kaiulani Festival

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Hanapepe, Hawaii — With funding through the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, The Storybook Theatre successfully held its 11th Annual Princess Ka’iulani Keiki Fest: A Celebration of the Culture, Cuisine, and Music of Ni‘ihau on October 20, 2012. Celebrating the island of Ni‘ihau with its neighbors in West Kaua‘i, the Hanapepe-hosted festival included dozens of costume-clad children, local craft, live Hawaiian music, eclectic food, and traditional hula.



A week-long cultural exchange on the campus of ‘Ele‘ele Elementary introduced the Ni‘ihau families, in intimate talk-story sessions, to each class at the school. Each year an honorary “Princess Ka‘iulani” is voted on by her peers to lead the festival’s parade procession and is given special gifts and protocol as the “Princess” of the day. This year’s princess, Ni‘ihau’s own Bridget K. Shintani, was given makana (gift) which included lei, half a dozen bags of fresh poi, hula, and more.


The festival was arranged with a huge white tent adorned with native plants and flowers by the Ni‘ihau families, each with a corner of the tent dedicated to their family name and talent, including shell jewelry making, storytelling, poi pounding, and cooking. The day began with prayer by Kupuna “Mama” from Ni‘ihau, who led the crowd in traditional prayer and song of her island. A few local groups like the Pacific Island Drummers and GameKids performed before the crowd gathered for the big procession. After the noon parade returned to the tent, the children of the festival were invited to dance on-stage and were joined by special guest Mayor Carvalho. The day continued with several events which included theatre performances, storytelling, a scavenger hunt, and a talent show.


“I was very impressed by the Ni’ihau people” says event producer Mark Jeffers, “The children and youth are very well mannered and respectful, and accept the adults around them; they care about what they are being taught and about what they are learning”.  “The students act very much in unison when given a task or a challenge”, says Jeffers, “I appreciate getting to know them individually and watching them respond to our stated mission of presenting Ni’ihau culture to other people, old and young.”


With hundreds of children and adults in attendance, the festival was focused on the children of this Westside community, who shared their language, their dance, and their family life on Ni‘ihau; something most residents don’t often see or hear. This project will be complete with a documentary to be shown in the spring of 2013 at Kauai Community College with hopes of helping residents and visitors connect to the unique culture and mysterious lifestyle of the Ni‘ihau residents and their Kaua‘i ‘ohana.


For more information about The Storybook Theatre or the annual Princess Ka‘iulani Keiki Fest, please contact Director, Mark Jeffers by email at


CNHA is a national network of Native Hawaiian Organizations, providing assistance in accessing capital and technical resources, and is a policy voice on issues important to Native Hawaiian communities. Its mission is to enhance the well-being of Hawaii through the cultural, economic, and community development of Native Hawaiians.  For more information about CNHA please contact us at 808.596.8155, toll-free at 1.800.709.2642, by e-mail, or at