Ni‘ihau Cultural Heritage Foundation was awarded $15,000 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Community-Based Economic Development grant program in order to help build the brand name of Ni‘ihau shell lei.
With the funds the nonprofit foundation plans to create a Web site to educate the public about the history and value of the Ni‘ihau shell lei as Hawaiian fine folk art.
The Web site will also provide information to the public about legislative restrictions on using the terms “Ni‘ihau” or “Ni‘ihau shells” relating to any shell jewelry.
The organization was established in 2006 by a group of representatives from 15 Ni‘ihau families to perpetuate and preserve the culture and language of Native Hawaiians through activities such as education and the development of self-sufficiency.
Special emphasis is on the culture and language of the Ni‘ihau community, including the making of Ni‘ihau shell lei. The current foundation president is Haunani Kahokuloa, who was chosen by family representatives.
Also to be addressed by the grant is the foundation’s goal to promote self-sufficiency by involving families in the process of marketing the Ni‘ihau shell lei as well as securing a location for a future limited liability company to provide a venue for participating families to sell lei to the public.