Winona Beamer

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Winona Beamer
Background information
Birth nameWinona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer
Also known asAuntie Nona
Born(1923-08-15)August 15, 1923
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
DiedAugust 10, 2008(2008-08-10) (aged 84)
Lahaina, Maui
Occupation(s)Singer, dancer, composer

Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer (August 15, 1923 – April 10, 2008) was a champion of authentic and ancient Hawaiian culture, publishing many books, musical scores, as well as audio and video recordings on the subject. In her home state, she was known as Auntie Nona. She was an early proponent of the ancient form of the hula being perpetuated through teaching and public performances. Beamer was the granddaughter of Helen Desha Beamer. A cousin to Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame inductee Mahi Beamer, she teamed with him and her cousin Keola to form a touring North American troupe performing ancient hula and the Hawaiian art of storytelling.[1] She was a teacher at Kamehameha Schools for almost 40 years, but had been expelled from that same school as a student in 1937 for dancing the standing hula.[2] Beamer's sons Keola and Kapono are established performers in the Hawaiian music scene. Her grandson Kamanamaikalani Beamer is a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and CEO of the Kohala Center.[3][4] She ran a Waikiki hula studio for three decades. In 1997—indignant at proposals to cut Hawaiian curriculum from Kamehameha Schools—Beamer became the catalyst for public protest and legal investigation into Bishop Estate management, which eventually led to the removal or resignation of the trustees.

Early life and background[edit]

She was born Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer to Pono and Louise Beamer on August 15, 1923,[5] in Honolulu, United States Territory of Hawaii (a state since 1959). Much of her early life was spent on the island of Hawaii, under the guidance and tutelage of her grandmother, Helen Desha Beamer, who taught her hula at about the age of three.

As the cultural influence of the United States began to be felt on the territory, Beamer began to get more intensely involved in Hawaii's cultural heritage. Before she was a teenager, Beamer was composing meles by adding melodies to ancient chants. She attended Colorado Women's College, Barnard College, and Columbia University, studying anthropology.

Beamer is credited with coining the term "Hawaiiana" as early as 1948. In 1949, she became a high school instructor of Hawaiian culture at Kamehameha Schools, and served in that position for almost 40 years.[1][6]

Hula and Hawaiian storytelling[edit]

Beamer was briefly expelled in 1937 from the Kamehameha Schools for performing a standing hula.[2] When Kamehameha Schools was established through the 1883 will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop,[7] the original trustees of the Bishop Estate were Charles R. Bishop, Charles McEwen Hyde, Samuel M. Damon, Charles Montague Cooke, and William Owen Smith, who were either missionaries, or had ties to those in the profession. They found the hula too suggestive and had banned it from being performed at the school. The standing hula was not allowed to be performed on campus until the 1960s.[8]

Beamer was a pivotal influence in reviving the art of the ancient hula, in the face of a more commercialized version invented for the tourism trade in Hawaii. Beamer, her cousin Mahi Beamer, and her brother, Keola, formed their own touring North American dance troupe to promote the authentic ancient hula and the Hawaiian art of storytelling.[1] She ran her mother Louise's Waikiki hula studio for three decades.[6] The storytelling culture of Hawaii was expressed as entertainment in the royal courts and the private homes of the ancient Hawaiians. It came in an era before the written word was used as a method of preserving the histories, genealogies, and mythologies of the Hawaiian people.[9] Winona Beamer brought international attention to the hula and other forms of Hawaiian storytelling through music and the Native Hawaiian arts.[10]

In 2000, Beamer alongside her hānai daughter Maile Beamer Loo formed the Hula Preservation Society (HPS), a non-profit dedicated to interviewing, videotaping, and perpetuating hula's most respected elders, capturing their knowledge, memories and stories.[11] As of 2020, HPS has continued with Beamer's vision of perpetuating the rich culture, history and knowledge of hula and hula practitioners; interviewing almost a 100 hula elders, expert hula practitioners who had been born before 1930. Through the years, HPS has conducted not only one-on-one oral histories but also presented public panel discussions with beloved hula elders; resulting in a Hula Library of Ancient Hula types, implement and instrument types, chants, and kūpuna hula.[12]

Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate[edit]

Winona Beamer had been the Hawaiian culture instructor at the Kamehameha Schools when the curriculum became in danger of being cut.[13] She wrote a May 1997 letter to the Hawaii Supreme Court, expressing her concerns, and asking for the resignation of trustee Lokelani Lindsey. Beamer became the catalyst for a groundswell that led to an investigation of the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate trust. Her letter resulted in a public outcry over the management of the estate trust.[14]

In November 1997, Beamer joined Isabella Aiona Abbott, Gladys A. Brandt, Roderick F. McPhee, and Winona Ellis Rubin in releasing a public statement calling for the removal of Lindsey from the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate. The statement was published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as part of its coverage of the investigation into the management of the trust. The investigation led to an investigation by the Hawaii attorney general, a reorganization of the trust, and the resignation of Lindsey.[15]

Death and legacy[edit]

She became known as Auntie Nona in Hawaii, and was a champion of teaching authentic Hawaiian culture. In the course of her life, she published multiple books, music scores, and audio and video recordings. In 1983, she and Richard Towill formed Ka Himeni Ana to encourage participation in authentic Hawaiian music.[1] Beamer moved to Lahaina, on the island of Maui, in 2006. On April 10, 2008,[1] she died in her sleep in Lahaina. She was survived by her musician sons Keola and Kapono, her only grandchild, Kamanamaikalani Beamer, and two Hānai (adopted, extended family) children: a daughter, Maile Loo Beamer, and a son, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp.[16]

On August 27, 2020 a documentary titled Hawaiina was released about Beamer.[17]

Author bibliography, discography and filmography[edit]


  • Beamer, Winona (1976). Nā Hula O Hawaiʻi : the songs and dances of the Beamer family. Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage., OCLC 7115723
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Kahalewai, Marilyn (1984). Talking Story with Nona Beamer : Stories of a Hawaiian Family. Bess Press. ISBN 978-0-935848-20-5., OCLC 11505946
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1985). Hawaiian Hula Chants. Beamer Hawaiīana., OCLC 19666351
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1987). Nā Mele Hula : a Collection of Hawaiian Hula Chants. Institute for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University—Hawaii Campus. ISBN 978-0-939154-42-5. OCLC 228665439.
  • Beamer, Winona D. (1987). Nā Mele Hula 1. Inst. for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young Univ. ISBN 978-0-939154-42-5. OCLC 180443309.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Chu, Leona (1988). Hula ʻauana Index : as Taught by the Beamer Family. OCLC 63704078.
  • Beamer, Winona; Ching, Patrick (1990). Helu Papa : Counting in Hawaiian, with Pī'a pā Alphabet. Hawaiian Resources Co. ISBN 978-0-9627294-0-9. OCLC 24567417.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Cook, Mauliola; Trapp, S. Kaliko Beamer; Hewetson, Roy; Nishimitsu, Pōhaku (2001). Nā Mele Hula. Volume 2 : Hawaiian Hula Rituals and Chants. Institute for Polynesian Studies. ISBN 978-0-939154-57-9. OCLC 51862208.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Loebel-Fried, Caren; Beamer-Trapp, Kaliko (2005). Pua Polū, the Pretty Blue Flower. Kamahoi Press. ISBN 978-1-58178-041-3. OCLC 60589985.
  • Beamer, Nona; Caren Loebel-Fried; Kaliko Beamer-Trapp; Keola Beamer (2008). Naupaka. Kamahoi Press. ISBN 978-1-58178-089-5. OCLC 742304154.

Musical scores[edit]

  • Songs for Hawaiʻi's Sunbeamers (1980–1981) Beamer Hawaiʻiana, Winona Desha Beamer, OCLC 16413868
  • Traditional Chants and Hulas (1982) Beamer Hawaiʻiana, Winona Desha Beamer, Keʻala Brunke OCLC 8804499
  • Na Mele Hula. : a Collection of 33 Hula Chants (1987) Institute for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University, Hawaiʻi Campus ; Honolulu, Hawaii : Distributed for the Institute for Polynesian Studies by the University of Hawaii Press, Winona Desha Beamer ISBN 978-0-939154-57-9 OCLC 15656909


  • "Songs for keikis (children)" (date unknown) Waikiki Records, 45 RPM, Winona Desha Beamer, Pauline Kekahuna, Hauoli Girls, OCLC 663116196
  • Nona Beamer (1972) Custom Fidelity, LP, Winona Desha Beamer, OCLC 28675755
  • The Menehune of Hawaii : the little people of Hawaiian legend (1982) Kalmar Records, LP, Winona Desha Beamer, Doug Hodge, OCLC 30931005
  • Ancient Hawaiian Musical Instruments (1982) Kalmar Records, LP, Winona Desha Beamer OCLC 17312777
  • Na Mele Hula. : Volume 1 a Collection of 33 Hula Chants (1987) Beamer Hawaiʻiana, Audio cassette tape, Winona Desha Beamer, OCLC 456103769
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1996). The Golden Lehua Tree : Stories and Music from the Heart of Hawaii's Beamer Family (Audio book). Starscape Music. OCLC 37274417.
  • Hawaii 98 (1998) MGC Record, Compilation CD, Winona Desha Beamer and various artists OCLC 663113430
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (2001). Nā Mele Hula. : Volume 2 : Hawaiian Hula Rituals and Chants (Audio book). Institute for Polynesian Studies. ISBN 978-0-939154-57-9. OCLC 55641229.
  • Island dreams (2004) Koto World, LP, Winona Desha Beamer, Dragonfly OCLC 56762637
  • We are ʻohana : Songs of Hope (2004) Winona Desha Beamer, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, James McWhinney, Bruddah Kuz, Damon Williams, Faith Rivera, Rupert Tripp, Jr, Keola Beamer, Glynn Motoishi, Howard Shapiro OCLC 62523751


  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Vaughan, Palani ; Zinn, Elaine; Tibbetts Jr., Richard J.(Director, writer, editor) (1986). "The Hawaiian Quilt : a Cherished Tradition" (VHS). Hawaii Craftsmen. OCLC 25320697. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Glaser, Gaye; Hamasaki, Doug (Producer); Hewitt, Jim (Director) (1987). Hoʻolako 1987 : Celebrate the Hawaiian (VHS). Oceanic Cable Community Programming Center. OCLC 663660700.
  • Beamer, Winona; Lindsey, Joan; Roes, Carol; Danuser, B. Kamaile (Host); Thompson, Sammie (Director); Fujimoto, Keoho (Script) (1987). Songs That Teach (VHS). Hawaiian Professional Songwriters' Society. OCLC 663146342.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (Narrator); Kenney, Ed (Narrator); Wentzel, Stan (Director and Writer); Arnone, Phil (Exec. Producer); Pennybacker, Robert (Director) (1988). Pele : the Fire Within (VHS). Lee Enterprises; KGMB (Television station : Honolulu, Hawaii). OCLC 663112608.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1991). Ke Ao nani (instruments) (VHS). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 663148741.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1991). Laupāhoehoe (VHS). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 28819562.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1991). Molokaʻi Trilogy : Three Hulas of Molokaʻi (VHS). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 663146822.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Beamer, Louise Leiomalama (1991). Hawaiʻian Storytelling with the Beamer Family (VHS). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 28822579.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Beamer, Myrtle Kaʻuinohea (1991). Mi nei (VHS). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 663146910.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1991). Liliʻu e (Queen's hula) : he inoa nō Liliʻu (VHS). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 663147805.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha (1991). Liliʻuokalani (ʻōlapa chant hula) (VHA). Beamer Hawaiʻiana. OCLC 663147811.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Beamer, Keola; Beamer, Kapono; Beamer, Kamana; Sorensen, Scott Eilif (Producer-Director) (1996). Nona Beamer and Her Family : a Century of Songs Celebrating Hawaiian Culture (VHS). Spectrum Hawaii-KHET TV, Honolulu. OCLC 663453272.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha and various others (1997). Bishop Estate : Promises to Keep (VHS). KGMB. OCLC 663113482.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Beamer, Keola; Beamer, Moanalani (1991). Keola Beamer, Moanalani Beamer, Nona Beamer (VHS). KHET-TV. OCLC 663398886.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha and other performers (2002). Hiʻiaka, Lohiʻau & the Five Maile Sisters (DVD). Storybook Theatre of Hawaiʻi. OCLC 754971845.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Park, Puluʻelo; Loo, Maile; Loo, Maile (2001). Voices of our kūpuna : World Conference on Hula, Hilo, Hawaiʻi, July 30, 2001 (VHS). Nā Maka o ka ʻĀina. OCLC 54110238.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Jeffers, Mark (Executive director);Zelkovsky, Robert A. (editing) (2003). Queen Emmalani : a Hawaiian Story (Videodisc). Storybook Theatre of Hawaiʻi. OCLC 253719215.
  • Beamer, Winona Desha; Takamine, Vicky; Loo, Maile (2004). Nona Beamer and Maile Loo Talk About Hula : March 9, 2004 (VHS). Hula Preservation Society; UH Manoa Department of Theatre and Dance. OCLC 318076932.
  • Beamer, Winona et al. (2001). Kona Hema = South Kona (DVD). Nā Maka o ka ʻĀina. OCLC 318076963.

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Winona Beamer dies at 84 on Maui". Pacific Business News. April 10, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Gordon, Mike (July 2, 2006). "Winona Beamer". The Honolulu Advertiser.
  3. ^ "The Leaflet: January/February 2015 Newsletter". The Kohala Center. n.d. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  4. ^ "Hawai'inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge". Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  5. ^ Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration. 1981. p. 964.
  6. ^ a b Cartwright, Garth (June 1, 2008). "Winona Beamer". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop (1831–1884) Will and Codicils". Kamehameha Schools. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  8. ^ King, Samuel P.; Roth, Randall W. "Newfound Wealth Cultural Rebirth, Seeds of Discontent". Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement, & Political Manipulation at America's Largest Charitable Trust. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 53–64. ISBN 978-0-8248-3014-4. OCLC 62326686.
  9. ^ Beckwith, Martha Warren (1940). "Coming of the Gods". Hawaiian Mythology. Yale University Press. pp. 5–14. OCLC 2974194.
  10. ^ Ann Rayson (January 1, 2004). Modern History of Hawai'i. Bess Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-57306-209-1.
  11. ^ "How the Hula Preservation Society is Documenting a Piece of Hawai'i History". Honolulu Magazine. September 8, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  12. ^ "Hula Preservation Society". Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  13. ^ Paiva, Derek (April 10, 2008). "Entertainer and cultural leader Winona Beamer dies". Hawaii Magazine.
  14. ^ Da Silva, Alexandra (April 11, 2008). "Educator's letter to high court sped removal of school trustees". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  15. ^ "New Essay Rips Lindsey". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. November 27, 1997.
  16. ^ Enomoto, Kekoa Catherine (April 11, 2008). "Towering figure in Hawaiian culture is gone". The Maui News.
  17. ^ "'Hawaiiana': By woman who gave meaning to the word | News, Sports, Jobs - Maui News". Retrieved August 17, 2020.