Throughout Hawaiʻi, this Hawaiian word is widely understood to mean elder, grandparent or an older person. What is less recognized is the fact that the word has at least three distinct, but related meanings. First, a kupuna is an honored elder who has acquired enough life experience to become a family and community leader. The term has been stated to be the embodiment of natural respect, a practitioner of aloha (love), pono (righteousness), mālama (caring), and spirituality. In ancient times, they were teachers and caretakers of grandchildren and that bond was especially strong. Even today, the kupuna is expected to speak out and help make decisions on important issues for both the family and the community.

Kūpuna (pl) also means ancestor and includes the many generations before us who by their spiritual wisdom and presence guide us through personal, familial or community difficulties. We look to our kūpuna to help us find and fulfill our pathways through life. Included among our kūpuna are the family guardian spirits or ʻaumākua who take physical shape, [for example] in the form of a honu (turtle), manō (shark) or a pueo (owl), and come to visit, warn and communicate with us.

Finally, kupuna means the source, the starting point or the process of growth. This meaning is related to the notion that our direct forebearers and those of the distant past remain living treasures who continue to help us grow in numerous ways. They are a source of experience, knowledge, guidance, strength and inspiration to the next generations.

Mahalo Kahikahealani Wight


For the past 20 years I've been gifting stickers when I'm out and about promoting loving kindness and through my social activism work. It's my contribution and kuleana to make the world a better place - one sticker at a time. If you're unable to get a free sticker via one of my outreach groups I'll be happy to send you one. You're not only cheering up your life and the life of others, you're also supporting the Postal Service.


Please kōkua write me a note and tell me

What are you doing today to mālama your kūpuna?


I may publish your note


Mail your note
with a S.A.S.E. to:

Big Island Love
530 Ainako Ave.
Hilo HI 96720



support usps