This blog is about Hawaii's status as an independent country under prolonged illegal occupation by the United States, and the history, culture, law & politics of the islands.

By Scott Crawford, Hana, Maui

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Aloha ‘Oe my beloved Kekula

My beloved ku‘uipo Kekula Peiler Bray Crawford passed peacefully into the embrace of na kupuna on Monday evening, October 21, 2013, around 7:30, surrounded by loved ones, music and blessings. She was present to the end, brave and beautiful as always.

Mahalo to all our family and dear friends who made her life rich and full and wonderful in so many ways.

Kekula Bray Crawford

Kekula in front of the Nation of Hawaii flag (thanks to our friend and photo chronologer John Kirkley for this photo and the next two below)

As all our old friends and many who have followed this blog know, Kekula was very active in the Hawaiian movement in the early and mid-90s, and this was a big part of the early years of our marriage. In fact, the night we met at a dance on Maui in ’93, she was selling t-shirts at a sovereignty table, and I was selling t-shirts at a Green Party table. Auntie Pua Mahoe introduced us, and after the dance was over, I was walking out of the door to the hall and passed her walking in; I turned around to look back at her, and found she had also turned to look back at me, and gave me a smile that melted my heart right then and there. Auntie Pua then arranged for me to give her a ride home, and the rest is love. Not long after that I had quit the Green Party realizing that it was part of the illegal occupation! And joined into the Hawaiian movement full-time. (Ironically looking back now from this moment, at the time we met she was working for Uncle Lloyd Gilliom’s sandblasting business designing headstones and helping Hawaiian families through their grieving process by the cultural elements she placed in the designs).

Soon thereafter we started working with Bumpy and the ‘Ohana Council, opening an office in Kahului, and started to assemble the Kupuna Councils, across the islands, educating the kupuna about the history and law and guiding them in making decisions about the process of restoring the country’s sovereignty.

Kekula Bray Crawford facilitating Kupuna Gathering

Kekula facilitating an ‘Aha Kupuna

After we had been living together for a little while in Waiehu, as Bumpy invited us to go over to work with him full-time in Waimanalo during the Makapu‘u occupation, the kupuna intervened and insisted that we get married first. Thus on May 15, 1994, we were married in Iao Valley by Rev. Nani Saffrey, with many kupuna and friends in attendance, including Tita Kahilihiwa Kipapa as her flower girl, Auntie Helen Ho‘opai as her maid-of-honor, Tutu Murray English gave her away, and Gramma Violet English, Uncle Bill Kalani, Auntie Kealoha Camacho, Uncle Edward Uwekoolani, Auntie Daisy Lind, Auntie Patty Nishiyama, Auntie Bernice Hookano, Auntie Ellen Cooper, Auntie Helen Walrath were all there, and I’m sure I’ve missed some others (e kala mai). A few days later as we talked about it, we realized it had been about a year since we met, so we checked with Whitecloud who had organized the dance, and indeed it was held on May 15, 1993, and we had married exactly a year to the day after we met, without even planning or realizing it. (Many years later, when we needed a copy of our marriage certificate and couldn’t find ours, we checked the vital records and discovered that apparently Rev. Saffrey had never filed it, so according to the state we were never married, but of course according to the Kingdom, the Kupuna and God we were! But on our 17th anniversary in 2011 we asked our dear friend and co-conspirator in the movement, then Rev. Kedar St. John to renew our vows at the Temple of Peace in Ha‘iku so we could make it official and have the certificate as far as the state was concerned.)

The day after our marriage, we moved to Waimanalo and dived in head first. During the Makapu‘u occupation we lived nearby, with Kekula coordinating the media outreach. As the county would turn the water off and we would turn it back on, and engage in various forms of creative civil resistance, she was sending out press releases and organizing press conferences, getting on the evening news and the front page of the papers almost every day for a few weeks, and markedly raising the profile of the independence movement and knowledge of the true history in the process.

When the occupation ended we moved from the beach up mauka in Waimanalo, to the newly formed village of Pu‘uhonua O Waimanalo. (I was one of three haoles living in the village of about 70 Hawaiians, and always felt totally welcomed as part of the family.)  We continued to organize kupuna gatherings across the islands, eventually leading to a series of all-island kupuna meetings where the constitution was hashed out and finally agreed upon, and then signed at the Palace on January 16, 1995.

Kekula Crawford at Iolani Palace

Kekula at the Palace, January 16, 1995

During this time, Kekula also was serving as the Minister of State, entering into the realm of international affairs for the kingdom. Somehow, despite having not even finished high school and having no experience or training whatsoever in law or diplomacy, she had a natural knack for these things and just figured it out as she want along. It was in her genes. She attended conferences and committee sessions at the United Nations in Geneva and New York and other places, where she was not only a representative for Hawaii but also an advocate for indigenous nations and colonized nations. She was always clear to distinguish, however, that Hawaii was not an indigenous issue or a decolonization issue, but a matter of occupation of an independent state. She presented herself as a diplomat of a state, carrying Hawaii’s treaties with her, some of which were ratified by her great-great-grandfather, something she didn’t speak about openly but always carried with her. As such she was received and treated de facto as a representative of a state, rather than an indigenous nation. She planted some seeds that will yet bear fruit when the time is ready.

But she had great sympathy for the many indigenous nations who did not have the history of Hawaii as being a fully recognized independent state. At one conference in Geneva in 1996, during the nascent stages of the Internet, we were able to communicate via email, so while I was at home in the Waimanalo office, she would send notes and updates from each session to me, I would send them out to a network of nations she had compiled as the NetWarriors, then they would send messages back to me, which I forwarded on to her. She would then print them out and post them on a big board they had erected right outside the door to the session, for all the delegates to see and read every day. It was really a pioneering use of the Internet technology to facilitate the various native home populations being able to directly interact with and affect a UN session like this, instead of just hearing about the results afterwards when their delegates returned home.

One time on her way back from Geneva, she stopped in New York where our dear friend Kalani (now Senator) English was working at the United Nations as a representative for the Federated States of Micronesia. This being pre-9/11 with security not quite what it is now, Kalani took her to the UN accreditation office and told them she was “Princess Kekula from Micronesia” who had arrived unexpectedly, but the ambassador was not there to sign her accreditation papers, so he was able to convince them to issue her a badge which indicated her royal status in its color. Thus she was given deference as royalty as she walked around the UN halls. She is ali‘i, just not from Micronesia, but I’m sure given the circumstances this suited her just fine and she had fun with it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

She also attend the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. There she found herself in a situation where the a cappella musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock had been locked out of their own concert and were fruitlessly trying to convince the guards to let them in. Kekula was able to intervene and basically sweet talk the guard into letting these powerful women into their own concert! (I recognized one of them visiting Hana a few years later and she remembered the incident.)

There are many other stories and memories I could recount, but those are some of the highlights of Kekula in relation to the subject of this blog, and things many of those involved over the years will remember.

Kekula got sick with liver disease from hepatitis C which was diagnosed in 1999, and received a liver transplant in September 2001. (The first day she awoke and had a mind clear of hepatic encephalopathy was 9/11.) Thanks to a woman name Marilyn Santana from San Diego who had made the decision to be an organ donor and her family who supported her wishes, when she had an aneurism when visiting Honolulu, Kekula and several other recipients were able to receive the gift of life. I was able to have my love by my side for another 12+ years because of Marilyn, and surgeon Dr. Linda Wong and the transplant staff, then at St. Francis and now at Queens. Our endless gratitude and honor in every day of her life.

After her transplant, she decided she’d had enough of politics and organizing and international travel, and chose to focus on a quiet life of a cultural practitioner and artist. She became a master feather worker and made lovely lei hulu among other arts.

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About a year ago, Kekula was diagnosed with recurring damage from the hepatitis C, coming back and attacking her new liver. Over the last few months, she has gone through many traumatic challenges as her condition worsened, but survived several life threatening situations and showed the same fighting spirit that she has always had. But at long last, the struggle was too much, and she had to finally let go, and rise into the golden light, rise into the arms of her ancestors waiting to welcome her home, rise into God’s love.

I want to also mention now our dear friend David Po. He was the one who, as Bumpy’s right-hand man, brought us into that circle and supported our efforts in the nation, by hook or by crook. He always made sure we were provided for, and could focus our efforts on the work at hand. Then when Kekula got sick, he was the one person who continually and regularly came to visit us, look in on her, and make sure we had what we needed, a true friend in need. All that time, we not knowing that he had the same disease as her, that he never told us, until several years later when he finally got sick and succumbed to liver failure himself. I have a feeling that when her time finally came, Po was the first one waiting to welcome her home.

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Po with Keira at Kekula’s 47th birthday in 2003 at Kapahu Living Farm in Kipahulu

Mahalo Brother David. Mahalo. Mahalo.

Aloha ‘Oe, my beloved Kekula. Aloha ‘Oe… Farewell to you, farewell to you… Until we meet again….

23 comments to Aloha ‘Oe my beloved Kekula

  • Marla

    Thank you for sharing this. I had not been close to my cousin But always wanted to be. Thank you so musch for a glimps at her life, her heart and her love.

  • Tammy Harp

    With fond farewell…Aloha Kekula…spiritual and physical healing to you, Scott, for this is a very trying time for you. Kekula will be sorely missed by many.

  • Hello Scott,
    With deepest sympathy for the loss of your beautiful Kekula. I got to know and love Kekula over recent years when she came to O’ahu for her check-ups and would stay a night or two with us. I am very happy that she and Uncle Bill had moments to bond together. I loved to listen to her stories, she had such a soft voice and warm-warm spirit about her. Kekula will be sorely missed by so many lives that she touched. I am so sorry to know that she suffered so much and for so long. May she rest in peace now. I pray that God brings you peace and comfort at this difficult time. Scott, please, please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do for you. Let’s stay in touch, ‘kay. Kekula would like that! She loved her uncles and rest of ohana.
    Aloha a hui hou, our dear niece.

  • kenng

    I bow to a true warrior of peace, freedom and justice. Blessings to you and yours.

  • Steven and Pauahi Hookano

    Our deepest sympathy goes out to you and your ohana thank you for sharing your love for Kekula with us I thank both of you for being true stuards of aloha mahalo,mahalo,mahalo for being you.god bless.

  • Marc Albert

    The great love and light from Kekula, and from the two of you together, radiates across the cosmos. I only knew her a little, but I know her from the golden light that you have had since that beautiful day in May 1993, Scott. I wish for you to feel all the love around you and to feel how that is her smiling back at you.

  • May all Kekula’s transitions be smooth. I wish the same for you courageous dear Scott. Kekula, as nobel as you, was blessed to have you in her life as you in hers. Kekula is now everywhere. Very grateful to have you both in our lives.

    Love from Ecuador where my daughter Ladna lives;
    Love from Costa Rica where my son Jonathon lives;
    Love from California, where I live.
    Inspirit,
    Dahlia Miller

  • keoki & joy ki`ili

    aloha oe my sister kekula, ke Akua blessings to you Scot. e kala mai I`au, I am out of country working to provide for my ohana. our love and aloha to you Scot always. I still remember when I first moved home to Maui in 1993 and met with Kekula, yourself, Bumpy, Po, and many others, it was Kekula who flew me to Oahu to Waimanalo to introduce me to Bumby Kanahele which changed my life. I lived abroad for 25 years not knowing anything about my culture, and Kekula helped me return to my roots in Wailuku. Kekula open the door for me with the Tribunal Trial and I met everyone like uncle Kekuni Blaisdell and more people. It was Kekula and uncle Kekuni who lifted me in the cultural practices of our Kupuna Kahiko for the past 20+ years with Pa Kui a Lua, Na Koa o Maui, Hale Mua, Puukohola Heiau, and more.

    aloha oe tita Kekula

    Keoki & Joy Ki`ili

  • Richard Joseph Lafond Jr

    Dear Scott,

    I greatly admired Kekula, and perhaps never told her. I was so grateful to both of you for having taken the torch that I left smoldering, then adding your bright minds and pure heart fuel to it, that it may so effectively dispel the darkness. I love you both for that, for your professionalism, for your trust and respect, for your integrity. May Kekula rest in peace. May you be comforted. I will hold you both in my prayers and will light a candle for Kekula. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to: richdessertfirst@yahoo.com

    Aloha nui loa,

    Richard

  • Rolf Nordahl

    E welina, Scott,

    So beautifully written! Kekula and Scott were largely responsible for the web site: hawaii-nation.org. Their tireless work created a repository for information that stands today as the foundation of the Nation of Hawaii.

    Aloha.

  • Ioane Ho'omanawanui

    Scott, Much Aloha fr Kalaupapa! Kipahulu has been calling this restless Spirit. . .Still, Kekula’s Spirit will remain w/ you, Brother! Ke Akua pū, i.

  • Aloha Wau Ia Oe tita ma…Beautiful as ever I shall remember you and all of your talents spent with us in the independent movement…When you see Kahu Ryan Kalama, tell him I said mahalo and malama pono to all of those up there with you folks in His house.

    Scott, love your story of Kekula and seeing all of her feather work…she lived up to her name, lei hulu maker…how exquisite for her to choose that craft.

    Aloha Oe,
    Kawehi

  • Richard Salvador

    Aloha Scott and Ohana, I offer deepest condolences. Kekula did so much for folks in Hawaii as well as for other Pacific Islanders. I remember many years ago when she was sharing info about the effects of American and French nuclear tests in the Pacific. I think I met her through Kilali Ala’ilima who did the same work for AFSC. I was deeply saddened to hear of her passing. By the way, this evening (October 27) at the Native Bookstore at Ward Warehouse in Honolulu, Giff Johnson from Marshall Islands came to share the life and struggles and work of a another Pacific sister who worked tirelessly for environmental justice… Darlene Keju-Johnson eventually succumbed to cancer at age 45, but we are the beneficiaries of the work of these strong Pacific Sisters like Kekula, Darlene, and others. I send you blessings, Aloha, and prayers for your Ohana and friends as you celebrate the life of our Dear Sister Kekula.

    Mahalo nui loa.

    Richard Salvador
    Honolulu, O’ahu

  • Healani Waiwai`ole

    Scott, I am so sorry to hear of Kekula’s passing. I am grateful that you took the time and effort to share some of your beautiful story together. I remember so well how active, vibrant, and passionate Kekula was before the first illness. She was an inspiration to so many of us, especially those of us kanaka who had been born and/or raised on the continental U.S. I have admired both of you so very much, and have held you close to my heart all these many years. I send you my aloha and my prayers, Scott.

    Healani

  • Joann and Doug VanEsselstyn

    You are in our hearts,dear Scott. Such an informative,beautiful tribute to your lovely wife. We think of you so often,especially as Thanksgiving approaches. May your inner strength sustain you during this sad time and always. With love,admiration and remembrance,Joann and Doug VanEsselstyn

  • Tony Castanha

    Aloha mai Scott, So sorry to hear the news about Kekula, and for filling us in on a truly noble history. I’ll never forget the work we did in the ‘90s and her being so helpful to me with my thesis. She provided some great mana’o there! Kekula is a true warrior and continues to inspire.

    Peace,

    Tony

  • Miri Chamdi

    Hello Scott. This is Miri, mother of Po’s youngest son, Nakoa. I just got this through a friend.. I loved Kekula the moment I met her all those years back on Maui when you two came to visit. It is beautiful to read what you wrote about him. He loved you both so much. I am sure he waited for her in the doorway of the light. I am sending you so much love from the hills of Jerusalem, where Nakoa and I reside now. May her journey and yours continue in the realms of divinity.

  • Jane peiler-green

    Aloha welina e Scott,
    I was saddened to hear of beloved Kekula’s passing, I
    was blessed and priviledged to meet my beautiful Paternal
    Niece.

    Aloha mau loa,
    Aunty Jane

  • Linda Jones (Randell)

    Hello Scott,

    I am so very sorry for your loss.

    We have never met, but I was a really close friend to Kula when we kids and teenagers. She lived the next street over from me in Long Beach, CA. I got a message from another classmate on Classmate.com. So, I went to view it, and low and behold I see a message there from Kula! I got so excited, because I have always wanted to know where she was and talk to her. Her message was so sweet.:) She wondered if I remembered her. Of course I do! Who could forget her amazing spirit, beautiful looks and that cute smile. Her message was written to me on May 8, 2009. I just saw it for the first time tonight. I don’t visit the classmate site often for messages. But, after seeing hers, I couldn’t wait to respond to her, in hopes to finally be able to talk to her. Unfortunately, I got a message that her profile was not updated. I was determined to find her. So, I did a search for her name, and I was struck with grief and sadness to see a Burial Service & Celebration of Life for my beloved friend. Scott, I am so upset with myself for not checking thru those messages. I missed talking to my friend by a couple of months. Thank you so much for the beautiful tribute you posted here. I learned so much about her that I have been longing to know since we lost touch so many years ago. Peace and Blessings to you. R.I.P my Dear Friend. Respectfully, Linda Jones (Randell)

  • skippy ioane

    aloha scott, this is skippy, i never know of kekula passing. abe ahmad been post to us on the moku keawe. big puka over here. that a special sista. we all going meet again on the other side. much aloha cumin—-skipi’i

  • Pua

    Mahalo Scott for sharing.

    I do not know you or your beautiful wife, but, your story brought many tears to my eyes.
    Mahalo for all the work that the both of you did for our People.
    You will see and embrace your dear kekula again one day, of this I am certain.

    Aloha,

    Pua Ishibashi
    Moku o Keawe

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