Malama 'Aina:

Sustainability, Settler Colonialism, and Hawaiian Struggle for Self-Determination (USA)


Location: Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.
Faculty: Lili Kim, associate professor of history and global migrations

Learning Collaborative Theme(s): In/Justice
Course Number: CSI-296S
Departure Date: January 7, 2024 Return Date: January 19, 2024
Course Fee (tentative): $2,500 + airfare

*Dates & fees are subject to change

Course Summary

“Malama ‘Aina” is a Hawaiian phrase that means caring for and honoring the land. This deceptively simple yet endangered practice is at the core of indigenous Hawaiian culture and guides the current Hawaiian sovereignty politics in Hawai‘i. The traditional Hawaiian value of Malama ‘Aina, which goes far beyond sustainability, has much to teach us about our relationship to the land and how to be a good custodian of it. Students participating in this unique, hands-on Jan-term field course will travel to Honolulu, Hawai‘i to experience the power of history, culture, and sustainability as a tool for self-determination and sovereignty by working with the kumus (teachers) and students at Halau Ku Mana, a public charter school founded in 1999 by Hawaiian sovereignty activists to serve the educational needs of disadvantaged Hawaiian students, focusing on the principle of Malama ‘Aina.


No prerequisites. Students are strongly encouraged to take Lili Kim's fall 2023 course, U.S. Imperialism and Hawai‘i. Students enrolled in this course will receive priority. As part of the application process, students will meet with the faculty director.


Short-term field course eligibility requirements (for Hampshire and non-Hampshire students)

Financial Information

Short-term Field Course Finances and FundingImportant information about fees, payments, and financial aid.

Course Fees

Program fee: $2,500 includes tuition, accommodation, most in-country transportation, group meals, course activities, and entrance fees.

Additional Expenses (costs not included in the program fee): Approximately $1,200 to include airfare, U.S. transportation to and from airport, transportation from Honolulu airport to accommodations upon arrival ($35), individual meals and personal expenses. 

How to Apply

Short-term field course application deadlines and instructions.

Full Course Description

This Jan-term field course to Hawai‘i seeks to engage Hampshire and Five College students with the traditional indigenous Hawaiian value of “Malama ‘Aina,” which loosely translates into “caring for the land” Working directly with the kumus and students at Halau Ku Ma, a public charter school founded by Hawaiian sovereignty activists, Hampshire and Five College students will learn and experience through their participation how educators and students embody the mission of Malama “Aina as a way of life and a form of empowerment in the context of settler colonialism and U.S. occupation.

Located in the deep forests of Makki Valley in the heart of Honolulu, Halau Ku Mana embraces both the urban and the rural to practice sustainable farming. Halau Ku Mana is a community-, culture-, and environment-based place of learning and serves a small community about 120 students who strive to achieve community and environmental stewardship and ultimately Hawaiian self-determination. While remaining academically rigorous in both English and Hawaiian languages, Halau Ku Mana aims to reconnect with the land that has been central to the indigenous Hawaiian community for many generations before the illegal overthrow of Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States. Sample curriculum includes Ahapua‘a (mountain to ocean project), Lo‘i (taro patch project), Uka (uplands project), and Wa‘a (sailing canoe project). Through such projects, students have transformed the forest from an abandoned, weed-infested land of Makki Forest Recreation Area to an urban oasis of indigenous plants and vegetables. Hampshire and Five College students participating in this immersion course will learn, observe, and assist with the academic- and nature-focused programs of the school curriculum. Working closely with kumus, each student will take lead in assisting in the area of their interested subject/project.

When we are working at Halau Ku Mana, our day will typically begin at 7:30 am and end at 2:30 pm Monday through Friday. Students can expect to return later on excursion days. We will have meetings and excursions to discuss and to process collectively our experiences at Halau Ku Mana. Students will explore the themes of imperialism, sustainability, education, self-determination through environmental stewardship. Outside Halau Ku Mana, we will meet with long-time community activists who are fighting to preserve ancient burial sites of Hawai‘i from developers, as well as scholars, artists, and farmers who are actively engaged in the movement for Hawaiian self-determination. We will also visit farms that practice environmental and Hawaiian ethics of caring for the land. Students will have opportunities to learn some basic Hawaiian language and the traditional hula dance, as well as to participate in local cultural and political events.

Academic Program

Academic Expectations & Evaluation

Students enrolled in the course are asked to read the following texts before arriving in Honolulu, Hawai‘i (Students who take the fall 2022 course U.S. Imperialism and Hawai‘i will already have read them for the course):

  • Haunani-Kay Trask, ed., From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai‘i (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999)
  • J. Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua, The Seeds We Planted: Portraits of a Native Hawaiian Charter School (University of Minnesota Press, 2013)
  • Candace Fujikane, Mapping Abundance for A Planetary Future: Kanaka Maoli and Critical Settler Cartogrphies in Hawai‘i (Duke University Press, 2021).
  • Dean Itsuji Saranillio, Unsustainable Empire: Alternative Histories of Hawai‘i Statehood (Duke University Press, 2018).

Students must fully engage with our daily activities and participate in excursions. In the beginning of our time together, we will collectively decide on how we want to be together for the course of the two weeks, and students will be expected to abide by the community norms that we devise collectively. This is an intensive immersion course. As such, we will be spending a lot of time together traveling to the sites of learning and at the sites of our engagements with activists, artists, scholars, and community members. In the spirit of Hawaiian ohana or family, we will look out for one another and care for one another in an intentional way. The best way we can show our gratitude for our interlocutors who have given us the generosity of their time and knowledge is to give them our full attention and to engage fully and thoughtfully with them. Students will be keeping a reflective journal and share their experiences during our daily meetings and they will turn in a final reflection paper at the end of the course.

Cumulative Skills

  • Successfully conceive and complete independent project-based work.
  • Understand and incorporate multiple cultural perspectives on intellectual or artistic subjects.

Diversity & Multiple Cultural Perspectives

This immersion course addresses the issues of power and privilege through the lenses of U.S. imperialism and settler colonialism that is ongoing. Not only will students learn of the history of U.S. annexation of Hawai‘i and the devastating impacts it has had on the survival of Hawaiian language and culture and the lives of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), but students will also witness and experience how to be an ally and supporter of Hawaiian sovereignty as a settler.

Language Learning

Halau Ku Mana is the only Hawaiian culture-based school in Honolulu, taught in both English and Hawaiian. Students enrolled in this course will learn, along with Halau Ku Mana students, Hawaiian language and culture. Students will participate in the morning ritual with the Hawaiian chants to begin the day and end the school day with the closing chants. No prior knowledge or experience in Hawaiian language is required.

Community Engaged Learning

At the heart of this course is community engaged learning. However, at this time, this course will not officially fulfill the requirements of CEL-1 or 2 unless students can propose a specific project that they would like to pursue during our time in Honolulu that would fulfill the requirements of CEL-1 or 2. Students can talk to the faculty director individually about their plans on how this course can augment their CEL-1 or 2 projects and how they might be able to pursue them during our time in Honolulu.

Program Logistics

Visa and other Travel requirements

Students who are U.S. citizens do not need passports to travel to Hawai‘i as it is part of the United States. A valid driver’s license will suffice. Non-U.S. citizen students will need to have a valid passport as well as any required visas to be in the United States. All participants are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and follow any additional COVID-19 testing and quarantining requirements.

Program Itinerary

January 7, 2024 arrive Honolulu

January 19, 2024 depart Honolulu

The course will be based in Honolulu, Hawai‘i  and students will travel locally within the island of O‘ahu. On most weekdays, students will be at Halau Ku Mana and take fieldtrips with the Halau Ku Mana students. On weekends there will be excursions to explore the island of O‘ahu, particularly the Waianae Coast where the majority of the Halau Ku Mana students live. Students should plan on arriving on Sunday 7 January and should check into the dorms at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, our base, and plan on departing Honolulu on January 19.

Travel Plans

Participants will travel individually from their own location to Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Students will be responsible for getting to the dorms of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, which is about a 20-minute cab ride from the Honolulu international airport. The cab will cost about $35. If they so choose, students can also take the city bus for $2. There is a bus stop right in front of the University of Hawai‘i dorms, so students will not have to walk a lot after getting off. Lyft and Uber both operate in Honolulu.

Housing Arrangements

Students will stay in the dorms of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Located in the beautiful Manoa Valley, the UH dorms provide a comfortable, convenient, and certainly the most affordable housing in Hawai‘i. Students will have a single dorm room. The rooms are small and modest. Halau Ku Mana is located in the next valley – Makki Valley, about a 20-minute drive from the UH. The UH dorms provide the additional benefits, such as the opportunities to connect with the UH students as well as having numerous great, local, cheap restaurants to eat near campus. Students will be able to utilize the libraries and computer terminals, as well as to purchase meals at dining facilities on campus. The front desk is open 24 hours, so students can check in anytime as they arrive from the airport. There are coin-operated laundry facilities in the dorm building.

Environment, Physical Activity & Dietary Needs

Hawai‘i has mild temperatures year-round. It can rain one minute, followed by sunshine and rainbows, so a light rain jacket or an umbrella is recommended. Participants will need comfortable shoes to hike and walk. Some excursions to Hawaiian burial sites and temples, etc. will require a fair amount of hiking. It is a good idea to start exercising so that you are used to walking some distance to prepare for the program. The UH dorms are accessible. Students will be expected to perform farming-related work guided by hosts at the Ma‘o organic farm in Waianae,. As part of the Halau Ku Mana curriculum, participants will work in the taro fields,  and help restore stone walls in the fields so students should expect carry rocks of different sizes and  to get wet and muddy. Accommodations can be made based on students’ physical needs. Hydration will be extremely important, and students will be required to have a water bottle with them.

Sometimes hazy air pollution caused by the volcanic emission form Kilauea volcano on the Big Island, known as volcanic smog or vog can be a problem. As the program will be on the island of O‘ahu, where Honolulu is located, this is usually not a problem, but sometimes the trade winds can carry vog over to other neighboring islands. Students with asthma, should talk to talk with their doctor about it to have a plan in place. Any dietary needs can be accommodated. Mosquitos are nuisance in the lush forests of Hawai‘i. Mosquito repellant is highly recommended. We will be traveling in close quarters in a minivan. For everyone’s safety, students will be required to have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Pre-departure Preparation

There will be at least one group meeting with the faculty director prior to departure. This orientation will allow each of us to begin getting to know one another. This will be an intense group experience, and we want to begin building community as soon as we can. We will also go over the protocols and expectations for the course. In addition, there will a separate required session with GEO to discuss in detail issues of health, safety, and other important practical travel information.


Questions about the application process or financial aid should be directed to the global education office:


Questions regarding the academic content or itinerary should be directed to the faculty director:

Lili Kim