Deva Yamashiro | Founder
Raised in Moanalua Gardens on the island of O`ahu, Deva moved to Vancouver, Washington, in 1998. She loved her new home but worried that most local Native Hawaiian children lacked access to the beautiful culture she had experienced, including her two young boys. At first it was a small commitment when she started her classes as a kumu (hula teacher). It wasn’t long before she realized this could not fill the need expressed by her students’ parents. As her vision of a culturally powerful Native Hawaiian community grew, it also became her defining life’s work to grow and share it with the greater community. She later founded Ke Kukui Foundation, a non profit organization.
The multitude of cultural wealth Deva so generously bestowed upon the Pacific Northwest can only provide a glimpse into Deva, the person. In spite of such an impressive array of accomplishments, she was a humble, generous and kind person. Asked how she remained so committed a culture bearer, her son, Kaloku Holt, provides a simple answer. “It was for the children.” Indeed, anyone who witnessed her teaching or choreographing student performances quickly understood where the warm and gentle heart of Deva Leinani Aiko Yamashiro resided.
Kaloku Holt | Director
The Turning of a New Leaf
In October 2017, after a tough battle with cancer, the Vancouver and Portland communities suffered the tremendous loss of the beloved Aunty Deva. Over the years spent in the Pacific Northwest, she became a kumu, friend, sister, mother and so much more to many. After her passing, an emptiness in the island community was apparent as members anxiously wondered about the future of Kaleinani O Ke Kukui and Ke Kukui Foundation – which were left to her two sons, Kaloku and Keawe.
Despite the challenges experienced on the quest to fulfill his kuleana to continue his motherʻs hula legacy, Aunty Devaʻs eldest son, Kaloku decided to re-open Kaleinani O Ke Kukui in March 2018, just 5 months after the passing of his mother. It was his mothers message – never stop dancing hula that resonated in him and motivated him to keep things in motion.
Though the decision for his ʻohana (fiancé, Alyssa and their then 8-month old baby, Oku) to move away from their home island on Oʻahu and settle in Vancouver, Washington was a difficult one – they knew it was necessary. They both recognized the signifcant impact that the hula schoolʻs cultural teachings made in the community, especially for the keiki growing up away from the islands.
With the blessing and guidance of Aunty Vicky Holt Takamine and the support from their Hawaiʻi ʻohana, Kaloku and Alyssa built a new home for Kaleinani O Ke Kukui. Together, they were determined to continue Aunty Devaʻs work in the Pacific Northwest.
Continuing a Legacy of Aloha
Today, Kaloku and Alyssa continue to lead hālau Kaleinani O Ke Kukui as it operates in partnership with Ke Kukui Foundation. This March 2020, marks the 2nd year anniversary of its re-opening. Although the transition of leadership came with many changes, new ideas and an exciting new direction, Kaloku and Alyssa keep Aunty Devaʻs vision of aloha close to their hearts and make sure to remain on a path that would make aunty deva happy.
Always staying connected to their roots in Hawaiʻi is important for the couple as they create the most authentic cultural experience for their students. Aside from weekly classes, Kaleinani O Ke Kukui strives to provide various cultural opportunities to students year-round.
Conveniently located directly off both I-5 and I-205, Kaleinani offers hula, ʻukulele, Polynesian dane, Tahitian drumming, and Hawaiian Language classes to students from Vancouver, Portland and even Longview!
Join the Kaleinani ʻohana today. We would love to meet you!