The Big Lie – A False Claim Causes Widespread Controversy

Yes, Hawai’i has its own version of the BIG LIE that has caused arguments and controversy for years.  Ithas nothing to do with elections and has been aroundmuch longer than the last U.S. president’s devastating and damaging single term, but like Trump’s BIG LIE,it has caused a divide amongst the people.  It has to do with the name of one of our islands, namely Moloka’i.  It is time to put this to rest.

How it started:  Harriet Ne (1915-1991) was a kumu hula  Pretty late in her life, for some reason, she decided that the correct pronunciation of her island was Molokai.  This was a surprise to many because she had said Molokaʻi during numerous interviews including when she was interviewed by Mrs. Pūku´i.  She also sat in during interviews with other Molokaʻi residents who said Molokaʻi, but never raised any objection or correction.

Also, she was recorded, circa 1973 during a program called Ka Leo Hawaiʻi, hosted by Larry Kimura, who recalled Harriet clearly saying Molokaʻi.

Harriet Ne was also interviewed by Dr. Ishmael Stagner in 1982, who introduced Harriet as being from Molokaʻi.  Throughout this interview, Harriet clearly refered to her island home as being Molokaʻi.  In this interview she said she watcheed her uncles learn hula from Ioele Kaoʻo, when she was five (1920)  She also said she learned the “Molokaʻi Kuʻi” from her aged ucle when 14(1029)  According to Harriet, her uncle said he wanted to teach her the “Molokaʻi Kuʻi.”  She said they(her uncles and Kaoʻo) were all from Pelekunu.  This was in direct contrast to what she said in her later life, that everyone from Pelekunu said, Molokai

This interview can be viewed at:

The Source of The Big Lie:  So, Harriet Ne decided to call her home Molokai. NO big deal, right?  What happened next made it a big deal when the BIG LIE was created. by her grandson, Edward Halealoha Ayau!!

In 1992, one year after Harrietʻs death, a book, “Tales of Molokai, the voice of Harriet Ne by Gloria L. Cronin was released.  In the very beginning of the book is a statement by Edward Ayay, which says, in part:


“Mary Kawena Pūkuʻi, three weeks before her death, called my tutu and told her that the correct name is Molokai, which means the gathering of the ocean waves

This is THE BIG LIE  What Mr. Ayau was not aware of when he created this lie, was, at the time of this alleged phone call, Mrs. Pūkuʻi was under long-time care at The Convalescent Center of Honolulu where she passed away in 1986 because of “old age”.  During those days,  Alzheimerʻs was not yet identified.

The fact is, she was unable physically and/or mentally, to make such a call.

In addition, the person who proved that this call was never made, was Harriet Ne, herself.  If she had received such a call, she would have told everyone about it.  But there was no mention of this call by Harrieet and only after her death, did her grandson come up with this story.  We don’t think she would have allowed this while she was alive, but Ayau, realizing that both women had passed away, probably thought he could get away with this.  Shame on him.

If anyone would like to learn more about the Molokaʻi pronunciation, please click on the article by that name.

If anyone would like to learn more about diacritical usage, click on “Understanding the Use of Diacritical Marks in the Hawaiian Language.

Mary Kawena Pukui Cultural Preservation Society