Dr. Jamiaca Osorio delivers on-campus speech about Hawaiian culture, history

by Nathan Godderis, Staff Writer

On Friday, Feb. 9, San Diego State hosted poet and University of Hawaii, Manoa, Assistant Professor Jamiaca Heolimeleikalni Osorio, to deliver a speech on Hawaiian culture and history.

Dr. Osorio, a native Hawaiian, was invited by educational leadership master’s student Bree Kalima, who works as a graduate assistant at the Center for Intercultural Relations. Kalima is Hawaiian as well and felt a desire to bring Pacific Islander representation to SDSU after her first year.

“We foster this space and create workshops for Asian Pacific Islander students,” Kalima said. “There’s nothing in place that supports these students right now, so that’s how we navigate that lack of representation. It’s a larger issue, but it’s not just for native Hawaiian students and not being represented here, it’s all Asian American Pacific Islander students.”

Osorio is an activist for native Hawaiian representation, and she spreads awareness to the cause through her poetry and speeches. She is a significant figure in the Hawaiian community through her work in solidarity and academic success.

“I call myself a Hawaiian literature enthusiast, so most of my goals revolve around sharing the stories with as many people as possible,” Osorio said. “Getting people to see and celebrate their own stories and understanding how important they are to us collectively but also to our individual development and identity is one of the greatest gifts we can give people.”

In her talk, she taught the audience about the history of Hawaii, starting from the beginning settlements to the official statehood, detailing the struggles natives faced with racism and colonization.

Osorio, along with other Hawaiians, believes that the history of the island is starting to become forgotten not just by Americans from other states, but by Hawaiians as well.

“It’s having someone from our community show up and educate the larger community on issues that folks might not be aware of,” Kalima said. “A lot of people look at Hawaii and Hawaiians as being really exotic and living in this paradise but aren’t aware of the history or the issues that we have and are facing as native Hawaiians.”

Osorio also told native Hawaiian stories to the audience, which are often symbols of the traditional lifestyle and culture that Hawaiians once lived. Many of these stories revolve around themes of intimacy, romance and sex.

“What we learn from these stories is that desire and intimacy are less about identity and sexuality and more about how we take care of our relationships and the different kinds of relationships we want to engage in,” Osorio said. “That should bring about something in your own life, and in that way, I think these stories are translatable to relationships I have in my own life.”

Apart from her poems and speeches, Osorio is also a well-known figure in the Hawaiian community through her academic and career success. As a Stanford and New York University graduate, she serves as a role model for many on the islands.

“The status of being a doctor in the Hawaiian community is so huge,” Kalima said. “I think people in the community and beyond take it really seriously when you have that title. “Even more than that, she carries her Hawaiian identity with her work, which is huge because we always need to give back and remember where we came from.”

Osorio continues to work as an assistant professor in Indigenous and Native Hawaiian Politics at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.