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New Hawaiian Language Video Series: He Moʻolelo ʻĪliokai

September 25, 2023

Join us on a journey through the Hawaiian archipelago to learn more about the charismatic and endangered Hawaiian monk seal through He Moʻolelo ʻĪliokai, the Story of the Hawaiian Monk Seal.

A seal dives off the coast of Nihoa island. It’s easy to imagine how biologists could miss the seals out to sea in a single-day survey. Credit: NOAA Fisheries (Permit #22677) A seal dives off the coast of Nihoa. Credit: NOAA Fisheries (Permit #22677)

You can now watch He Moʻolelo ʻĪliokai, a three-part Hawaiian language-narrated video series that explores the plight of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal! The series was created as part of a collaborative internship project with Kamehameha Schools and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. It represents a greater effort to increase the integration of traditional ecological knowledge into our work and make marine conservation stories widely accessible to all. 

The Process

The goal of this project was to create engaging stories about the Hawaiian monk seal for Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) with a focus on haumāna (students). Viewers learn about monk seals, the threats they face, and our kuleana (responsibility) to respect and conserve them. 

The internship took place over the course of an entire school year, beginning in September  2022. The project was led by two Kamehameha Schools Kapālama seniors, Huki Plunkett and Nohi Tabilangan, who wrote, narrated, and edited the entire video series. As a multi-disciplinary project, they worked with the school’s digital media department on the technical aspects of editing and recording media. They also received expert language guidance on translating the script into ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). The support of experts and kumu (teacher) included:

  • Tisha Louis, Science 
  • Leah Kihara, Digital Media
  • Aulani Herrod, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi 
  • Dr. Stacie Robinson, Research Ecologist, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program
  • Ali Bayless, Outreach and Education Coordinator, CIMAR/RCUH in support of NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The team met bimonthly to discuss script development, video content, and story creation. On World Ocean Day 2023, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center team hosted a video premiere at the NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center. They welcomed the entire Kamehameha Schools team to celebrate the success of these haumāna.

“This project allowed our haumana to realize the value in their voice through the ancestral knowledge they carry. The opportunity to work collaboratively in a professional setting pushed them to a higher level of achievement while still allowing a safety net through the guidance of mentors at school as well as at NOAA,” shared Tisha Louis.

NOAA staff collaborate with KS students
Students Nohi Tabilangan and Huki Plunkett in discussion with kumu Tisha Louis and Dr. Stacie Robinson in the media lab at Kamehameha Schools. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Ali Bayless

The Series

He Moʻolelo ʻĪliokai invites us into the world of the Hawaiian monk seal.

Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes of filming Episode Three of the video series at the digital media studio at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Ali Bayless

Episode One  

The first episode provides an overview of the history of the Hawaiian monk seal and a Hawaiian linguistic perspective of its various names and the meanings behind them. Beginning with the Kumulipo, Hawaiian creation chant, we learn that the Hawaiian monk seal is an important part of our ecosystem here in Hawai‘i.

Episode Two

The second episode dives deeper by providing a glimpse into the Hawaiian monk seals habitat in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument through captivating footage taken both above and below the ocean surface. Part of this includes images captured by seal-mounted cameras, which are portable cameras that can be attached to active monk seals to capture images of them engaging with their environment. Through a seal’s perspective, we learn interesting facts about their behavior and diet as well as other species with which they interact.

Episode Three  

The final episode explores human impacts on the seals and our responsibility to help the species recover and thrive. Dr. Stacie Robinson discusses the current status of the Hawaiian monk seal and what we can do to protect them!

Collaborating With Community 

As the 2023–2024 school year progresses, the team will conduct classroom visits at ke kula kaiapuni (Hawaiian language immersion schools) to further share this valuable resource with Hawaiian language learners. 

Collaborations like this are greatly needed, and we appreciate opportunities to work closely with students and the communities we serve. We hope that these videos enable broader access to Hawaiian monk seal science, their cultural importance, and the stewardship efforts we can all take to conserve this important species. 

Mahalo for watching!

Seven project team members pose together on stage.
The team at the World Ocean Day video premiere at the Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center. Pictured from left to right: Dr. Stacie Robinson, Huki Plunkett, Tisha Louis, Leah Kihara, Nohi Tabilangan, Ali Bayless, and Aulani Herrod. Credit: NOAA Fisheries