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Native Hawaiian teacher to be featured on the quarter

Edith Kanaka’ole, a Native Hawaiian teacher, entertainer, and cultural influencer, will be featured on a U.S. quarters next year, along with four other notable American women.

Kanaka’ole, who died in 1978, was a well-known educator, hula composer, chanter, dancer, and entertainer. She also helped develop the first public school Hawaiian language program, reports Beat of Hawaii. Her portrait will appear on the quarter opposite of George Washington as part of the U.S. Mint’s 2023 American Women Quarters project, which is meant to honor contributions of prominent deceased American women of diverse backgrounds.

In a press release, the U.S. Mint wrote of Kanaka’ole, “Her mo’olelo, or stories, served to rescue aspects of Hawaiian history, customs, and traditions that were disappearing due to the cultural bigotry of the time.”

She is known for playing an important role in passing down the teachings of hula during the 1970’s Hawaiian Renaissance, when cultural traditions, languages, and institutions were being widely revitalized among Native populations, reports ABC News.

The Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation, a cultural Hawaiian non-profit established to perpetuate the teachings and traditions of Edith Kanaka’ole and her husband Luka, recognizes the honoree as “the preeminent practitioner of modern Hawaiian culture and language.”

Kanaka’ole’s daughter, Pualani Kanaka’ole Kanahele, Ph.D., told the foundation, “My mother was a ‘pusher’ but she always did it with a smile. […] When she became an Instructor at the University of Hawai’i in Hilo she encouraged Hawaiian students to 1) maintain their stay and earn their degree, 2) know who they were as Hawaiians and elevate the status of the Lāhui.”

Kanaka’ole’s granddaughter and Executive Director of the foundation, Huihui Kanahele-Mossman, Ph.D., said in the same statement, “This is an unbelievable honor for our family, for our body of work at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation in carrying on her legacy and her teachings, for our home and for our people.”

Kanaka’ole will share the honor with Bessie Coleman, first Black American and first Native American woman pilot; Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady; Jovita Idar, Mexican American journalist and suffragist; and Maria Tallchief, America’s first prima ballerina.

According to the U.S. Mint, the American Women Quarters project will run for four years, starting in 2022 and ending in 2025. This year, the women celebrated include Black American writer and activist Maya Angelou and Chinese American film star Anna May Wong.

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