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Indigenous Critical Restorative Pedagogy through Moʻolelo and Kuanaʻike Mindsets

Updated: Feb 5

By Kumu Alana M. M. Cabatu

Kumu Alana describes her work with high school haumāna and how their exploration of the Kuanaʻike Mindsets may act as a lens for student learning.

There is Mana in Moʻolelo

Moʻolelo has the potential to inspire the lāhui to restore and reclaim power through its repository of lessons, values, and ʻike kupuna. Moʻolelo can be utilitarian, a compass that provides positionality that grounds and guides the next generation through their future endeavors. Moʻolelo can be lāʻau lapaʻau (medicine). It can heal and energize the lāhui through stories of resilience and intelligence. However, our haumāna are arriving at major intersections. All signs point to new technological advancements, and yet, we have lost the literacy engagement of our haumāna. Through the two years of pandemic education, literacy through moʻolelo has taken a back seat to TikTok, videogames, and other distractors of Gen Alpha. The pathway to literacy is oftentimes derailed through other forms of highly engaging venues that spark keiki interest and motivation. The love for reading often competes with social media and videogames. Yet, the value of reading must persist. A continual thirst for knowledge can level inequalities of past and current educational systems. More than ever, the quest to find viable teaching and learning solutions to the decline and disengagement of literacy and education must rise to the surface. Both teachers and students are floundering in uncharted waters of post pandemic learning and skill development in education.

An Action Research Agenda 

As a member of the Alaukawai 14 cohort, I was introduced to the Kuanaʻike Mindsets. These Mindsets were used in my action research as a way to facilitate the ʻŌiwi Edge Learning & Teaching Expectations (ʻŌEL&T Expectations) through my content area of teaching high school English Language Arts to ninth and 10th graders. I saw an opportunity to address the following research questions:

  • How can literacy in moʻolelo empower the next generation of ʻōiwi leaders?

  • How can Kuanaʻike Mindsets serve as a pathway to Indigenous Critical Restorative Pedagogy?  

  • Can Kuanaʻike Mindsets become a vehicle for personalized learning and teaching related to restorative practices in literacy and education?

An Initial Exploration of the Kuanaʻike Mindsets 

Hoʻoponopono a Pono invokes a call for balance of teacher and student voice. Hoʻoili a Ili is an action of transference of knowledge and power through seeking out the benefits of applying the Kuanaʻike Mindsets in various ways. Hōʻike a ʻIke establishes ancestral and contemporary knowledge base and perceptions of future roles as a graduate of Kamehameha Schools. Finally, Hoʻomana a Mana connects all elements of the Kuanaʻike Mindsets by understanding that an ethically educated mind grounded in identity possesses the potential to hold space in positions of power that can move the lāhui towards desired future outcomes. Knowing that the next generation of ʻōiwi leaders are in our classrooms, teachers, and students must co-create pathways of success. 

By teaching through the ‘ŌEL&T Expectations of Kauhale 2: Kauhale learners are a part of a nurturing and inclusive school setting where a strong ancestral foundation in culture and language is the norm; and Moʻolelo 4: Learners use moʻolelo as a cache for genealogy, history, journeys, and values to stimulate growth in perspective and identity; learners think analytically and critically about moʻolelo to make informed decisions for the present and future. My students were introduced to the Mindsets and by the end of the semester, could articulate their own acquisition of the Kuanaʻike Mindsets.

Pedagogy/Pedagogical Approach

Paulo Freire’s influence on education and schooling is Critical Pedagogy, rooted in social justice, agency, and power and privilege. It is the foundational pedagogy of my practice in this project. Commonly, education is a political act of liberating the learner from a restrictive learning environment so that students can have a voice in their pathway to success. This approach focuses on decentering traditional education and power structures in the classroom. 

Another approach embedded in my teaching is Critical Restorative Pedagogy (CRP) which was born from Critical Pedagogy and Restorative Justice as applied to an educational setting rather than the justice system. Part of this approach analyzes power structures within a classroom. With CRP, education becomes the platform for students to restore themselves from trauma and intergenerational trauma. CRP allows students to learn about dominant and toxic narratives while empowering them to respond to the “so now what?” question, and therefore actualize learning into their communities.

Instructional Strategy

There is a conscientious current of engaging personalized learning strategies on our campus as stated in Kumu Competency 2: Maintain a commitment to a personalized, haumāna-centered vision for ʻŌiwi Edge. A: Articulate the ways personalized, haumāna-centered ʻŌiwi Edge education empowers our learners to achieve postsecondary success and fulfill their unique purpose and contribution to the lāhui. A way to apply this competency is to intentionally seek out students’ interests and passions. In response to literacy engagement or the lack of it, personalized learning leverages student voice and choice to create meaningful learning experiences, also known as student agency and empowerment. The objective for my students was to engage their learning so that they inevitably contribute to their communities and hence, to the lāhui.

A recent ʻŌiwi Edge unit engaged students in learning about the moʻolelo of Paiʻea to prepare for the 2023 Hōʻike. This unit focused on ninth and 10th grade English students leveraging their voice and choice (personalized learning) and culture-based education to inspire their learning. Students were given choice about research topics, who their collaborative partners could be, and how they may provide evidence of learning. 

In my English 10 course, I designed and implemented an introduction to Kuana‘ike Mindsets at the end of the year, after students had experienced activities and lessons such as the 2023 Paiʻea Hōʻike, The Crucible, and The Kalākaua Study Abroad Program unit, and had them apply the Mindsets to the final performance task. Students completed a jigsaw that required the deconstruction of one of four Kuana‘ike Mindsets. Next, students connected past assignments and learning experiences to each Kuana‘ike Mindset. The final performance task required students to explain their growth as a result of experiencing their 10th grade English course. Through this intentional exploration of the Kuana‘ike Mindsets, I started seeing clear connections between all four mindsets and the comprehensive impact this could have on educating students at Kamehameha Schools and beyond.

Haumāna Artifacts Facilitate Connection to the Mindsets

Student artifacts were used to analyze the application of the Kuanaʻike Mindsets. The bulletin board below is a visual showcase of student learning. Through this unit I began to see the connections across all four Mindsets and further refined my interpretations:

  1. Hoʻoponopono a Pono: Students identified the chaos after Kalaniʻōpuʻu passed and how the other ruling chiefs were seeking balance of power on the island. They noted that the Kona chiefs were dissatisfied with their land appropriations after Keōua succeeded the throne. 

  2. Hōʻike a ʻIke: Each student was tasked with gaining knowledge of Paiʻea’s moʻolelo. They researched his life through multiple sources such as the script of the 2023 Hōʻike of Paiʻea, podcasts on Paiʻea’s birth, Ke Kumu Aupuni, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii, Kekūhaupiʻo and his Warrior, and online resources. There was a level of mastery students worked to achieve in order to create their products to showcase.

  3. Hoʻomana a Mana: Through personalized learning, students were empowered to seek out their knowledge because they were tasked with choosing a section of Paiʻea’s timeline to research. They started to realize that they had the power to drive their learning and make decisions on how they wanted to demonstrate their work. 

  4. Hoʻoili a lli: The student showcase exhibited a range of student products that were arranged according to the acts and scenes of the 2023 Hōʻike of Paiʻea. The purpose of the showcase was to educate the audience members about the historical background of Paiʻea before they saw the play. Students also noted the transference of knowledge from Kekūhaupiʻo and Kalaniʻōpuʻu to Paiʻea and Kīwalaʻō. The revelation also found a personal connection to the students seeing the knowledge of the past transferred to them and their responsibility to pass down the knowledge to the next generation. Like the halihali (transport) line used to transfer rocks from Pololū Valley to Puʻukoholā, this is the halihali of knowledge!

Summary of Applying the Mindsets with 10th Graders

Students used the Kuanaʻike Mindsets as a guide to demonstrate their learning for their final performance. Here are student work samples of their deconstruction of Kuanaʻike Mindsets:

The outcome of this application of the Kuanaʻike mindsets gave my 10th grade students a way to make sense of their ʻŌiwi learning. They were able to make specific connections for their year in review as evidenced in their written assignments. Here are two student samples:

Student 1:

Student 2:

Reflection of Application

Who knew that lessons from the 2023 Paiʻea Hōʻike, The Crucible, the Kalākaua Study Abroad Program unit, and the spoken word unit would bear lessons of Kuanaʻike Mindsets? In learning about these mindsets representing a network of kanaka perspectives, there were bridging indicators that pointed to the learning of English 10. Students discussed their understanding through the Jamboard activity and started making connections to the units and lessons. In their essay, students analyzed their Kuanaʻike connections to their learning and provided feedback and asked questions during the peer editing step. Interestingly, students quickly recognized how one activity or lesson could share multiple mindsets. They were able to support and justify their connections to the Kuanaʻike mindsets through their evidence of learning. 

For my English 10 course, Hoʻoponopono a Pono seemed to be the foundation for the rest of the mindsets. Hoʻomana a Mana was connected to empowerment. Students felt empowered to speak their truths but quickly noted that they needed the mindset of Hōʻike a ʻIke to support their power. The momi (pearl) in this final project cultivated with the importance of Hoʻoili a Ili. Students connected to a deep kuleana (responsibility) of transferring their balance, knowledge, and power by perpetuating their culture and historical knowledge. They were aware that without transference, all their efforts to learn and to be ethically empowered their efforts would be only a temporary solution. 


Students need to have diverse experiences to associate with the Mindsets and multiple introductions to comprehensively understand and apply them. The Mindsets provide a focus for Kumu to design lessons that integrate ancestral intuition and perception that facilitate Indigenous learning and teaching. The Kuana‘ike mindsets can prepare our next generation to be ready to overcome future problems by being grounded in Indigenous perspectives while being at the Edge of innovation and creativity. The bold statement that emerged from this investigation was the Kuana‘ike Mindsets can be a critical component to deliver ‘Ōiwi Edge Learning and Teaching (ʻŌEL&T) Expectations. These mindsets provide Kumu opportunities to design lessons that build Indigenous perspective, knowledge, and empowerment for the next generation.


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