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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 (CSI)
Course Number: TBD (200 level)
Departure Date: January 2 or 3, 2016 Return Date: January 16, 2016
Course Fee (tentative): $2,075 + airfare (see information about additional expenses and financial aid below)

Course Summary

“Malama ‘Aina” is a Hawaiian phrase that means caring for the land that feeds. This deceptively simple yet endangered practice is at the core of indigenous Hawaiian culture and guides the current Hawaiian sovereignty politics in Hawai‘i. Students participating in this unique hands-on field course will travel to Honolulu, Hawai‘i to experience the power of history, culture, and sustainability as a tool for self-determination and independence among kanaka (Hawaiian people). Through our engagement with local activists, scholars, artists, and teachers and students at a Hawaiian culture-based charter school, we will explore how practicing sustainability as an educational imperative fosters community empowerment in Hawai‘i and combats U.S. imperialism that displaced the indigenous people’s sense of belonging. This field course provides students the rare opportunity to experience and learn about everyday Hawaiian struggles and activism, hidden from the views of the millions of tourists who visit Hawai‘i each year.


Students are strongly encouraged to take the course, U.S. Imperialism and Hawai‘i, in fall 2015.


Short-term field course eligibility requirements.

Financial Information

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

Course Fee
Approximately $2,075 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

In recent years Hampshire College’s long-standing commitment to sustainability has become ever more urgent and solidified. Under the leadership of President Jonathan Lash, we are poised to become a leader in sustainability.  This course seeks to engage Hampshire and Five College students with the traditional indigenous Hawaiian value of “Malama ‘Aina,” which means “caring for the land that feeds.” Working with local Hawaiian activists and educators, Hampshire and Five College students will learn how practicing sustainability can empower a disadvantaged and displaced Hawaiian community in the face of U.S. imperialism and settler colonialism.

Part of our time will be spent with teachers and students at Halau Ku Mana. Although it started as a high school in 1999, Halau Ku Mana is growing strong and will expand to serve 4th through 12th graders in the academic year 2014-2015. 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 (teachers), each student will take lead in assisting in the area of his/her interested subject/project.       

When we are working at Halau Ku Mana, our day will typically begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. 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. 

Cumulative Skills

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

Division I Distribution

This course can be used to fulfill the Power, Community, and Social Justice (PCSJ) distribution area requirement for Division I.

Academic Expectations

Students enrolled in the course are asked to read the following texts before arriving in Honolulu, Hawai‘i: 

  •  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).
  •  Eric Love, Race over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865-1900 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
  •  J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press, 2009).

During the course, students will be required to keep a journal and share their experiences during our daily meetings. Working closely with their kumus, whom they are assisting, students will develop a lesson, activity, or presentation, which they will turn in for evaluation. 

Program Itinerary


Travel Plans

Participants arrange individually to arrive in Honolulu, Hawai’i on January 3. Depending on where you are traveling from, you may need to begin your journey on January 2. Students will be responsible for getting to the dorms of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa (where we will be staying), which is about a 20-minute cab ride from the Honolulu international airport. All other transportation is by rented vehicle. Students can plan to depart on January 16.

Housing Arrangements

The group will stay in the dorms of the University of Hawai‘I (UH) at Manoa. Located in the beautiful Manoa Valley, the UH dorms offer comfortable, convenient, and affordable housing. 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 use the libraries and computer terminals as well as purchase meals at dining facilities on campus.

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 Heather St. Germaine in the global education office at or 413.559.5542

Questions regarding the academic content or itinerary should be directed to Lili Kim at

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Global Education Office
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002