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World Indigenous People's Conference on Education

Leaders of indigenous communities: kūpuna, mākua, and ‘ōpio convened the World Indigenous Peopleʻs Conference on Education (WIPCE) Coolangatta Symposium at Kamehameha Schools, Keaʻau from March 21 – 23, 2024 to ratify and improve upon the 2014 Declaration of Indigenous Youth.


The Declaration, which highlights priorities of Life, Liberty, Culture and Security, Culture, Religion and Language, Education, Land and Resources, Self-Governance and Indigenous Laws, and Economic Sustainability, was signed by the United Nations and has traveled worldwide alongside Hōkūleʻa.


The leadership and Ambassadors of Vibrant Hawaiʻi’s ʻOAKA program participated in breakout sessions to propose revisions and updates to the Coolangatta Statement.

Cienna Corpuz, 22, was one of the eldest youth in the room. "Settling into the conference, I felt I was at an awkward placement in terms of age because I was too old for the ‘ōpio, yet too young for the mākua. Over time, I noticed a shift in mindset where I concluded that I was exactly where I needed to be - and it is quite an honor to be in the middle. The role I felt called towards was to amplify the youth voices that wanted to be heard and to allow them a space where they felt comfortable to share what they wanted to. To be a bridge. I had left the conference with an overwhelming sense of belonging and connection to people I had only known for less than 48 hours.”

“Having a background and passion for psychology, a change I proposed was to introduce mental health into the conversation. I noticed that the original Coolangata statement was lacking in terms of speaking to Indigenous people’s mental health. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and it is evident that they are both dependent on one another.”

Amylia-Rae, 24, shared a similar, perhaps more extreme experience: she aged out of the ʻōpio forum by one year and was instead invited to join the mākua sessions. 'Our breakout was fortunate to include the voices of indigenous people from around the world, including Hawaiʻi, Australia, Alaska, and Canada.

One of the statements assigned to our hui read: Indigenous peoples throughout the world endure policies and practices ranging from extermination and genocide to protection and assimilation. Perhaps more than any other accomplishment, survival is the greatest of all achievements for Indigenous peoples.'" While this statement was incredibly powerful, the group recognized that it was time for a mindset shift.

"Our predecessors fought to ensure our survival. My hope moving forward is that we build upon their efforts to create the conditions necessary for our people thrive." This insight, shared by Amylia-Rae, sparked a conversation aimed at rephrasing the statement to emphasize the new goal of thriving as opposed to merely surviving. The revised statement read: "We as Native Peoples have agency, are committed to revitalizing and renormalizing the ways of being, believing, communicating that help us to thrive."


The inaugural WIPCE was held in 1987 in a Coolangatta: a traditional style longhouse in Vancouver, Canada. In 2014, over 100 Indigenous youth from Canada, Aotearoa, Japan, Australia, Europe, the United States and Hawaiʻi convened at the E Mau Ana Ka Moʻolelo WIPCE symposium to propose the inclusion of a Declaration of Indigenous Youth to the WIPCE Coolangata Statement. Vibrant Hawaiʻi Ambassador Kawehi Mahi-Roberts remembers the 2014 WIPCE symposium. “I was a youth presenter with my aunty, Roxanne Keliʻikipikāneokolohaka, so I didn’t get to participate in the youth forum that created the Declaration. Sitting in the room with you all 10 years later and being able to include my voice in the Declaration feels like a full circle moment.”


Kumu Trevor Atkins and Kumu Melehina Henani were also present at WIPCE 2014 and offered reflections about the process and outcomes of engaging youth in the development of the Declaration. VH Ambassador Gianina Kalaʻi Manuel-Cortez took to heart the following kumu reflections. “The kids (at the 2014 WIPCE) blended so well and everyone got along, but I don’t know that anyone really kept in contact with each other afterwards.”


Gianina shared her reflection with youth participants saying, “All of our people are here today: each one of us and our kupuna. Those seen and unseen. In a world intent on keeping us divided, and as the physical distance grows when we all go our separate ways, how do we support each other from afar?”


The kumu urged participants to create an online space to communicate about current events and challenges they are facing in their communities. Youth identified ways that they could support each other, and ways Indigenous people could support one another by signing petitions, writing to lawmakers, and spreading awareness across social media platforms.


In 2025, WIPCE will reconvene in Aotearoa, and the ideas and proposed actions of the March convening will be brought forward for adoption. Vibrant Hawaiʻi Ambassador Kala’imauloa Ishibashi left the 3-day forum with a great sense of security for the future, and pride in ‘ōpio. “I think Hawaiʻi is in good hands if left with the amazing minds I’ve met today. These kids and others like them will one day take our places as effective leaders in the community, and I couldn’t be more stoked for it.”



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