Who We Are

Graduate Students

UHIP graduate students

Current MA Students (as of Fall 2020)

Samantha Lopez has an undergraduate degree in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is currently a first-year MA student in the Political Science Department. Her research interests include policies pertaining to ancestral lands/domains and how these impact the self-determination and cultural identity of indigenous peoples. She is also interested in examining the power asymmetry among the indigenous peoples and both state and non-state actors, with a specific focus on the role of violence and coercion.

Current Ph.D. Students (as of Fall 2020)

LeeAna Acfalle is a first-year PhD student in the Political Science program with interests in Indigenous Politics, Future Studies, and Comparative Politics. She is a Chamorro from Guam in the Mariana Islands. She is interested in exploring the possibilities of future governance of Guam and the Mariana Islands centered on moving beyond the current structure with governance being informed by Chamorro and "local" ways of knowing and being. She is also interested in Chamorro decolonization and Guam’s place in the Mariana archipelago, the entity known as Micronesia, and connections to the larger Pacific. These connections are not only important to her in understanding hegemony, but to remember the issues and struggles of Kanaka Maoli to be conscious of the place where she is studying.

Donna Kona Au - Aloha mai kākou! ʻO Kona Au koʻu inoa. No Māeaea, ma Waialua, ma Oʻahu mai au, a he kamaʻāina o ka ʻehu kai. I graduated from Waialua High and Intermediate School in 2012, and received my undergraduate degree in political science from UH Mānoa in 2016. I am currently a third-year Ph.D. student, with interests in issues surrounding identity and solidarity. For my dissertation, I am researching ancestral Hawaiian understandings of kinship, as well as the effects that colonialism and imperialism have had on these relational practices and beliefs. Specifically, I am analyzing the various ways Indigeneity has been theorized, investigating how those theorizations are utilized, either to create solidarity, or enforce and reproduce imperial modes of power.

Samantha Marley Barnett is a third year PhD student in the Indigenous Politics program in the Political Science department. She is a native Chamoru from the island of Guåhan in the Marianas archipelago. Samantha is the project co-director of Tåhdong Marianas, a collective of Chamoru artists, activists, scholars, and filmmakers that is currently producing a media project documenting stories from musicians and cultural practitioners throughout the Mariana Islands. She is also a lead author in a project with the University of Guam Press to write elementary school textbooks from a culturally rooted, Chamoru perspective. Samantha’s doctoral work engages with Chamoru liberation and relationality across the archipelago, challenges to US militarism, abolition, and legend as ancestral memory.

Kisha Ann Borja-Quichocho-Calvo - Håfa Adai. Guåhu si Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo. Ginen i sengsong Mangilao gi islan Guåhan (“Guam”). I am a second-year Ph.D. student in the Indigenous Politics program. I am a learner, teacher, activist, poet, mother, and wife. Each of these parts of my life nurture me in different and similar ways, and I always enjoy seeing how they are all connected. In terms of my research, I am currently interested in the impacts of colonialism on education for Chamorus and how such education has impacted Chamoru identity. I am also interested in how contemporary Chamoru mothers engage in “everyday acts of resurgence” (Jeff Corntassel; Leanne Simpson) in order to counter or supplement the American curriculum taught in local public schools. Ultimately, there are disconnects between what is being taught at school and Chamoru identities, so I consider: How have Chamorus been impacted by colonial education? How are our identities shaped by or erased from school curricula? What would it look like if we were to control our narratives by telling our own stories? What would our education look like if we created our own schools? Moreover, I am also looking at tåno` (land). While Chamorus have always been closely connected to tåno`, our relationship with tåno` has been negatively impacted by colonialism. What would place-based, land-based learning look like in a Chamoru context? How would this impact the ways Chamorus learn and the ways we see and know ourselves and where we come from? My main goal is to return home to Guåhan and contribute to my communities, putting my degree to use, particularly in the realms of education, activism, and writing.

Michelle Lee Brown - Kaixo! Michelle Lee Brown naiz ni; Euskaldun eta Sächsisch naiz ni. Aloha mai, I am Michelle Lee Brown and I am Basque (Iparralde side) and Saxon-German. I grew up on Wampanoag territories – nourished by the land and waters there, I also want to extend a grateful eskerrik asko to the Kānaka Maoli, whose territories I am on as I study here and whose brilliant scholars, community leaders, and artists nourish me as well. My dissertation focuses on Indigenous political praxis and futures through Indigenous designers’ video games, graphic novels, and machinima. I have published peer-reviewed work on the Never Alone video game, a methods chapter on Indigenous political theory approaches to video game research, and “Liminal” – a comic in the forthcoming Relational Constellation collection from MSU Press and Native Realities Press. I am also currently working on a VR project on water and relationality, and a comic based on multiple levels of impostor syndrome.

Kaʻiminaʻauao Cambern

Lianne Marie Leda Charlie is a descendant of the Tagé Cho Hudän (Big River People), Northern Tutchone speaking people of the Yukon. She was raised by her mom, a second generation Canadian of Danish and Icelandic ancestry on the unceded territories of the Lekwugen speaking people in what is commonly known as Victoria, British Columbia. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa and developing a theory of Indigenous collage.

Sra Manpo Ciwidian

Aaron Cornelison - he kanaka ʻōiwi au. The name above was given as a form of _christian heteropatriarchy. The sands of my birth, or my beloved native soil, is Waiʻanae. This is the home of my mother, her father, and his father, all of whom cultivated kalo deep in the valley, near Kaʻala. I was taken from this place, though, at a very young age and forced into the diaspora. Alienated from the stories, histories, and memories of my ancestors, I came of age within Midwestern America. It has been about ten years since I returned home. My political stance is that of presence: an enduring, physical presence of indigeneity on ancestral lands. At the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo I received my BA in philosophy, and then was granted admission into the PhD program here in the Political Science Department at Mānoa. My dissertation research examines the ethical and political implications of _christianity and its influence on this place, Hawaiʻi nei, where it has become a particularly strong article of faith. At the intersection of _christianity and kanaka maoli lifeworlds, I examine philosophically the radical difference and unbridgeable chasms between the two. Through a genealogical method I trace the origins of that form of _christianity which colonized this place to Enlightenment and Platonic principles of rational discourse. Not only is the doctrine of _christianity in clear contradiction to indigenous kanaka ideologies; but moreover, I argue that, like a disease which has spread over time, our believing in it has made us – as a people – quite ill. That _christiantiy has caused the weakening of our physical bodies and has made our thinking dogmatic and complacent; that it is a force against genealogy, the ancestor, and all things sacred to this place; and that we ought to rid ourselves of this poison as a way of anti-colonial resistance for the sake of our future: these are the aspects of my project. This is my polemic: On the Genealogy of Hawaiian Morality.

Randizia Crisostomo - Håfa Adai! Na’an hu si Randizia Crisostomo. Sumåsaga yu’ giya Tacoma, Washington na siudåt, lao taotao Guåhan yu’ (Guam), ginen i sengsong Barrigada. Manestutudia yu’ Indigenous Politics giya University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Political Science department. I am a first-year Ph.D student, community advocate, supporter, learner and educator–areas of my life that are very interconnected with one another. At this given moment in time, my current research interests are on Chamoru resurgence theories, futurisms, Pasifika feminisms, and celebrating grief through relationality. My M.A. thesis “Inafa’maolek: Chamoru Resurgence through Ethics and Storytelling” frames the ways in which Pacifika scholars use community based participatory methods as intervention towards deconstructing settler colonial narratives produced within institutional spaces, particularly among research facilities and cultural museums.

Cameron Grimm is a Hawaiian thinker and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa in the Department of Political Science. His research interests include U.S. imperialism, militarism, and settler colonialism, and its relation to Hawaiʻi and the Pacific’s infrastructures of security and surveillance, geopolitical futures, and Indigenous social movements.

Mechelins Kora Iechad-Remoket is from Smongesong, Irrai in the Republic of Belau. Mechelins passion is to contribute to the preservation and continuity of indigenous knowledge and practices. During a time of climate change and insecurity, her work focuses on the ways Belauan women and leaders in the Belauan women’s group Mechesiil Belau are using traditional knowledge and practices to address issues of climate change, food security, and migration within their islands. Although a lot of research and media attention have focused on the ocean and marine environment, Mechelins argues that little attention has been given to the experience of women, the land (a women’s domain), and women’s mitigation strategies. As a matrilineal society, she finds this gender imbalance problematic because the core principles of Belau’s socio-political society is based on harmony and balance among genders and environment to preserve Belau’s culture and nation. In line with the native feminist writings of Mishuana Geoman and Jennifer New Denetdale, Mechelins hopes that her work helps to open up spaces where generations of colonialism have silenced Belauans about the status of their women and the intersections of power and domination that have shaped the nation and gender relations, aiding in the restructuring of the Belauan nation according to their cultural values and contemporary needs.

Kahala Johnson is a student in the Political Science doctorate program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Concentrating in Indigenous Politics, Futures Studies, and Political Theory, his academic work is concerned with native relational governances beyond the nation-state, capitalism, and juridical constructs. Currently, he is working on decolonizing image-nations through the genres of horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction as well as examining queer(ed) aesthetic performance as a fecund grounds for anarcha-indigenous governmentality modules.

Kawaipuna Kalipi

Kawenaʻulaokalā Kapahua

Cheng-Cheng Li holds an MA degree in International Studies and is pursuing a PhD in Political Science. Before arriving at UH Mānoa, Li worked as filmmaker. He is conducting community-engaged scholarship for the filmmaking process. As a collaborative filmmaker, he offers a convening point for communities to come together with each other, with issue leaders, to build solutions. His research in the Indigenous Program will continue the investigation, and preservation of Indigenous groups, the access to land rights, and cross-cultural understanding in the policy making process. Area of interests: Indigenous Politics, Participatory Filmmaking, Public Policy.

Kerry Kamakaoka‘ilima Long - Aloha mai. O wau nō ʻo Kerry Kamakaoka’ilima Long. In Hilo are my birth sands. The ʻāina that raised me is the greater Seattle area, territories of the Duwamish and Snohomish people. I returned to Hilo in 2003. While living with my grandmother, enrolling in Hawaiian Studies at Hawaiʻi Community College and dancing hula, I learned that what I previously saw as progressive or even radical politics were actually just normal principles of society and governance in Hawaiʻi during the times of my kūpuna. I received both my Bachelors and Masters degree from Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. My Masters thesis, completed in the Spring of 2014, looked at the interconnectedness of ancestral and national identity prior to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893 and how a eugenics movement in early US-occupied Hawaiʻi aimed to unravel both in service of white supremacy, Americanization and laizze-fair capitalism. I am currently a PhD student in the Indigenous Politics track of Political Science here at UH Mānoa and my research interests include the politics of ʻŌiwi women in relation to law, land and power in Hawaiʻi, political and legal tensions between the state and the growing Hawaiian independence movement, and the relationship between direct action and law in land-based sovereignty struggles in Hawaiʻi. True to the region I was raised, I enjoy any coffee, good beer and loud music.

Dustin Skayu Louis

Maluhia Low

Zachary Alakaʻi Lum, a kupa of Haʻikū, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu, is a lifetime student and practitioner of mele, or Hawaiian song. As a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, earning concurrent bachelor’s degrees in music and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, and a master’s degree in ethnomusicology, Zachary finds passion in mele’s scholarship. His thesis, “Nā Hīmeni Hawaiʻi: Transcending Kūʻē, Promoting Kūpaʻa,” focused on notions of resistance and steadfastness in seemingly apolitical mele (hīmeni Hawaiʻi), popular during the time of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. In mele praxis, Zachary is a member of the 17-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano award-winning group, Keauhou, and the executive director of Kāhuli Leo Leʻa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to catalyzing aloha ʻāina through mele. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D., he was the director of choral music at the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama where he facilitated the value of mele in education and as a powerful tool for self-efficacy. As a Ph.D. student, Zachary strives to utilize multi-disciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage mele, not only as an ancestral technology of knowledge management, but a tool that “creates space” and, therefore, fortifies the fundamental, Hawaiian tenet of aloha ʻāina.

Daniel Kauwila Mahi - Aloha mai nō kākou e nā hoa makamaka mai ka piʻina a ka lā i Haʻehaʻe a i ka nāpoʻo akula ʻana ʻo ka lā i Lehua. Daniel Kauwila Mahi is a student in the Indigenous Politics program in the Political Science Department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is a Hawaiʻi from Maunalua, Waimānalo, Oʻahuakākuhihewa whose primary focus is on Traditional Governance and Contested Governance in Hawaiʻi through play and games. He is a game developer, programming language developer, rapper, professional Hawaiian Language Translator, and father. His M.A. thesis “Hawaiian Perspectives on Video Games: Oppression, Trauma, and Pedagogy” documents the colonial imaginary in Hawaiʻi through pāʻani wikiō (video games) featuring Hawaiʻi while making decolonial interventions. His research interests also include: Traditional Hawaiian Religion, Kanikau, Lāhui Hawaiʻi Kūʻokoʻa Specific Laws and Licensures, Contemporary Indigenous Technologies, Decolonial Potentialities, Ea, and Aloha ʻĀina methodologies.

Ernest Kalikoaloha Martin

Alyssa Purcell - O wau nō ʻo Alyssa Nicole ʻĀnela Purcell mai ke ahupuaʻa o Waiau ma ke one o Kākuhihewa. I am Alyssa Purcell, rooted in the ahupuaʻa of Waiau on the island of Oʻahu. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian studies from the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies in 2018, and I earned my Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2021. Moʻokūʻauhau (an ʻōiwi conception of genealogy) and Mana Wāhine (an ʻōiwi form of female empowerment) shape my life and research. Having served as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Hawaiʻi State Archives, my past research frames the State Archives’ M-93 Queen Liliʻuokalani Manuscript Collection (M-93) as a relative of the Hawaiian people, deconstructs archival practices that neglect the kinship between M-93 and Kānaka Maoli, and re-centers liberatory practices and decolonizing methodologies that strengthen such a bond. In deepening my pilina (relationship) with Hawaiian studies, Library and Information Science, and now Indigenous politics—the three loves of my educational journey, I aim to devise pathways to power that ground Kānaka Maoli in the chaos and confusion of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s cultural bomb, center our distinctly-Hawaiian worldviews, and spur our bones to action. My mission is to restore our people’s agency over our own knowledge and to transform academic institutions into spaces where Kānaka are respected, represented, and connected.

James Kāwika Riley - Aloha mai kākou! I was born in North Kohala, raised in Kona, and lived in Colorado and Washington DC before returning home, this time to Kaimukī, Oʻahu. I’m a dual-emphasis Ph.D. Candidate specializing in Indigenous Politics and Public Policy. I joined the department after a decade of working in state and federal government, largely on issues related to Native Hawaiian wellbeing. While in DC, I also earned my M.A. in Political Management at the George Washington University, and lectured there for several years. My dissertation examines how Native Hawaiians have navigated the federal public policy process to shape Congressional policy, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s. When not working or Ph.D.-ing, I can be found chasing my keiki with my better half, Lorinda, preferably at the beach but more often at whatever organized sport currently captures the kids’ attention.

Ha’ani Lucia Falo San Nicolas is a Chamoru and Samoan daughter, activist, and scholar born and raised in the island of Guåhan. She received a B.A. and B.S. in Ethnic Studies and General Biology, respectively, from the University of California, San Diego prior to attending UH Mānoa. Her research interests are centered around settler colonialism in Guåhan, Chamoru liberation, the significance of Chamoru women/womanhood within the decolonization movement, and the resurgence of Chamoru language and ways of knowing the world. Outside of the program, Ha’ani is an associate producer for Deep Pacific Podcast, a Pasifika podcast with islander views and voices, and loves to hike, play rugby, and cook for her loved ones.

Mahina Tuteur - Mahina is from Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu, and is concentrating her graduate studies in Indigenous Politics. She is also a Post-Juris Doctor Research and Teaching Fellow at the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, where she organizes legal trainings for government decision-makers, facilitates water law workshops for ʻŌiwi communities, and works on various scholarship projects aimed at evolving the law and advancing justice for Kānaka Maoli and other Indigenous peoples. Her research interests include environmental justice, community-based social and political movements, and the emerging reassertion of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination through environmental governance in response to climate change.

Chantrelle Waiʻalae calls ʻEwa and Waiʻanae her home. She is passionate about her community and its people, where much of her work is centered in. She is a Ph.D. student with a focus in indigenous politics and public policy and a recent graduate of William S. Richardson School of Law where she completed a Native Hawaiian Law Certificate. Chantrelle enjoys going to the beach with her daughters, paddling, and being outdoors. Her research interests include community-based mobilization, identity politics, public policy, blood quantum, federal Indian law, family law, resurgence and place-based research. She is currently involved in community work at Puʻuhonua o Waiʻanae and advocates for survivors of domestic violence and policies to better address violence against women.

Kalaniakea Wilson - Aloha kakou, O Kalaniakea kou inoa. He elele au no Ko Hawaii Pae Aina a e hoolaha ana i ka moolelo no ka hookumu ana o ka Hae Hawaii i ka makahiki 1816. He mea nui keia makahiki 2016, He hoolaulea elua haneli makahiki no ka Hae Hawaii. I’m a kanaka maoli in the Hawaiian Kingdom trying to share and celebrate Hawaiian traditions and practices at the highest public educational institution in the Hawaiian Kingdom. I placed three flag poles on Queen Liliuokalani’s birthday September 2, 2015 at three ahu on the UH Manoa campus in a student collaboration and free education events held at UH Manoa and UH Hilo. My flags to honor and inspire the 200th anniversary of Kamehameha I’s creation of the Hae Hawaii were stolen.