Papahanaumokuakea new monument name
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By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
Yes, first lady Laura Bush correctly pronounced the new name of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument yesterday — Papahanaumokuakea — although with a decidedly Texas twang.
But before announcing the name Papahanaumokuakea at Washington Place a little after 10 a.m., Bush stumbled over the far easier name of Gov. Linda Lingle, just after being introduced by Lingle.
Instead of saying Lingle, the governor's name came out of Bush's mouth as "Ling-will."
"Thank you very much Gov. Ling-will," an embarrassed Bush said to laughter, then quickly added, "That's not even Hawaiian."
Yesterday's ceremony was the latest step in the government's management of what is now the largest marine protected area in the world, dating to 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt sent U.S. Marines to the area to protect sea birds, Lingle said yesterday.
"This has been a 100-year-long process of protecting it," Lingle said.
The monument spans nearly 140,000 square miles. It's more than 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park and bigger than the land mass of 46 states combined.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands chain is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The islands are the primary habitat for critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles and thousands of sea birds and plants species.
Last year, President Bush designated the area as a Marine National Monument and said federal officials would work with Native Hawaiian leaders to give the monument a Hawaiian name.
Peter Young, chairman of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, said it was obvious from her speech that Bush was touched by the beauty and wildlife — and extent of marine debris — that she found on her visit to Midway Atoll this week.
"You leave that as a different person," Young said. "When you come back to the so-called real world, you see the world with a different set of eyes."
PRESSURE WAS ON
As she introduced the first lady yesterday, Lingle said there was considerable pressure on Bush to get the new name right.
Hours earlier, Lingle noted that KSSK radio personalities Michael W. Perry and Larry Price had speculated whether Bush would mangle the name.
"So all eyes are on the first lady," Lingle said. "I know she's going to do an outstanding job. But regardless of her pronunciation, I'll tell you where her heart is and that's really most important of all. Her heart is with the people of Hawai'i. It's with these Islands, what they represent, both from an environmental point of view but also from a cultural and a historic point view."
When Bush nailed the pronunciation of Papahanaumo-kuakea, the crowd burst into applause.
"Everybody was expecting her not to (pronounce it right) because of her Texas drawl," said Auntie Pualani Kanahele, a member of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group that helped select the name. "But she said it well. That was a pleasant, pleasant surprise."
Kanahele hopes the name Papahanaumokuakea will become as commonplace in Island culture as O'ahu or Kaua'i.
"We're concerned that people might not be able to pronounce it, but I think that if the first lady can pronounce it her first time out, it'll force other people to pronounce it right," Kanahele said. "It's certainly not as difficult as Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument."
Hawaiian fisherman William Aila was among those applauding Bush's effort.
"From a cultural perspective, pronunciation is very, very important," Aila said. "It was very, very important for her to get it right. That's why there was jubilation."
Part of the new name for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument — Papahanaumokuakea — traces back to the Hawaiian deity who is the equivalent of Mother Earth, Kahele said.
So when Aila heard the name Papahanaumokuakea for the first time yesterday, he "instantly knew the connection. It's this reconnection that has been formalized by the first lady that makes everything pono again. The connection from our ancestors and us once again is being made whole."
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.