Behind the Scenes of the Pacific Lūʻau and Hōʻike
On the second Saturday of April, Pacific University’s Nā Haumāna O Hawai‘i (NHOH) will be running its annual Lūʻau and Hōʻike. It is the only Lūʻau and Hōʻike completely student-run and student-directed in the Pacific Northwest.
This year will mark the club’s 62nd year putting on this event. All the preparation that goes into making sure that both the Lūʻau and Hōʻike run smoothly is staggering. Haia Ku, a senior at Pacific University and one of the student leaders in charge of the Lūʻau and Hōʻike, explained just how much work goes in to make the Lūʻau and Hōʻike all happen.
The first part of preparations that Ku brings up is the Lūʻau portion of the event. There are no places in Oregon that sell foods common to Hawaiʻi such as Lau-lau, so students look towards home to get what they need.
“A lot of it is shipped from home, but then also Bon Appetit helps us cook it, and our parents that come up from home come and help cook the day before,” Ku said. “Everybody starts really early.”
This is how dishes like Lau-lau and Poi find their way in the concession stands in Stoller on the day of the Lūʻau and Hōʻike. It is a joint effort of the students, their parents, and the cooks at the UC; all who contribute preparing food prepared for the event. And not only does the food come from across the ocean, the decorations and the merchandise that appear on the day of the Lūʻau and Hōʻike were all brought in by people from Hawai‘i. These people span from parents of students at Pacific to other locals who want to contribute to this event every single year. Throughout fall semester, food and merchandise are donated to NHOH before eventually being shipped to Portland the week before the Lūʻau and Hōʻike. Once all the cargo reaches Oregon, several student leaders drive up to the Portland Airport early in the morning to bring it back to campus. Once it arrives, all members of NHOH assist in unloading and unpacking everything. This is just the beginning of their week leading up to the actual event.
On top of preparing for Lūʻau, students also need to prepare for the Hōʻike portion of this event. This is when the dancing and performances happen. The theme for this year is “E hoʻi i ka piko” which translates to “Return to the source.” Essentially, the aim for this year of the Lūʻau and Hōʻike is to be more knowledgeable and informational about not just Hawaiian culture, but other cultures such as Filipino, Samoan, and Tahitian.
“There is a stereotypical image of Hawaii and Polynesian culture in general,” said Ku. “So, we want to be the voice that spreads our culture correctly, especially up here at the school we go to.” elaborates Ku.
With this in mind, NHOH has over 15 dances lined up that cover cultures all over Polynesia for the Hōʻike. According to Ku, preparations for this portion begin in the fall semester. They choose their theme, pick instructors to teach the dances, and then select the songs they want to use for said dances. Then, these instructors learn the dances so that when the spring semester rolls around, they are ready to teach the other student performers. Because there are so many dances, some performers participate in multiple dances at a time. At most, men can join five dances, while women can join up to four. Each dance requires auditions. They are mostly to determine where on the stage a performer will be placed, except for fire knife dancing, which cuts (no pun intended) anyone that isn’t at the required skill level with the dance. From Mondays through Thursdays, starting at 5 pm, the dancers and performers practice their dances for the event. For every dance a person joins, that equals one hour of rehearsal.
For all the hard work put in from the beginning of the school year to now, it’s safe to say that the efforts of all the members from NHOH to put on the annual Lūʻau and Hōʻike is extensive. However, despite all the challenges and time commitments the annual Lūʻau and Hōʻike pose for the students, they rise up to the task and do their best to make sure that this event is a success. — Kaleb Makimoto