(BIVN) – Friends and family gathered at the Grand Naniloa Hotel on Wednesday in honor of Aunty Doreen Henderson, considered to be a cultural treasure for her work as a kumu lei hulu, or master feather lei maker.
“She is going to go the mainland to live with her daughters soon,” said George Applegate, the hotel’s Director of Community Relations. “This is such rich heritage, we should share it with all of her friends and whoever wants to come down and listen.”
The late afternoon / early evening gathering was a chance for everyone to share stories over a warm bowl of saimin, Aunty Doreen’s dish of choice.
During the event, Applegate announced Henderson’s name would soon adorn the Naniloa wall “with living legends, past and present, of people that were important in our community.”
The Naniloa wall of legends is not the only honor being bestowed on Henderson this week. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has named Henderson one of five master practitioners and knowledge keepers, celebrated in this year’s Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People. In a media release, OHA wrote about Henderson:
Born in 1925 in her grandfather’s cabin (where now stands the Naniloa Hotel), Doreen Henderson has been interested in feather work since age seven. “I knew from the time I was little what I wanted to do,” she has said. “I would watch [my uncle] sew his feathers and he would give his lei to his friends.” She learned the art from Kumu Mary Kahihilani Duarte-Kovich, herself a student of the late Aunty Mary Lou Kekuewa, one of Hawai‘i’s most renowned lei hulu practitioners and a second cousin of Aunty Doreen. Henderson founded Lei Hulu O Hilo, and has shared her skill in both lei making and teaching for several decades. Notably, she was an integral leader in the recreation of several ali‘i gowns, now on display at ‘Iolani Palace.
In 2013, Big Island Video News had the opportunity to interview Aunty Doreen as she and her students offered an annual lie hulu showcase at the Lyman Museum.