FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Students and parents filed into the cafeteria of Major General William R. Shafter Elementary School on Fort Shafter, Hawaii for an assembly officially kicking off their 2020 May Day celebrations with a performance by the 25th Infantry Division Hui Ha’a team, a group of Soldiers who perform a traditional Hawaiian warrior dance.
The importance of this assembly was stressed by Corey Barton Ed.D., Shafter Elementary School Principal, who shared that many of his students have never participated in a May Day celebration and believes today was a good starting point to educating them on local culture.
“We wanted to expose them to other people who are maybe not from this culture, but are practicing and participating in Hawaiian or Polynesian cultural performances,” said Barton.
Pvt. Nicholas Kekoa, 25th Infantry Division Hui Ha’a Team member and native of Hawaii, was excited to share this aspect of his heritage, which he thought he would no longer take part when he joined the Army, especially those who truly want to learn about it.
“I hope they understand the culture and that they understand what they are doing, and when you do something like this, especially like my ancestors, this is what they did before they went to war. This was something that you did before you lived or died,” said Kekoa.
“It was kind of cool because it’s something from the past and we are learning a lot about it in school,” said 5th grade student Riley Kelso. She also explained her newfound understanding of the importance dance has to Hawaiian culture.
Seeing this performance was not only about exposing the students to a staple of Polynesian culture; it was also helping the students as they begin to learn and practice their own dances they will perform for their parents on May Day, which falls annually on May 1.
“It puts a lot inspiration on us and it is going to make us try even harder to make our dance perfect like theirs,” said Kelso.
Barton said he hopes seeing the Hui Ha’a team will help the students know how to act when performing their own dances, inspiring them to practice and to have fun while taking part in this unique part of Polynesian culture.