In Memoriam, 1919-2011

Marion Kelly in the field.

A memorial celebrating Marion’s life was held on Monday, December 19, 4:00 pm, at Church of the Crossroads.

Marion Anderson Kelly, scholar and activist, born in Honolulu June 4, 1919, died in her home at the age of 92, on November 12. Marion was the daughter of Thelma Sackwitz and William Grieg Anderson, a Cook Islander from Fanning Island. Marion was raised on the Waialua Sugar Plantation and graduated from Roosevelt High in 1937. She graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 1941.  She worked for the Longshoreman Union leader, Jack Hall, for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and was appointed to the Territorial War Labor Board.  She married John Kelly in 1943.

After the war, Marion and John moved to New York City where John attended the Julliard School of Music and Marion did post-graduate work at Columbia University in sustainable economies and cultures of Indigenous people, focusing on the early economic and agricultural models of Native Hawaiian people. She wrote articles that exposed ways Hawaiian people were being dreadfully misrepresented in academic journals.

Marion began work at the Bishop Museum in 1950 as an anthropology research assistant.  She went on many scientific voyages in the South Pacific documenting and publishing numerous academic reports. Simultaneously she continued post-graduate work at UH and produced her Masters Thesis, “Changes in Land Tenure in Hawai’i.”

Following her career at Bishop Museum, she taught the history of Native Hawaiian culture at UH, and worked to establish the Center for Ethnic Studies, retiring at the age of 81.

Her discoveries, articles and reports on Hawaiian life in pre-contact Hawai’i, helped to preserve many ancient sites with the understanding of how Hawaiian people lived and worked. Her groundbreaking work on the “Great Mahele,” was a watershed manuscript that carefully documented the systematic theft of both land and economic stability from the Hawaiian people. She was a lifetime champion of equal rights, peace and justice, and worked tirelessly for Native Hawaiian sovereignty. She is survived by daughters Colleen and Kathleen and grandchildren Dana and Corey.

A memorial celebrating her life was held on Monday, December 19, 4:00 pm, at Church of the Crossroads.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Hawai’i People’s Fund.


This blog is dedicated to sharing stories and memories about Marion and her work. 

Please feel free to post your comments. Your comments will not appear on this blog immediately, but will be re-posted within 24 hours.

Thank You!

Marion’s Family and Friends

Marion Kelly

From the ʻŌiwi TV website: 

ʻŌiwi TV celebrates the life of noted anthropologist and life-long activist Marion Kelly. As a scholar, Marionʻs work remains an invaluable resource of Hawaiian culture and history, especially her research on the ahupuaʻa system. As an activist, Marion and husband John Kelly, co-founded a grassroots environmental organization in the mid-1960s called Save Our Surf.

Marion is best known for helping create the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, laying the foundation for what is now the Center for Hawaiian Studies.

Davianna McGregor:

Haliʻa Aloha Iā Marion

Love and Aloha to Colleen, Kathy and ʻOhana

No Marion Kelly (Of Marion Kelly)

Hiki mai ka hōkū ‘ai ‘āina [The star ruling land rises (navigator’s star)]
Ho’olehua ke ‘au loa [The current runs strong and swift]
Hiki mai ka wahine [The woman arrives]
Ke kama a Teanu Atu mai Tongareva mai [Child of Teanu Atu from Tongareva]
Ma o Waialua, ‘āina kā pālua i ka laʻi [Through Waialua in the calm]

Ua ‘au ‘ia ‘oia i nā kai loa [She traveled the distant seas]
I ka pae ‘āina Hawai’i [In the Hawaiian Archipelago]
A i ke Pakipika mānoa [And the wide Pacific]

He hoaloha o nā mamo a ke kipi [Friend of the descendants of rebels (of Ka’ū)]
Na mamo i ka halo o kua [Descendants in the gills of kua (shark ‘aumakua of Ka’ū)]
Eia ka wahine [Here is the woman]
He ‘aʻaliʻi ‘oia kū makani [She is an ‘a’ali’i standing in the wind]
‘Aʻohe makani nāna i kulaʻi [There is no wind which can blow her over]

Eia ka wahine [Here is the woman]
Eia ka makuahine [Here is the mother]
Eia ke kumu a’o [Here is the teacher]
Eia ke kupuna aloha [Here is the beloved kupuna]
E mau ana kona hana kūpono [May her good and upright work for]
o ka ‘āina [the land continue always]

Aloha e, aloha e, aloha e [Love, honor, respect]

Composed and chanted in honor of Marion Kelly upon the occasion of her receipt of the Association for Asian American Studies Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award, June 26, 1998, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Davianna Pōmaika’i McGregor

Ibrahim Aoudé:

It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the passing of Marion Kelly on Saturday, November 12 @2:30 P.M. Marion has lived a long, productive life in the service of Hawai‘i’s people and was a staunch champion peace and justice for all of humanity. She was a fighter of the first order who never compromised on matters of principle. Marion was the preeminent authority on land tenure and use change in Hawai‘i that opened a new field in Hawaiian Anthropology. She dedicated her research to supporting the Kanaka ‘Ōiwi national struggle for self-determination.
Marion was indispensable in establishing Ethnic Studies at the Univeristy of Hawai‘i.  Ethnic Studies spawned the study of Kanaka ‘Ōiwi issues in the academy. Marion was clear about the relationship between the Kanaka ‘Ōiwi struggle for self-determination and the struggle of the multi-ethnic community in our Hawai‘i nei. She believed that at the core of the struggle for  the betterment of Hawai‘iʻs people and the environment in the Islands, lies the Kanaka ‘Ōiwi indigenous struggle.
On behalf of all of us I know that I can say that the Department of Ethnic Studies is proud to have had Marion Kelly as an integral and important part of the department. Marion Kelly lives in her work and her memory lives in every social and political struggle currently taking place in our Hawai‘i nei.
Me Ke Aloha, Brahim

Dr. Franklin Odo:

Marion Kelly was part of the faculty when I arrived to become part of the Ethnic Studies Program in fall 1978. It soon became clear to me that she would be an invaluable resource and beacon for the rest of us as we struggled to create a viable field of study within the difficult arena of university politics as well as local/national/global challenges. We did not always agree because the issues were complex and daunting. But I knew I could always count on Marion to approach any problem with a set of principles and personal sensitivity to human needs. She was able to incorporate seemingly incompatible perspectives in order to move us forward – a progressive – but one who could push other progressives when we most required such prodding. For example, Marion had a profound distrust of the “usual” political processes, especially elected officials, and felt that the system inevitably tainted incumbents, even our supporters. But this conviction never deterred her from working with us and these supporters when specific issues were at stake so that some modest gains could be secured for people in the community. Marion’s work was critical to the growth of Ethnic Studies and to the establishment of the Department. I left Hawai`i for work on the East Coast in 1994 and have taught on several campuses and in two major national institutions. In all of these assignments, I have tried to incorporate the best of Marion Kelly’s legacy. I will always remember her strength and grace; we will miss her.

Kyle Kajihiro:

Aloha Colleen, Kathleen and ‘Ohana

My aloha goes out to all of you. Aunty Marion was a peoples’ treasure.

When I returned to Hawai’i in 1996, she and Uncle John were two of the first people I met with. My work to protect Makua soon led me to Marion’s 1974 oral history of the former residents of Makua who were evicted by the Army. Dr. Fred Dodge shared a dog-eared photocopy of the report, which the Army refused to publish due to its conclusions recommending returning the land. In these pre-Wikileaks days, bootleg versions of the report were photocopied, rephotocopied and circulated in the community, keeping the stories of these families alive and growing even more powerful as legend. At an Army hearing on Makua, Marion pounded her fist on the podium and shamed the Army for trying to suppress the voices of the residents who had lost their lands and livelihoods. Later, Nancy Aleck, as a committee member for the AFSC Hawai’i worked with Marion to produce a summary of the report that was used as an educational resource on Makua. Planning and work was underway to update and publish Marion’s report on Makua. I hope that this project will reach fruition. Marion’s spirit and good works touched so many lives and made Hawai’i a better place; she lives on in all of us who heart was touched by her passion. I feel blessed to have known her, to have learned so much from her and to be playing a small part in furthering her immense legacy.

By Kathryn Waddell Takara:


Awards, ceremonies, anniversaries,
Birthdays, graduations, marriages, memories,
Times of appreciation, love and celebration!

This morning I traipsed through the herb garden
thinking of you like a refreshing delight,
as I walked up the overgrown stepping stone path,
past the orange wild orchid patch
to reach the heleconias which I would cut for you
to help celebrate our knowing
on the threshold of today.

Later, amidst the fragrance of fresh herbs and cut flowers,
I listened to soca  music, the wind percussion chimes
and sweet bird talk,
regretting perhaps that you were not here.

I remember when we met, from a distance at first,
each focusing on political issues–
we working/playing/living hard and fast/
here and over there,
hanging on by a string
to our precious emotional moon anchors.

Where is the moonlight now
as we walk toward the great clear lake of our being?
Do our shadows precede or follow us?

Always we were becoming
in the glare of the ruthlesssun
after the loss of innocence,
when we learned that in spite of our joyful passage
there was always the suffering
and death which hovered on the horizon,
beckoning a familiar friend, a family member, another human–

The reminders were everywhere:
news, planes flying in and out of Kaneohe at moments of crisis,
invading the silence of the aina,
reminding us of trouble over there, over here.

But whenever I looked at you,
you walked tall and lightly
toward responsibility like royalty,
you trailed your years beautiful as a bride,
no longer young, yet full of life and living.

In face of disintegration/urban blight
In face of liberation protests and movements,
drumbeats and thunder of disharmony
civil rights/sovereignty/geothermal issues
occupations at Kalama Valley, Waimanalo, Sand Island, Makapu’u,
You walked tall, and more recently
could be seen with your red parasol
answering to myriad calls for your assistance.

You inspired others unknowingly
arriving softly like the dawn or the moonlight
negotiating, mediating, encouraging
providing a forum for different voices and strategies
to come together to debate, share, transform,
transcend differ­ence.

Although we pass so much time
next door to each other
we confer but fleetingly.

Yet memories of you,
supporting, struggling, persisting, believing
memories of us
sharing a flower, a lunch, a few stolen moments
to speak of love and suffering,
family, children and sexism
amidst the relentless demands of our schedules
have provided me with an anchor in you
inspiration and fortitude,
encouragement and hope.

Thank you for sharing, dear friend.

Tony Castanha:

I have known Marion since the early 1990s and was fortunate to have spent many many hours in her presence. Her mana has definitely rubbed off on me. I decided to put some words into a poem to express some of my gratitude to her.

*Aloha Ode to Marion:

Roses are red, violets are blue, your many contributions to da movement and community have filtered right through;

With your deep Pacific roots, you were like a Kanaka, steadfast in your resolve, just like a firecracker;

The many many long hours spent at old Ethnic Studies and Kekuni’s will never be forgotten,

Ka Pakaukau deep into the night, LOADS OF AGENDA begotten;

I will never forget the time at Hale Paki when you unleashed on Soli, da blood flowing right through, like New Year’s huhu;

You are loved and respected, big smile unrelenting, you will always be remembered, mahalo nui ia ‘oe a me aloha, unbending.

*Given on 12/19/11

Michael Moriarty:
Faced with the mystery of life, we all encounter the problem of what to do with it. Some of us seem to do a better job than many… Marion was one of these folks. I always found that the best way to learn from her was one on one… I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time working on Save Our Surf issues and had the luxury of personal encounters with Marion. She always was an absolute human, and I think that is what distinguished her from many ideologues or “intellectuals” …of course the razor intellect was always present to remind you to think clearly… but like a human. I now live far away, in the Philippines, but I feel the loss of Marion Kelly as strongly here as I would anywhere. She and John changed the course and face of Hawaii forever…

Mark Glick said:
For me, Marion was the ultimate beacon and conscience for Hawai`i Nei. As a historian and anthropologist, there was nothing that seemed to miss her discerning eye. An enduring image is her enthralling tour of six islands in the film series, Ahupua’a, Fishponds and Lo’i. She embodied the Aloha spirit and it is a wonder to see it manifested still in the person of her daughter Colleen. Aloha nui loa.

Steve Boggs:

Marion Kelly, 12/12/11

Any historian in the future will have to recognize Marion as the spark, and often the tinder, of Hawaiian resistance to colonization. She was among the first to call attention to the systematic dispossession of its indigenous people, and she was a strong supporter of independence.

Marion wrote a now famous paper on the land division in Hawai’i known as The Great Mahele that demonstrated a simple point: that the common people of Hawai’i were deprived of their rights to use of the land while the chiefs and their foreign allies got nearly all of it. It is from this system that the in justices of the present have derived.

The major impact of her life was in helping to move people to defend their rights to the land. There was no better illustration of this than her role in the struggle to prevent the eviction of people from Mokauea Island in Moanalua Bay. On that occasion State deputies removed the residents by force and burned down one of their homes. After the media reported that they were squatters who had only been there for a few years and that the Island did not exist before the construction of a sea plane runway, Marion researched the history and found charts indicating that the Island had been ther e for over a century. It was one of the first places settled on O’ahu in ancient times and had been a primary fishery ever since. The discovery of a wooden canoe in a trash heap on the Island–its outer sides and insides bearing the clear marks of adzes–was judged to be over one hundred years old, adding to the evidence of long settlement. Eventually a few of the families got leases enabling them to remain on the Island.

This story illustrates for me what Marion did best. She was there, she talked to people, she used what she knew from research, and she made a difference in the lives of ordinary people.
Marion’s primary intellectual focus was political economy. It motivated all she did. I do not know how she became interested in political economy, but I suspect that it was while she worked for the ILWU, where she met Jack Hall.
Transparent is the first attribute that I think about when I remember her. I never knew her to dissemble. She knew what she knew and she let you know it. She was not a romantic. She never confused her wishes with reality. She was an empiricist. She had no use for religion in any form, so far as I could tell. But she was Polynesian in the welcome she gave to newcomers and to those in need, as I knew by personal experience. And her advocacy for all who had been wronged was exceptional. She was objective about herself. When I suggested some years ago that someone should do an oral history o f her life, she snorted. She knew that she had accomplished her political goal in life only as part of a group, that the causes for which she fought were bigger than any individual.

I appeal to those of you who knew Marion, and to those who have come to know about her: do not let the causes for which she lived ever die. That is the best way to remember Marion. And I am sure that is what she would want.

To further this goal I would like to suggest that one day of the year should be designated as Huli Day in memory of Marion Kelly and that on that day activists in Hawai’i should gather and confer to decide upon some action that will advance the independence of kanaka maoli. Further, that the Department of Ethnic Studies together with The People’s Fund organize this event beginning in 2012.

Maivân Clech Lâm:

Dearest Colleen and Kathleen,

This is a small expression of my profound love for your mother whose life, more than any one else’s, was the map I relied on to find my way:

Transitions happen. And you, Marion, decided to make your transition this year — the year of the Arab Spring, of Occupy Wall Street, of the launch of Moana Nui to contest APEC in the Pacific, and of Julian Aguon’s wake-up call to kanaka maoli law students to be aware of the Akaka Bill’s endangerment of Hawai’i’s right to independence.

Could it be, Marion, that you chose this time for your transition because you sensed that we were at last positioned, locally and globally, to now collectively do what you, my beauteous and stalwart friend, have been doing unflinchingly for as long as I have known you, which was: to expose and reverse the vicious practice of fundamentalist capitalism so that all that is good, and true, and beautiful in the peoples and cultures of the Pacific may flourish once again.

Marion, you are finally doing that rarest of things: giving yourself a break. Knowing you, the break will be short — favorite pupus with family and comrades near and dear to you and you to them, a quaff or two of wine perhaps, and lots of raucous laughter and warm hugs. Then we will hear your call to the ramparts again. For that call, Marion, you have implanted deep inside each and everyone of us who admire, respect, and love you beyond measure. You live in us. You are our breath. Maivân

George Hudes:

Marion Kelly was my comrade and friend for over 40 years. She consistently exemplified compassion, intelligence, and commitment. We first joined with each other and many others in protesting the greed and brutality of our U.S. nation in Vietnam and then Central America. It was in working closely with one another in the arena of wai (water rights and policies), however, that my love for, appreciation of, and friendship with Marion matured. She was my mentor, co-worker, encouragement, and example. Whenever I called on Marion for help in going out to or working with another community group, no matter how tired and over-committed she may have been, she only asked when and where – and never said “no.” Marion assisted, informed, and inspired all of us who worked on efforts that resulted in the passage of the Hawaii State Constitution Water Amendment, the adoption of the Hawaii State Water Code, and all the subsequent education, community based struggles, and progress that has transpired toward restoration of kanaka Hawai′i rights, environmental understanding and restoration, and true public control of this precious resource. I hold Marion in my heart and join Colleen and Kathleen in celebrating her life and gifts.

Ed Greevy:

Marion touched so many lives in a positive way, including mine many times. When I heard her speak at meetings and gatherings I always found it hard to photograph her because taking pictures distracts me from what is being said.
She always seemed to have time for students of all ages to teach them about Hawaiian history and about living a responsible life. There are many women in Hawaii she mentored in such a positive way. It was just one of her rare gifts.
I once asked her how she prioritized the many tasks she took on. Her answer was, “I just do what is in front of me”. Well said, Marion.
It was very sad to visit her this past year remembering the towering intellect we were losing.
Ed Greevy

Steve Dinion:

I only got to know Marion late in her life, through my friendship with Colleen and Cha. I had heard a lot about her politics and activism, however, so when they asked if they could bring her over for a small Thanksgiving dinner I was having, I was more than a little intimidated! However, Marion was wonderfully friendly, gracious and down-to-earth. Lucky for me and my other friends, she also shared some stories about her work and experiences (not to mention her political analysis of Hawai’i politics!). What an honor and thrill! In the following years when I would get to see her, Marion, always welcoming, would also share stories about her time playing violin in the Symphony, which floored me! She accomplished and did so much in her long life. I feel lucky to have known her, even just a little.

Sally and Robin Kaye:

Aloha Colleen, Kathy and ʻOhana.

Your Mom and Dad were a huge part of our lives in the early ’70s. Robin helped photograph shorelines for SOS, and we were welcomed in your home (and they in ours) many times before we left for Lana`i. Your Dad acutally taught me how to house train our first puppy, an absolutely brilliant approach i’ve shared with many others.

They encouraged us, loved us, and helped us understand our place in these beautiful islands. Your Mom made an indelible impression on me on how to be gracious, so gracious.

We will never forget them.

Robin and Sally Kaye
Lana`i City

Kevin Kawamoto, UH Manoa:

Marion Kelly’s contributions to the University of Hawaii and the larger community were phenomenal and will continue to benefit learners for generations to come. Her influence extended far beyond academia as she ensured that many voices and perspectives were brought into the classroom and into scholarly research.


Aue ke aloha e
E kuu kumu e

One of the most important teachers of this generation. A great voice, leader, and greatest proponent of justice and humanity for all. A honorable and fantastic servant and fighter for ka pono o ka aina! Ke aloha nui, e kuu kumu aloha e.

Aloha Aina Oiaio

Tuaine Howard:

Kia Orana to all of Marions children in Hawaii. Our deepest sympathy for our lost. Its been a long time since we had Marion and Corey with us in Rarotonga in the mid 80′s. We will always treasure the fond memories we have of her whenever she visited us in Tutakimoa, Rarotonga. Please, whenever any of you decide to visit us , you have families in the Cook Islands and like Marion you are welcomed. Regards: From the Tuaine and Linda Howard, the Takai Family, and all the Greig Family in the Cook Islands. Na te Atua e tauturu mai e nana e akapumaana mai ia tatou katoatoa

Bernice Dinion:

Marion was a truly remarkable woman, not only for all that she accomplished for the Hawaiian people and the preservation of their culture and language, but in rallying others to do the same. I had the honor of knowing her personally and will always treasure her friendship. Her sweet smile could “light up a room”!! My heart goes out to Colleen, Kathleen, Cha and her grandchildren and new great grandchild. Will much love and Aloha!

Jackie Burke, MPH MURP:

I can’t say enough of the inspiration Dr. Kelly provided throughout my life, I met her from the Peoples Fund and when I returned to college at age 39 and had her as my professor in several classes, heard her lectures, saw her at other events and enjoyed a friendship throughout the years. She has been an incredible woman and warrior, I am so grateful that I have lived in this lifetime when she lived and taught. Me ke aloha and Mahalo Dr. Marion Kelly.
Jackie Burke, MPH MURP

Noel Kent:

Back in 1966, a group of us anti-Vietnam War students began meeting with John Kelly on Sunday nights at his home at Black Point. It was a radical political study group with the goal of studying the writings of Karl Marx and building a movement in Hawai’i. Marion mostly didn’t take partin discussions, but she was a gracious and delightful background presence, once every evening bringing the group fresh fruit and drinks. Every once in a while though, she would join in the discussion and we could see a woman who had very strong, very cogently argued opinions about the world. As we came to know Marion better and learn about her work with the land and native people of Hawai’i we understood she was a force to be reckoned with.
During the early 1970s, one began to see her at some of land struggles breaking out on Oahu. Marion always came prepared to listen to the problems voiced by community people but was also a powerful speaker who could rally all of us to keep fighting against the odds.
In 1972, when the U.H. Manoa administration tried to eliminate the Ethnic Stuudies Program, Marion, who was teaching there, worked tirelessly to save it. When we won the fight, I joined Marion on the faculty and we became colleagues for the next three decades.
It was a delightful relationship in which I learned much. In meetings, she was an articulate and innovative presence always challenging our faculty to live up to the highest claims we made as a department about serving Hawai’i and its working people. She was a gifted teacher who meticulously graded and critiqued her students’ papers. And Marion was always right there in opposing any infringement by the UH administration on our Pprogram.
Of course, in the course of thirty years or so, there were a couple of times when we found ourselves on opposing sides of issues. I found her then to be a tough and resilient opponent (and was oh so pleased to know we were really on the same side of the political fence).
So it was a privilege to have Marion Kelly in my life for forty-five years. And during the last period of her life when I came over to Black Point to visit, I was so touched to find this woman who no longer could speak or knew whom I was, greeting me with such radiant warmth. Go well, Marion. Yours was a life to be proud of…
Noel Kent

Mike May:

Marion Kelly was very beautiful Hawaiian woman inside and outside. Besides all of her academic, scholarly and community credits Marion was a stunning model appearing in many of the historic art works of her father in law, Hawaii artist John Melville Kelly.
Aloha Marion

Barry Villamil:

I will always remember and cherish the hours spent on Sunday’s free diving with Marion for lead weights off of Black Point near her home. Marion and I would dive and collect the weights left behind by fisherman after being snagged on the reef. Marion was well into her 70′s and was an excellent swimmer and diver.

After our dive, we would join the rest of our Sunday gang at her home to enjoy lunch and a favorite beverage (a good bottle of wine).

I am also grateful for the time spent talking story with Marion in her study at home while she worked on her research content that would eventually become a part of the University of Hawaii’s Hawaiian culture curriculum.

Mahalo to daughter Kathleen for bringing Mary, Heather and myself into your ohana. We love you and pray upon the light that guides your mom.

Shad Kane:

I did not know Marion as well as I wished however I quoted her often. I got to know her on a few hikes that I went on with both her and Jan Becket. She helped me see the hidden world of the past in the things of today. I have come to see ‘Ewa as more than sugar cane and military bases. She helped get a sense of age by analyzing the construction of partially destroyed stone structures when carbon 14 was not available. She helped me see the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station as a Tahitian place by the construction of its cultural sites. She helped me see beyond mere walls and things of today. It led me to the writing of a book titled “Cultural Kapolei” which 20 years ago I never would have thought possible. Marion Kelly played a big part in my life although I doubt that she knew it … I would like to leave you with a quote from the movie “Dances with Wolves” which always reminds me of Marion. “There are many trails in life……… however there is only one that matters … and that is the trail of a real human being.” Marion Kelly is on that trail.

Mahealani Perez Wendt:

Many years ago I was visiting the Kellys and watched as John and Marion body surfed the waves in front of their home. Marion had beautiful, black, waist length, hair, and the image of her inside that wave, graceful with long hair trailing, will always stay with me. She was a beautiful woman in every way. I spent time with John and Marion at Kalama Valley, Sand island, Mokauea Island, and other early land eviction struggles. Like John, Marion was hard core, righteous, intellectually rigorous, a social and political activist driven by boundless compassion for the downtrodden and a deep love of Hawaii Nei.

Mehana Vaughan:

I didnʻt know her well, more her work. Still she was an inspiration and struck me as strong yet gentle, passionate yet calm, honest yet loving — a voice for truths that were truly unheard of in her day, but her work at the heart of their telling changed the way my generation learned our history, and will continue to reverberate for generations to come.
Mahalo a nui loa e Anake. E moe oe me ka malie. Blessing and aloha to she and her family.

Kihei Soli Niheu:

It is with deep sadness that I will not be able to attend memorial services for Kupuna Marion because of dialysis sessions. However, let me have the oportunity to express my Aloha for this wonderful and beautiful person. I was very fortunate to work along side of Marion for four decades starting with Ethnic Studies and the Peoples’ Committee. And I was even more fortunate to work with her in Wawamalu, Kalama Valley. For forty years, she was the Kumu and I was the Haumana. Until I can duplicate her experience and her knowledge, I will forever be a Haumana and I will continue to learn from others.

It has been said, “Who can find a precious Woman, for her price is far above Rubies.” This was Marion. She was the Kumu of many in our struggles for Liberation and Independence. Her Manaʻo was not based on fairy tales or hearsay, but rather on cold hard facts of History.

Who will replace this Wahine Koa Nui? Who will be willing to spend a Lifetime dedicated to what is Pono and not what is convient. Who will be willing to speak the truth? As long as the americans keep telling lies, Kupuna Marion kept telling the truth and for that reason I adore and love her and I will certainly continue to follow the path that she has paved for me.

Mahalo Na Akua for allowing me opportunity for being a part of her Life. And to Colleen and Kathy. Mahalo Nui loa for sharing the lives of your Na Makua with us. Me Ke Aloha Pumehana, Aloha a hui hou Marion


Aue ka haule ana o kekahi o na wiwoole, nana hoi i hoomanao mai ia kakou i ko kakou kuleana malama aina a malama kekahi i kekahi. O ia ala kai ku me ka haaheo no ko Hawaii pono. Me ka mahalo me ke aloha au e hoohalia ai ia ia.

Diana Duff:

I met Colleen in the early 80s on a trip of a group of women in medicine learning about Cuba’s health care system.  We kept in touch. I visited her several times. Once, when she was living up near the Pali, and studying massage. I experienced her wonderful massage talents, which she has most recently used to soothe Marion through her final years.
On that trip, I met Marion at a party at Colleen’s house.  I was struck by Marion’s energy and knowledge and political commitment to studying and teaching Hawaiian ways, especially around plants and agriculture.  I instantly liked her.  After sharing our mutual love for ocean swimming, she invited me to come swim with her at Black Point.
I remember that day well.  Colleen and I drove to the Black Point house together and as I entered the dark living room of their historic home, filled with the art of Colleen’s grandfather, I was stuck by a sense of stepping into an earlier era in Hawaiian history.
Marion emerged ready to swim and the three of us ambled down the lane to a rocky outcropping where the sea pounded below.  This was nothing like my usual point of entry into the ocean for a swim!
Marion was agile for her age and immediately leapt into a calm moment in the surge below.  I stood agape for a very long moment and finally decided that if this older woman could do it, I could too.  I pinched my nose, steeled my resolve and followed her into the waves.  Once in the water, I shared my concern about getting away from the rocks before we got smashed.  At that point, she shared with me advice that I carry and share to this day.  “Pretend you are a leaf.”
She explained that if you relaxed and didn’t fight or resist the surges, you would probably not be hurt but just float over and among the rocks gently.  That advice has lived in me for years while swimming in sometimes tumultuous seas.  Thank you, Marion.
I have enjoyed a long and delightful history as a friend of Colleen’s and later of Cha’s.  Have seen Marion through many phases of her aging and loved just sitting in her presence, these last few years, watching Colleen’s skilled hands massage love into her dying mother and just being in that house that is so steeped in Hawaiian history.
I cherish the many memorable moments from my long relationship with the Kelly ohana, but, it is the leaf I become when I find myself in an ocean surge that will always remain as Marion’s legacy for me.

Esther Figuera:

who could not fall in love with marion? her beauty, the sparkle of her eyes, her broad smile, her strength, her intelligence, her full laugh, her scowl, her seriousness, her focus, her steadfast actions on behalf of her beliefs , her scholarship, her generosity of spirit – i cherish every moment i had in her presence and she has always been an inspiration for how to live life to the fullest. we owe marion so much. she did so much. a woman of so many parts, of so much depth, a woman who touched so many. marion thank you.

Buddy Neller:

Artifacts are found in a matrix that goes beyond the natural context of a survey and excavation, and includes the cultural landscape, and the history and traditions relevant to the remains being studied. Marion Kelly provided the cultural-historical context for Bishop Museum archaeological research for decades, writing about the history of people and places from Ka Lae on the Big Island to Ha’ena on Kauai. In January of 1985, I made a field trip to the banana patch area of Kane’ohe with archaeologists from the Bishop Museum: Yosi Sinoto, Aki Sinoto, Paul Cleghorn, Toni Han, Hiro Kurashino, Jane Allen, Pat McCoy, and Marion Kelly. We went into a part of Luluku that was covered with hau, and was being studied as part of the H-3 project. We walked through long tunnels cut into the dense hau, whose branches twisted across the talus like a mass of spaghetti. Everything was green and magical. We came upon rock wall after rock wall, terrace retaining walls for ancient lo’i (taro pondfields) along Luluku Stream, which were associated with 19th century kuleanas (Land Commission Awards).

Afterwards, Marion and I stayed on to explore the kula lands mauka, in the banana forest and beyond. She wanted to become more familiar with Luluku, with every part of the cultural landscape, and look for evidence of traditional Hawaiian use of those lands beyond the immediate project area. She wanted to learn more about the home of the people who had built the lo’i and planted the taro. We found an unusual kind of taro growing in the stream, with pink striped stems. We found a place where three streams used to come together, as described by McAllister in “Archaeology of Oahu.” We followed the Mamalahoa branch to its source at a spring, where we found the barely visible remains of a circular rock wall, which must have been a well or bathtub at one time. The short Kahuaiki branch was now the site of a spring house and water tunnel. The Hiilaniwai branch came from a spring high up on the pali. Marion said our exploring reminded her of the days she used to go hiking with her father. She was always looking, always learning.

Marion was a big help to us in the Sierra Club’s high school hikers program. Every President’s Day weekend we held a campout and field project, and Marion Kelly helped by talking about land tenure and other aspects of Hawaiian history, depending upon where we camped. I admired her speaking voice. She was so easy to hear and understand, and she taught us something, by her words and her example. She will be missed, but her spirit lives on in us.

Isaac Harp:

Aloha e Cha and Colleen!
I was so sad to hear of the passing of Aunty Marion.  I just learned about it from Soli yesterday.
Aunty will be missed by many here on this planet, but I bet a big luau is going on where she is now!
Although she had to endure a lot of pain, I’m glad that she took that boat trip to the Cook Islands several years ago.  She mentioned that she was thinking about taking the trip to me when I went to her hale with you one day.  I could see that homesick look in her eyes when she spoke of the Cook Islands.
Soli asked me to come over to his hale last night and make a short video of him bidding farewell to Aunty Marion.  Soli is on dialysis so it’s difficult for him to travel these days. [Note: His YouTube video message is posted on his message, see Kihei Soli Niheu above.]   Tammy and I send our sincerest condolences on the great loss to your ohana.  Aunty Marion was one of a kind.  She lived life with gusto and I’m sure she would want you all to do the same.

Love life, but love each other more…

Have a wonderful forever-after…

Aloha nui loa,

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